"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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Medley #23

Charters, High Achieving Nations,
Early Childhood Education, A-F Grading, Pensions, Poverty, Recess, Teaching


ON TEACHING

Steep Drops Seen in Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers

I've written about why teachers quit, and about the looming teacher shortage -- how schools in Indianapolis and elsewhere in Indiana started school this year without enough teachers.

The teacher shortage is a nationwide problem, and it's only going to get worse. Colleges and universities have seen a serious drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Hardest hit are the nation's largest states -- California, Texas and New York.

Is this what the "reformers" want? Fewer professionals in the classroom...more room for "education temps" like TFA...fewer career teachers? It's hard not to feel paranoid when more and more state legislatures and governors' offices are doing whatever they can to make teaching less and less attractive. Will your children and grandchildren be taught by professional educators, or by young, inexperienced, poorly trained college grads who use public classrooms as a stepping stone to a different, "real" career?
Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career. Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education's postsecondary data collection.

Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.
There's more at these links...

Five Year Trend in Teacher Preparation Programs

Interest in teaching continues to drop in California

Bay Area schools scramble for qualified teachers amid shortage


GRADING SCHOOLS A-F FAILS

Editorial: Why A-to-F for schools fails

Imagine this scenario...

You're a teacher and your favorite student does poorly on an exam and, if you average that grade into his yearly total he would only get a C or a D. Do you revise your "curve" to raise his grade? Do you change the grading scale so that he'll get an A? What would your supervisor do? How would the parents of other students in your class react?

A majority of members of the Indiana State Board of Education apparently think that changing grades like that is fine as they follow in the footsteps of scandalized former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and manipulate the state's A-F grading system so that their "favorite" charter school gets a higher grade. Heaven forbid that voucher and charter schools, including the Republican favorite Christel House, get low grades.
In 2012 and 2014, the A-F supporters were wringing their hands over the low grades calculated for Christel House and similar schools they champion. Why? They are unequivocally convinced that the academy is exemplary, a model. Obviously, they reached that conclusion for reasons other than a state-issued letter grade. In their minds, it is an A school, regardless, and when too low a grade is assessed, they cite the ways it is “different” and round up valid reasons to dispute the C, D or F.

The 2,100 other Indiana schools could do the same thing. Year after year. Each is “different.” Parents who pick schools based on the Indiana A-to-F system are fooling themselves; those folks are better off talking with families in the district. Despite strident efforts by “The Board” to make it somehow work, its A-to-F program needs to be canceled.


INDIANA FAILS ITS CITIZENS

Mark Russell: The Indiana Way hurts the poor

The Indiana Way, according to Mark Russell, is to cut more and more money from public schools -- especially those with high numbers of students living in poverty. You get what you pay for in Indiana, and those who can't pay get less...
The Indiana Way is to suggest that a major focus of the budget-writing 2015 General Assembly will be to “fix” the state school-funding formula so that suburban and rural districts receive more funding. This “fix” comes even while school districts, particularly urban districts, and local governments reel under constitutionally imposed property tax caps that have contributed to millions of dollars in revenue loss.

The Indiana Way allows for the potential of Gary Community Schools losing its transportation funding for its overwhelmingly poor students even while under state budget control.

The Indiana Way is being one of two states that charge textbook rental fees, disproportionately impacting poor and low-wage households, many of which are headed by income-limited single parents and custodial grandparents.

CHARTERS

Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits
Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell's chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell's charter schools there's no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools' administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell's management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.



PENSIONS

The Plot Against Pensions

Are public sector pensions the cause of the nation's economic woes?
Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.

Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.

Finding: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working together in states across the country to focus the debate over pensions primarily on slashing retiree benefits rather than on raising public revenues.

Finding: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is run by conservative political operatives and funded by an Enron billionaire.

Finding: The techniques used by conservative activists to gain public support to privatize the public pensions that public workers have instead of Social Security are, if successful, likely to be used in efforts to privatize Social Security in the future.

POVERTY

The biggest scam of all time

Stephen Krashen shouts this from every podium he can find. The problem with education in the U.S.A is not poor schools or "bad teachers," it's high poverty. Can we improve our schools and work to recruit better teachers? Of course, but we need to do what we can to reduce the impact of poverty at the same time or our efforts will be wasted.
The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, not a lack of standards or tests, but poverty: The US now ranks 34th in the world out of 35 economically developed countries in child poverty: when researchers control for the effect of poverty, US international test scores are at the top of the world, a clear demonstration that there is nothing seriously wrong with our teachers or our standards. Children of poverty do poorly in school because of the impact of poverty: Poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of access to books, among other things.

The obvious first step is to improve nutrition through school food programs, improve health care through investing more in school nurses, and improving access to books through investing in school libraries.

LEARNING FROM SUCCESS

Linda Darling-Hammond: Time for the U.S. to Learn the Right Lessons from High-Performing Nations

Linda Darling-Hammond knows that Stephen Krashen is correct. She knows that other advanced nations of the world have solved their problems of poverty (while ours is getting worse) and as such, have put themselves on the road to higher achievement.

Take time to listen to her presentation beginning at 59:30 in the video at the above link.
“The theory of reform behind NCLB – to test and apply sanctions to the failure to meet expected targets – has not made a major difference in student achievement in every one of the areas measured by PISA,”‘ she explained.

Darling-Hammond also pointed out that if you factor in only those schools where less than 10 percent of the students live in poverty, the U.S, actually ranks number one in the world on PISA. In schools where 25 percent live in poverty, the U.S ranks third. Even when you raise that number to 50 percent, our students rank way above the international average. The takeaway is clear, Darling-Hammond said.

“Those countries spend their money in highly equitable ways. If you spend more in schools on the education of children who have fewer socioeconomic advantages, you do better as a country. Other countries invested more money and that is what shot them up in the rankings.”


RESEARCH: EARLY CHILDHOOD

Early intervention could boost education levels

The children of Indiana are worse off since Governor Pence refused to apply for $80 million in federal funds for early childhood education.
Taking steps from an early age to improve childhood education skills could raise overall population levels of academic achievement by as much as 5%, and reduce socioeconomic inequality in education by 15%, according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.

In a study now published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Adelaide's School of Population Health and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK have modelled the likely outcomes of interventions to improve academic skills in children up to school age. They considered what effect these interventions would have on education by age 16.
See also Actually, we do know if high-quality preschool benefits kids. What the research really says.




RESEARCH: IN THE CLASSROOM

Mental rest and reflection boost learning, study suggests

The Finns give their children a 15 minute break every hour. We should learn from their example...recess matters.
Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.
~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Chance to Fix Our Mistake

ELECTION OF GLENDA RITZ - 2012

Two years ago the voters of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Her opponent, incumbent Tony Bennett, ran on a platform of continuing reform...more vouchers, continued increase in charters, more testing, evaluating teachers using tests, weakening teachers unions, lowered standards for education professionals...and the usual "reformy"-type attacks on public schools and teachers.

Glenda Ritz ran on a platform of more control by local school boards, fewer tests (including getting rid of IREAD-3), higher standards for educators, eliminating the A-F ratings for public schools, and more support for public schools/less support for privatization.



WE GOT TONY BENNETT

We elected Glenda Ritz, but we got Tony Bennett's platform. In the last 2 years, the 1.3 million Hoosier voters who supported Glenda Ritz got...
  • More public money spent on vouchers
  • More public money given to privately run charters
  • More testing
  • Evaluation of teachers using test scores,
  • Less control by local school boards
  • Lowered standards for entry into the teaching profession
  • Continued grading schools A-F based on a flawed metric

In the last 2 years, the teachers of Indiana got...
  • Loss of due process
  • Loss of collective bargaining rights
  • Loss of credit for expertise and experience
  • Evaluations based on the test scores of their students
  • Testing, testing and more testing

In the last 2 years, Glenda Ritz got...
  • Constant disrespect and attacks by members of the State Board of Education
  • Blatant disrespect by the governor (who received fewer votes than she did)
  • A wasteful new bureaucracy created by the governor (CECI) to undermine her role as Indiana's education leader and to usurp the authority of the Indiana DOE

VOTE FOR GLENDA RITZ AGAIN

The voters of Indiana have a chance to finish the job they started when they voted for Glenda Ritz in 2012. Elect friends of public education to the state legislature and help Glenda Ritz do the job we elected her to do.

There are 1.3 million of us who voted for Glenda Ritz because we wanted changes in the state's public education policies. We then turned around and voted for other state officeholders who have prevented her from doing what we asked her to do. It's time to fix that mistake and elect legislators and officeholders who will
  1. return control of local schools to local school boards
  2. reduce the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  3. restore professionalism to teachers and treat them with the respect they are due
  4. restore economic and community support for Indiana's public schools
  5. earmark public tax dollars to public schools, not private corporations
Choose to support your local public schools.


~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Medley #22

Teaching, Homelessness,
Privatization and Reform, Charters


ON TEACHING

Educating kids isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.

Arne Duncan never taught in a public school. He never attended public schools. He doesn't know what it is like to be a teacher in a public school...and he knows nothing about teaching. How is it that this man is dictating to all the state departments of education how the public schools in their states should be run?
After all, what could be so hard? We’ve all been to school—most of us for at least 13 years—and we’ve watched teachers and administrators do their work. It just doesn’t seem that hard. Make sure the bells ring on time. Keep the kids quiet. Get some teachers who know the material...

...most leaders in the reform movement have never taught a five-period day, felt the joy of an unquantifiable classroom victory, lost instructional time to a standardized test, or been evaluated by a computer. And unlike the vulnerable students targeted by so much reform, most policy elites have not gone to school hungry, struggled to understand standard English, battled low expectations, or feared for their personal safety on the walk home.

Stephen Krashen's article, The teacher shortage and how we treat teachers, hits the nail on the head when he gives explains why there's a teacher shortage.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that there is a shortage of teachers because of "public education jobs lost" and an increase in school enrollment. At the same time, schools seem to be doing everything possible to get teachers to quit: removal of due-process, lack of seniority pay, the conversion of schools into test-prep centers, developmentally inappropriate and rigid standards, and the ongoing war on teachers in the media, including constant (and unjustified) proclamations about how bad American schools are because of mediocre teaching.

The Teacher Gap

...from the article Krashen refers to...
...the number of teachers and related education staffers fell dramatically in the recession and has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with the expanding student population.


24 Hours With A Kindergarten Teacher

How many "reformers" actually know what it's like being a teacher? How many "reformers" have any idea of the reality of a classroom from a teacher's perspective?
Chiang herself only earns $36,000 a year. And if it weren’t for her husband, who earns a lot more as an engineer, she doesn’t know how she would make ends meet.

But her students help put things in perspective. Throughout her years teaching, she has helped students deal with homelessness or having a parent incarcerated. She has spent hundreds of dollars of her own money on school supplies and clothing for kids in need and has spent dozens of hours translating documents and letters into Spanish for students' families who know little English.

POVERTY: HOMELESSNESS

Number of homeless students reaches new record, 1.26 million

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America's public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle class families.

Politicians and policy makers can't solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students, when the problems don't go away.

American schools are not failing...American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.
According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education, 1,258,182 students enrolled in public schools across the country were homeless in 2012-13. Of those, 75,940 were unaccompanied youths living on their own; 200,950 had disabilities. The total number of homeless students rose 8 percent from the previous school year and by nearly 500,000 since the 2007-08 school year, when there were 795,054 homeless students.


PRIVATIZATION/"REFORM"

America's Crusade Against Its Public School Children

What's should a school be? What is the purpose of school?

How do you define your life? Is it by your career alone, or is that just one aspect of who you are? Aren't you also a friend, a consumer, a voter, and a family member? Is there more to education than just learning a trade or getting ready for a career?
A specter is haunting America - the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools...

Schools should not be about the making of profit or segregating poor and marginalized children. Schools should be about only one thing - teaching children, all children, no matter how poor they are or how poorly they test...

Charter schools' discriminatory admissions policy is an affront to this moral vision of what a school should be about. A public school which would welcome only children who test well and turn away everyone else, would never be tolerated by the public, yet charter schools do this routinely, and the public is silent...

How to Destroy a Public-School System

In Philadelphia, education reformers got everything they wanted. Look where the city’s schools are now.

Is this what "reformers" want? Is 'the marketplace' better than government run public schools? Apparently not...
...the basic structure of school financing in Philadelphia is rigged to benefit these privately managed companies. Public-school money follows students when they move to charter schools, but the public schools’ costs do not fall by the same amount. For example, if 100 students leave a district-run school at a cost of $8,596 per head (the district’s per-pupil expenditure minus certain administrative costs), that school’s cost for paying teachers, staff and building expenses doesn’t actually decline by that amount. It has been estimated that partly because of these costs, each student who enrolls in a charter school costs the district as much as $7,000.

There are outright subsidies too, including a loophole that provides charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment. Charters also appear to game the state’s special-education payment system to secure a larger share of district funds. In 2013, according to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, city charters obtained nearly $100 million more than they spent on special education.

The Plot Against Public Education

An excellent survey of corporate reform...excerpted from Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert.
...if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.

Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.

None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype.


Chicago Public Schools Under Fire Over Dirty Conditions, Rotten Food

This would never happen if the children attending these schools were white and middle class. This is racism, and economic bigotry.

I think that the school board's offices -- and maybe that of the mayor as well, ought to be housed in the lowest performing public school in their district. Things would clean up fairly quickly if Rahm and his rubber stamps on the CPS Board had to make it through the day wading through cockroaches and without any toilet paper. Shame.
The Chicago Public School system has faced notorious budget cuts in recent years, and closed 49 schools in 2013. Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier -- and school lunches are worse -- than ever.

A teacher at a high school on the city's Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he's taught for the past eight years as "gross and disgusting."

"We're running out of toilet paper," he said. "I'm seeing more bugs than ever before. There's overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases."

The teacher said his classroom has had a leaky ceiling that's gone unfixed for two years, and roaches were recently spotted in a student locker room, causing students to avoid using the showers after phys ed class.

"It's gross and disgusting and my health is being affected," he said. "I want to be outside the minute I'm in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can't focus. If I can't focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?"

CHARTERS

Chicago's charter-schools experiment flops: report

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board closed more than 50 schools because they were "underutilized." In the process, thousands of children were displaced and hundreds of public school employees were "let go." Then he turned around and opened new charter schools to deal with "overcrowding."
...after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago's charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways...



Online, For-Profit Charter Schools Hit Another Snag

More charter fraud and corruption...
...negative accounts of K12 student outcomes led to the filing of at least one investor lawsuit against the company claiming that K12 intentionally misled investors about its academic quality when then-CEO Packard claimed, during an investor call, that test results at Agora were “significantly higher than a typical school on state administered tests for growth.” In fact, the most recent data on Agora students at that time showed them testing unfavorably compared to students statewide.

Was the ‘original bargain’ with charter schools a raw deal?

Charter school owners don't want oversight...they want public tax money, but none of the public responsibility that accompanies it.
Charter school advocates didn’t like it recently when Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform issued a report calling for the strengthening of charter oversight and authorization. While noting that many charters work hard to “meet the needs of their students,” the report said that “the lack of effective oversight means too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, and no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence.” It provided some common-sense recommendations, including an innocuous call for the establishment of minimum qualifications for charter school treasurers. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, not surprisingly, bashed the report.

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Creating a Teacher Shortage and Making it Worse

TEACHER SHORTAGES AROUND THE NATION

Severe teacher shortages are cropping up around the nation -- in Oklahoma, ArizonaNevada (and Nevada), California and elsewhere. There isn't just one reason for the growing teacher shortages...but at least one reason is present in most locations -- so-called education "Reform" is making it harder to be a career teacher.


INDIANA: SAYING ONE THING AND DOING ANOTHER

Indiana is one of those states following a path which seems guaranteed to increase teacher shortages, especially in hard to teach subjects (like special education) and areas (like urban schools). The state has hit teachers, schools and districts with the overuse and misuse of student test scores, the removal of due process, reduction of collective bargaining, loss of revenue which has been transferred to charter schools and voucher accepting private and parochial schools, and pension changes. The goals seem to be, to weaken teachers unions in the state, deprofessionalize the field of education, and privatize public education.

On the other hand, if you read what is posted on the Education Round Table web site (within the State of Indiana site) you'll get a different picture. The Roundtable is charged with improving "educational opportunity and achievement for all Hoosier students." Here's what they say about the quality of Indiana teachers.

Teaching and Learning
Although the state produces a steady stream of new teachers, Indiana schools continue to experience a shortage of qualified teachers in specific content areas and specific schools. Special education constitutes over 80 percent of the shortage, followed by shortages in mathematics and science. Consistent with national trends, the percentage of teachers without full certification is highest in high-poverty districts in the state.

Indiana has made progress in improving teacher licensure. Rules for teacher licensure and renewal are aligned with the state’s academic standards and school improvement plans. Indiana ranks among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed and not teaching on waivers and has been nationally recognized for the high percentage of core academic classes taught by teachers who are fully licensed in the areas in which they are teaching. [emphasis added]
Note that Indiana is "among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed."

How does that stack up against what has actually happened due to the activities of the state legislature and state policy makers? It doesn't. The words of the Education Round Table and the actions of the legislature and policy makers are at odds.

In fact, the legislature and policy makers have apparently gone out of their way to make things more difficult for teachers. They have (and yes, I know I'm repeating myself)...
  • eliminated due process for teachers
  • reduced collective bargaining rights
  • demanded that schools evaluate teachers based on student test scores
  • cut funding for public education while transferring money to privately run charter schools
  • expanded the largest-in-the-nation voucher program providing state funds to private and parochial schools
  • reduced funding professional development for teachers
  • allowed salaries to stagnate
So, while the Round Table touts the high quality of teachers in the state, the policy makers are making things more difficult for those teachers to do their jobs.

The Education Round Table continues with a list of items to improve student achievement...
Next Steps to Improve Student Achievement:
  • Strengthen teacher preparation and licensure through greater integration of subject matter knowledge and instructional expertise. [emphasis added]
  • Ensure that all new teachers have training in effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student performance data, recognition of exceptional learners, and modification of curriculum and instruction to meet differentiated student needs. [emphasis added]
In order to improve student achievement we need to make sure that all new teachers are well trained in pedagogy as well as content areas.

MAKING IT WORSE

The teacher shortage will only get worse as the state makes it more and more difficult and unpleasant to be a teacher. Fewer students will choose to be teachers and the already high rate of turnover (nearly 50% of all teachers leave within their first five years) will continue. As if on cue, policy makers on the State Board of Education have come up with a way to get more bodies into the classroom...

REPA III, adopted by the State Board of Education, over the objections of the Superinendent of Public Instruction, allows anyone with a degree, a B average, and experience in a field to teach that subject in any public high school in Indiana. These novices 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." Is this what the Education Round Table calls "progress in improving teacher licensure?"

The lip-service given to "fully licensed" teachers is just so much bull.

Connect the dots. When we make teaching a less attractive career we lose high quality teachers and teacher candidates. Then, in order to fill classroom teaching positions, we lower the requirements for those entering the teaching profession. How does this improve student achievement?

We're doing it wrong...and we're making it worse.


~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Random quotes - October, 2014

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL (AND NATIONAL) PUBLIC SCHOOL

Eliminate poverty to improve education by Stephen Krashen
Grit and determination, and the best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill because of lack of health care, and have low levels of literacy because of lack of access to books.

How to Destroy a Public-School System by Daniel Denvir for The Nation

Pennsylvania is a perfect example of where privatization is taking us...high quality, well funded schools for the wealthy and underfunded schools for those with greater needs.
It’s what scholars have bluntly called an apartheid system: wealthy districts spend more on wealthy students, and poor districts struggle to spend less on the poor students who need the most. According to state data from 2012–13, Philadelphia spent $13,077 per pupil, while Abington spent $15,148—on students in much less need of intensive services and support. Wealthy Lower Merion spent $22,962 per pupil.

Blaming The Teachers

Kaarin Leuck, who wrote a letter titled Kids need in-school advocates for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, blames schools for kids' failures.
Over the last few years, school districts have established “alternative schools,” which in the law is called a “school flex program” (I.C. 20-30-2-2.2). These school flex programs often offer only three hours of class instruction per day (as allowed by I.C. 20-30-2-2(b))...

Many districts have also encouraged the most challenging kids to enroll in online courses as home schoolers so they can stop coming to school...
At the end of her letter she blames teachers for not teaching all children.
If you are going to choose to be a public school teacher, you should teach all of the children assigned to your classroom. Step up to the plate, learn creative solutions, and help us get these kids through.
She doesn't think to blame the legislature for
  • not providing adequate funding which would provide small enough class sizes in which teachers could help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for additional and supplemental staff trained to help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for programs designed to meet the needs of hard to educate students.
Instead she, like so many others, blames the people who spend their days with children trying to deal with the serious problems they bring into the classroom while simultaneously being required by the state to do the impossible, with inadequate resources, for too many children.

Can schools improve? Certainly, but they need the tools to operate. Those tools and the trained professionals who use them, cost money. The Indiana General Assembly with direction and support from the governor have chosen to fund more and more charter schools and the nation's most expansive voucher program to the detriment of traditional public school funding.

Do we want good schools in Indiana and across the nation? Then we'll have to decide that education is a priority and redirect the money from corporate pockets back into the classroom.


Lily Eskelsen Garcia on the Stephanie Miller Show

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA's new president, bluntly reminds us that politicians and policy makers are the ones who have neglected the nation's poverty issue, not educators.
If you see all the needs of public schools -- high class sizes, books, technology -- all of the things we need, and you have no intention of funding those, wouldn't it be nice to distract people by going, "Look over here, bad teacher, bad teacher, bad teacher, look over here!" Because if you can say "if we just had better teachers the roof wouldn't leak, if we just had better teachers those kids wouldn't come to school hungry," it gives you an excuse to not do anything for that community, or for what that school needs.

TESTING

Testing Kindergartners and a Rise in Disabilities: Is There A Connection? by Nancy Bailey

In Indiana, not only do we call children failures if they aren't reading fluently by the end of third grade, but we refuse to let them move to the next grade. We punish 8 and 9 year olds because they...grew up in a literacy poor environment, are learning disabled, are living with the influences of poverty interfering with their learning, are uninterested in reading, have experienced trauma, or are the survivor of some other problem which prevents them from learning to read according to the state's timetable.
In Finland, the land school reformers love to praise but never emulate, they introduce children to formal reading when they are in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade our country calls children failures if they are not reading fluently.

Try out new 2015 ISTEP practice questions

The conversation is about prepping students to take a test instead of student learning...
Children across Indiana will take a new, and very different, ISTEP in less than six months but teachers have only recently gotten to look at sample questions to guide them in preparing their students.

NCLB

Washington State: An Example of NCLB Absurdity by Diane Ravitch
NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school.


ON BEING A TEACHER

Local school officials oppose non-degree teachers by Rocky Killion

The Indiana State Board of Education, over the objections of Glenda Ritz and two other members, passed REPA III, the rules which define who can and cannot teach in the state. The new rules have a provision allowing anyone with a degree to teach in high school without any pedagogical training.
“This whole idea that someone can just walk in and start teaching is ridiculous,” said Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corp. “It’s as ridiculous as me passing an exam and becoming a brain surgeon.”

Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon

In Indiana we lower standards for entrance into the teaching profession and we make it hard for good teachers to do what they have been trained to do by stripping them of due process, underfunding traditional public schools, inundating the classroom with testing, and incentivizing teaching to the test. The verbiage about wanting a great teacher in every classroom is just so much disingenuous bunk!
She leans on co-workers for support. I know this burnout is a common issue among very good teachers. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.


PRIVATIZATION

F For Effort: ‘School Choice’ Group Grades States Based On How Easy It Is To Get A Voucher by Simon Brown for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Center For Education Reform, funded by the pro-voucher Walton Family, gives Indiana's voucher program an -A- because it transfers a huge amount of public funding from public schools to private and parochial schools. There is one things wrong with it, though...the state requires that the private schools be accountable for their money...just like public schools.
The As went to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country, so that is no surprise. CER heaped praise on the Hoosier State, giddily stating that it “leads the country, with a universal voucher program open to all students across the state and no limit on the number of vouchers that can be awarded.”

However, CER’s remarks were not all positive for Indiana: “The state is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy, mandating such things as course content and insisting on allowing government observation of classes,” the report says.

As far as CER is concerned, lawmakers apparently should hand over money to private schools without ever checking in to make sure they get a return on their investment and to ensure that students get a quality education. [emphasis added]

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Friday, September 26, 2014

Your Morning Cup of Joe Kool-Aid

On September 25, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the new president of the NEA, appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe show (see embedded video below). The display of ignorance by the host and his "reformer" sidekick was breathtaking and began almost immediately.

One would think that before you start an interview with someone you would make sure you are informed of the facts. Joe Scarborough and Steve Rattner hadn't done their homework. Instead they stuck with "reformist" talking points. Scarborough focused on the "failure" of American public education. Rattner focused on the nation's poor showing on PISA, and both of them fought desperately to defend the nation's chief "reformer," Arne, never-attended-or-taught-in-a-public-school, Duncan

Early on Lily made reference to the Kool Aid...it was flowing freely.

THE TROUBLE WITH JOE

At 1:43 Joe said
Obviously the reason why we started trying to figure out how to have a better way to measure student success and teacher success and school success is because of the failure of public education.
and a bit later, 2:27
You can't just come on here and ignore the plight of working class Americans and those in poverty who have horrific circumstances in their schools.
and 4:40
You have people so obsessed about the scores...
Much as she might have wanted to, Lily couldn't (or wasn't given time, or wouldn't) answer those claims. Perhaps it was just too much ignorance coming at her all at once.

First, the failure is not with public education, it is, instead, the nation's failure at dealing with the high rate of child poverty. Can we improve public education? Of course we can, though not by defunding, deprofessionalizing, and privatizing. We can improve it by making an investment in our future. See chapters 21 through 33 of Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools for just one example.

Second, we can't ignore the plight of working class Americans and those in poverty...and Lily didn't do that. She correctly responded to this insulting implication by saying, "Nobody did that [ignore the plight...], nice straw man." This was probably the most effective response she had the whole morning, though it happened so quickly I doubt it registered with most watchers.

Third, people are so obsessed about the scores on standardized tests because NCLB and RttT have incentivized that obsession. If Joe had done his homework, and learned about the system of rewards and punishments instituted by the obsession with testing in this country, he would already understand that. Maybe it's because NBC, the parent company of his show, has a financial interest in school reform.


STEVE (YEAH, YEAH) RATTNER

Enter Steve Rattner, another apparent shill for "reform." If you watch the video below pay close attention to how he dismisses everything that Lily says in response to his comments by saying things like, "yeah, yeah, but..." and "okay..." Perhaps, we shouldn't be surprised by this disrespect. Disrespect of educators is common with "reformers" (see the Straw Man incident, above). We are, after all, "only teachers." Kudos to Lily for not punching him in the nose.

He said, (4:51)
The US has fallen further and further behind other developed countries if you look at PISA.
He brings up Common Core -- because we all know that anti-common core sentiment is only present in whacky, lunatic fringe, right wingers. (NOTE: No one mentioned Common Core up to this point.)
I don't think you're going to blame the Common Core.
If the man had done his homework, he would have known that Lily doesn't hate the Common Core and in fact thinks it's just swell...it's just the testing issue that's a problem for her.

Lily told him that the reason Finland, Singapore et al are doing so well is because they are doing the opposite of us -- no privatization, no defunding, and no tossing untrained teachers into the highest need schools -- "There is no Teach for Finland."

Not to be distracted, and apparently ignoring everything she just said with yet another, "yeah, yeah, but...", Steve goes back to PISA...
We used to be here and now we're here.
Lily responds that the other countries improved. We didn't get worse.

And then, in a response that elicited a Chicago-esque phrase expressing dissatisfaction from me, Rattner said,
Finland moving is the same as saying we moved.
He had no response to the statement that high achieving nations are improving their public education systems instead of killing them by false "reforms." He had no response to the obvious conclusion that we have wasted billions of dollars and dozens of years on those false "reforms" while other nations did things which worked. He seemed to have no clue -- or else didn't care -- that there is a correlation between poverty and achievement.

He could only say, "yeah, yeah, but..."

[Insert a second Chicago-esque phrase here.]



PISA SCORES MEASURE POVERTY

Steve, you're right, we have "fallen further and further behind other developed countries if you look at PISA." Unfortunately, you're wrong about what it is we have fallen behind in. We haven't fallen behind in our education. We've fallen behind in the level of poverty in the United States and the level of Child Poverty specifically.

The PISA scores show a direct correlation to the level of poverty in the U.S. If you disaggregate the U.S. PISA scores by poverty level you'd find that our low poverty schools score at the top of the world on PISA...and even our high poverty schools score in the middle of the pack. The problem is that we have such a high rate of poverty compared to the high achieving nations that our average score is much lower.

And Steve, your statement that "Finland moved, so we moved" seems to imply that you're more concerned about our national rank on the tests than what is actually being learned in school. Finland moved up, so we moved down. You're right. You don't get to shout, "USA, USA, We're #1, We're #1!"

Unless of course, you're talking about childhood poverty.

It's fairly clear that Lily Eskelsen Garcia was discussing education policy with people who had no basis in fact for their opinions and weren't really interested in hearing what she had to say.

~~~

OTHER RESPONSES

Mel Riddle, writing for the National Association of Secondary School Principals explains it so that even Steve and Joe could understand it...

PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’
...notable is the relationship between PISA scores in terms of individual American schools and poverty. While the overall PISA rankings ignore such differences in the tested schools, when groupings based on the rate of free and reduced lunch are created, a direct relationship is established.

...Schools in the United States with less than a 10% poverty rate had a PISA score of 551. When compared to the ten countries with similar poverty numbers, that score ranked first.

...In the next category (10-24.9%) the U.S. average of 527 placed first out of the ten comparable nations.

...For the remaining U.S. schools, their poverty rates over 25% far exceed any other country tested. However, when the U.S. average of 502 for poverty rates between 25-49.9% is compared with other countries it is still in the upper half of the scores. [emphasis added]
Diane Ravitch explained the PISA scores...

My View of the PISA Scores
The U.S. has NEVER been first in the world, nor even near the top, on international tests.

Over the past half century, our students have typically scored at or near the median, or even in the bottom quartile.

...The point worth noting here is that U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.
She went on to pull 4 lessons from the scores...
Lesson 1: If they mean anything at all, the PISA scores show the failure of the past dozen years of public policy in the United States. The billions invested in testing, test prep, and accountability have not raised test scores or our nation’s relative standing on the league tables. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are manifest failures at accomplishing their singular goal of higher test scores.

Lesson 2: The PISA scores burst the bubble of the alleged “Florida miracle” touted by Jeb Bush. Florida was one of three states–Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida–that participated in the PISA testing. Massachusetts did very well, typically scoring above the OECD average and the US average, as you might expect of the nation’s highest performing state on NAEP. Connecticut also did well. But Florida did not do well at all. It turns out that the highly touted “Florida model” of testing, accountability, and choice was not competitive, if you are inclined to take the scores seriously. In math, Florida performed below the OECD average and below the U.S. average. In science, Florida performed below the OECD average and at the U.S. average. In reading, Massachusetts and Connecticut performed above both the OECD and U.S. average, but Florida performed at average for both.

Lesson 3: Improving the quality of life for the nearly one-quarter of students who live in poverty would improve their academic performance.

Lesson 4: We measure only what can be measured. We measure whether students can pick the right answer to a test question. But what we cannot measure matters more. The scores tell us nothing about students’ imagination, their drive, their ability to ask good questions, their insight, their inventiveness, their creativity. If we continue the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in education, we will not only NOT get higher scores (the Asian nations are so much better at this than we are), but we will crush the very qualities that have given our nation its edge as a cultivator of new talent and new ideas for many years.




~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Retention Wars: Blaming Children

THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT LAWS

In the recent film, Rise Above the Mark, Linda Darling Hammond said,
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that...we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and...we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.
More than a dozen states, including Indiana punish third grade children -- 8 and 9 year olds -- for low reading achievement by forcing them to repeat third grade. Retention in grade doesn't work...and we have known it for decades.

In the past, parents, teachers, and administrators used to make the decision to retain a student in his current grade. Now it's state legislatures, governors, and departments of education. We have allowed the wrong people -- politicians and policy makers -- to determine the academic placement of our children using the wrong kinds of tests in the wrong kinds of ways.

21ST CENTURY DUNCE CAP

Recent research in retention in grade mirrors past research from the last century. We do know that intense intervention helps...but, as a nation, we're not willing to spend the money to provide it for our children. We know that lowered poverty rates help, but, as a nation, we're not willing to face the fact that we have failed to reduce poverty in our country, and in fact, it continues to grow.

Yet state after state continues to force school systems to hold children back in third grade causing unnecessary academic and emotional damage by labeling students as failures. This is no more effective in helping children learn than was the 19th century dunce cap.

Oklahoma partially repealed their third grade punishment law last May. They are still doing the wrong thing, requiring children to be punished for low reading achievement, but at least now, they are letting parents and local educators have some input into the decision.

Of course some legislators, who claim to be for "local control" during campaign season, were not happy to yield to actual local control...

Legislature overrides Fallin veto on reading bill; Barresi calls decision a 'pathetic' step back
[The] bill shifts promotion-retention decisions about third-graders who score unsatisfactory on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test to teachers and parents.

The existing law required students not covered by certain exemptions to be retained.

...Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa said "...the decision that a child needs to be held back won’t come down to a single high-stakes test. It allows for a series of assessments throughout the school year and gives our local schools, professional educators and parents greater input.”
Notice that in Oklahoma the argument wasn't against retention, but was for local control. The change to the law requires local folks, parents and teachers, to decide whether or not to retain a child instead of the no-excuses policy of retaining everyone who can't read by third grade.


TEACHERS NEED TO LEARN THE RESEARCH

One problem with retention in grade is that it is supported by a large number of educators.

Many teachers don't believe the research and instead rely on "anecdotal evidence." An elementary teacher in a K-5 school building, for example, might retain a child and assume that all is well because the child does better the second year...and perhaps the following year as well. Unfortunately, the gains are usually short-lived.

Keeping children back a year doesn’t help them read better

(See also Does holding kids back a year help them academically? No. But schools still do it.)
...some studies have found academic improvement in the immediate years after retention, these gains are usually short-lived and tend to fade over time.
By the time the students start to lose the gains they have made -- and end up further behind than before -- they are often in another school, or too far away from the retaining teacher for her to continue to keep track.
...two problems lie in the popularity of such grade retention policies. First, while the Florida model has significant bi-partisan support among both Democrats and Republicans in the US, reviews of the outcomes of the Florida policy show research on it is misrepresented and inconclusive, at best.

Alongside this, 40 years of research into the policy of holding children back a grade refutes the practice.
In Florida, the gains of students who were retained were held up as an example of the success of retention, however, those gains from retention were supplemented by intensive interventions which could have, and should have been used without retention.

BLAMING CHILDREN

In American public schools, when something goes wrong the tendency is to blame someone else...and retention blames the student.
Despite a well-established research base discrediting the practice, the policy appears to endure for two reasons. A political and public faith in punitive educational accountability sits alongside a straw man argument that advocates keeping children back instead of “social promotion”, where they are automatically passed onto the next grade regardless of student achievement.
Teachers aren't given the training, support, and additional help they need to help struggling students. When a child fails to learn the response is often based on the false dichotomy of retention versus social promotion. "What else can we do?" What indeed...

The answer is to invest in public education...

Holding Kids Back Doesn't Help Them
Happily, there are more effective and less expensive alternatives. The cost of having a student repeat 3rd grade is several times greater than alternatives such as tutoring or small-group interventions, summer school, or high-quality pre-K. These approaches don't have the negative side effects associated with retention.

Instead of giving children the same treatment that failed them the first time, alternative strategies provide different kinds of learning opportunities.

Interventions should also begin long before 3rd grade. Research has provided compelling evidence that investments in preschool can reduce retention and have positive long-term payoff for individuals and society, in contrast to the negative long-term effects of holding a student back later.
Intervention costs money and America is so deeply invested in corporate welfare that public education and our children's future is being shortchanged. Today's education "reforms" are proof of the nation's desire to disinvest in our children.

We are giving the wrong kinds of tests. We're using them in the wrong kinds of ways. And we're hurting our children in the process.


~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 Medley #21

American Teachers, SSR, School Prayer, Duncan, Poverty, Charters, Closing Schools


AMERICA'S TEACHERS

A series of articles about America's teachers.

We find that experienced teachers are leaving the profession. They're leaving not because the job is difficult...it's always been difficult...but because the federal and state governments are doing what they can to destroy public education and the profession of teaching in America. The plan is...
  • tell teachers what to teach.
  • tell teachers when and how to teach it.
  • blame teachers when it doesn't work.
The results of the study quoted below aren't surprising.


High-stakes testing, lack of voice driving teachers out
Contrary to popular opinion, unruly students are not driving out teachers in droves from America's urban school districts. Instead, teachers are quitting due to frustration with standardized testing, declining pay and benefits and lack of voice in what they teach.

So finds a Michigan State University education scholar -- and former high school teacher -- in her latest research on teacher turnover, which costs the nation an estimated $2.2 billion a year.

Alyssa Hadley Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education, conducted in-depth interviews with urban secondary teachers before they quit successful careers in teaching. In a pair of studies, Dunn found that despite working in a profession they love, the teachers became demoralized by a culture of high-stakes testing in which their evaluations are tied to student scores and teachers have little say in the curriculum.
Next we learn that the nation's teacher bashers...those who complain that teachers are overpaid and lazy...are wrong. American teachers don't get paid more than others with similar training and background. American teachers spend more time teaching than other teachers around the world.

The constant whine from the anti-public education crowd is to get rid of the bad teachers. Where are all the "great teachers" going to come from when teaching is a job from which you can be fired at will, a job where you are told what and when to teach by people who don't have any experience, and a job where requirements are based on the assumption that "anyone can do it?"

American Teachers Spend More Time In The Classroom Than World Peers, Says Report
A study from the Center for American Progress in July found that slow teacher salary growth contributes to high turnover. Research shows that 13 percent of teachers each year move schools or leave the profession.

"The bottom line is that mid- and late-career teachers are not earning what they deserve, nor are they able to gain the salaries that support a middle-class existence," says the report.

It continues: "As a nation, we need to do far more to attract -- and keep -- mid- and late-career teachers. In the end, if we truly want to retain top talent in our classrooms, we need to offer top-talent salaries.”
Teachers, when was the last time a politician spent a week shadowing you in your classroom? Those who complain about how weak the teaching profession is...and how lazy teachers are...are not willing to experience what teachers experience every day. For the most part, they're looking at public education from the point of view of the child they were when last they set foot in a public school.

Now that a teaching shortage has hit how many of those complainers are going to move into the "easy" world of public education with its 180 day work year and short school days.

The Cruel Myths about Teachers
Often, those who complain the most are those who were average or below-average students who blame teachers, not themselves, for their mediocrity. Although most claim to be strong free-market capitalists, they believe teachers should not have much higher wages and benefits than they do, a philosophy bordering on socialism.


Why aren't there more men in teaching? Public school teaching is still a "mostly-female" profession. Think about what that might mean in a nation which still has a serious gender wage gap and a general disrespect for women.

Why Don’t More Men Go Into Teaching?
...men can earn much more, on average, outside of teaching, while women’s teaching salaries more closely match the average pay for women outside of education.

...Teachers unions argue that the swift adoption of new academic standards, the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers’ job performance and efforts to overhaul tenure all make teaching a less attractive career for anyone.

“The reality of teaching right now is that it’s always been a hard job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union. It’s “harder now than ever before, with less and less respect,” she said.
The internationally high ranking Finns have found that having plenty of collaboration time for teachers to talk to each other, to compare teaching and experiences, and for planning lessons, has contributed to higher achieving students. Are we in the U.S. just beginning to discover that?

Do students learn more when their teachers work well together?
...researchers found that “the structure and content of relationships among teachers (teachers’ social capital) significantly predicted school-level student achievement [as measured by their test scores in both reading and math].”

Importantly, these effects were consistent across grades, and were sustained over multiple years...

SSR AND THE NRP

Sustained Silent Reading after the National Reading Panel: Alive and Well

The failure of the National Reading Panel (NRP) was well documented by Gerald Coles in Reading, The Naked Truth and Elaine Garan in Resisting Reading Mandates. Among other things the NRP foolishly rejected research about sustained silent reading (SSR). I have written about SSR before, but it's nice to see Stephen Krashen write in support of it, too.

The public schools of America have been obsessively focused on the five aspects of reading instruction named by the panel since the NRP report was released in 2000 -- phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. No one denies that those are important, but it's clear that the NRP only reported on those aspects of reading instruction because those are the easiest to measure via testing (see DIBELS), and indeed, the five were specifically included in No Child Left Behind.

Something was missing, though, which reading teachers understood...purpose, motivation and opportunity for reading. Richard Allington wrote The Five Missing Pillars of Scientific Reading Instruction soon after the NRP report was released. It's a two page addition which includes important aspects of good reading instruction.
  1. Access to interesting texts and choice.
  2. Matching kids with appropriate texts.
  3. Writing and reading have reciprocal positive effects.
  4. Classroom organization: Balance whole class teaching with small group and side- by-side instruction.
  5. Availability of expert tutoring.
All the phonics, vocabulary and comprehension instruction in the world isn't going to be as effective if students aren't given opportunities to read texts of their choice and at an appropriate difficulty level. That's what SSR does. It gives students the opportunity to choose their own books and read them at their own rate.
Contrary to the conclusions of the National Reading Panel, study after study supports the practice of sustained silent reading in school. Some of my responses to the panel were published in Education Week, and others appeared in the Phi Delta Kappan and Reading Today (International Reading Association). I also discussed the panel's errors in The Power of Reading (2004).

In short, the panel missed many many studies, and misreported several others. In my first response to the panel (Kappan, 2001), I reported that sustained silent reading (SSR) was as effective or more effective than comparison groups in 50 out of 53 published comparisons, and in long-term studies, SSR was a consistent winner (Phi Delta Kappan, 2001).


PRAYER IN SCHOOL OR "SCHOOL PRAYER"

Right-Wing Firebrand Rick Santorum on His New God Doc

From an interview with Rick Santorum...
The movie argues that the observant are being forced to practice in private, for few hours in church on Sundays. But on a personal level, can’t you observe your religion wherever you want?
Not necessarily. You can’t pray in school, but it’s good to have prayer. Are people offended by prayer? Sure. But the constitution gives us the right to offend. There are a lot of things today in America that offend me.

Right, but isn’t school different? There are lots of rules in school that don’t apply to the rest of society.
This is a fallacy. By making such a judgment, you’re communicating what’s good and bad. Not having the Bible taught in school is a mistake. The Bible is the basis upon which Western civilization was built. It is the most influential book of all. And yet it’s not taught. In school, they can’t talk about the impact of this book. This is, in fact, putting forth a view of history that is ahistorical. It’s hard to not look at the history of Western civilization and not see faith.
Rick Santorum is absolutely wrong and he probably knows it. It's completely legal to pray in public schools as long as 1) the government (in the form of the teachers or administration) doesn't choose, mandate, or lead the prayers and, 2) as long as students who are praying are not disrupting the education of others or themselves.

In 1995, thirty-five organizations, ranging from Americans United for Separation of Church and State to the National Association of Evangelicals to the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation (Sikh), joined as signatories to a Joint Statement of Current Law on Religion in the Public Schools. In the statement they agreed that,
Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate. [emphasis added]
Santorum is also wrong about the Bible being taught in school. Again, the Joint Statement...
The history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible (or other scripture)-as-literature (either as a separate course or within some other existing course), are all permissible public school subjects. It is both permissible and desirable to teach objectively about the role of religion in the history of the United States and other countries. One can teach that the Pilgrims came to this country with a particular religious vision, that Catholics and others have been subject to persecution or that many of those participating in the abolitionist, women's suffrage and civil rights movements had religious motivations. [emphasis added]
As is common with some politicians, Santorum misrepresents the truth. What he really meant to say was that schools can't lead children in the prayers he wants, and can't teach his religion using the Bible.

Now where was it that I read about "not bearing false witness?"

DUNCAN

Duncan Threatens to Withdraw Florida’s NCLB Waiver over ELLs

Arne Duncan needs to be fired. President Obama's education plan needs to be overhauled...
Duncan took away Washington State’s waiver because the legislature refused to tie teacher evaluations to student test score...Duncan took away Oklahoma’s waiver because the Legislature repealed the state’s participation in the Common Core, and the governor signed the law.
Editorial: Federal education enforcers out of line
Duncan's staff has put Florida on notice that the state is at risk of violating NCLB standards that require all children to be counted equally in accountability formulas. Earlier this year, with the support of educators and advocates, the Legislature agreed to give non-English-speaking students two years in a U.S. school before including their standardized test scores in school grading formulas. The change was an acknowledgement of the huge learning curve such children face and that schools should not be penalized if those students can't read, comprehend and write English at grade level within a year.

Yet to the federal bureaucrats enforcing the unpopular NCLB law, such common sense doesn't matter. They have given Florida a year to make changes or risk losing its NCLB waiver, which has allowed the state to substitute its own accountability efforts for some of the most unworkable federal mandates. Those include the idealistic but unreasonable federal standard for 2014 that each child at a school must be working at grade level for the school not to be deemed "failing."


POVERTY

By the Numbers: US Poverty

An update for your information...
Children in poverty: 16.4 million, 23 percent of all children, including 39.6 percent of African-American children and 33.7 percent of Latino children. Children are the poorest age group in the US

CHARTERS UNDERPERFORM

CPS outpaces charter schools in improvements, especially in reading

Mayor Emanuel's rubber stamp school board closed 50 schools last year because they were underutilized. Then they opened dozens of charter schools to dump public money into the pockets of political supporters. Now we find, unsurprisingly, that the charter schools did no better than public schools.
Chicago’s public neighborhood elementary schools improved greatly in reading and slightly in math, outpacing average charter school growth last year, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of recently released testing data.


CLOSED SCHOOLS

Mayor Emanuel, and Arne Duncan before him, closed dozens and dozens of neighborhood schools in Chicago. Here we read about the pain and stress that closing schools has on families and children.

Closed charter schools have a ripple effect
“It is a painful, really agonizing process to close a school,” Harris said. “The people who are there are choosing to be there. No one wants to see it happen.”

...“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

...it still created upheaval for families.
“It’s a significant disruption of their life,” Deputy Mayor Jason Kloth said.

...For those children, catching up academically will be as difficult as grappling with the loss of their school and adapting to a new environment.

~~~

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!



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