"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, July 30, 2015

Indiana "reformers" are Surprised by a Teacher Shortage?

[This entry has been updated. The second part has been added.]

INITIAL REACTION

Kruse and Behning can't understand why there's a teacher shortage?

The two people in the Indiana legislature who are responsible for more damage to the state's public education system than anyone else...and they don't know why there's a teacher shortage?

Either they are even more stupid than I suspected (and that's saying quite a bit) or they think we're incredibly stupid.

Indiana Lawmakers Call For Study On Teacher Shortage
"Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, wrote that “given the media reports and concerns that they have generated with school districts, we think it would be wise for the Indiana General Assembly to proactively address this issue.”

"They are calling for testimony from experts and those teaching in local schools to explain why the enrollment at teacher colleges and licensures are dropping...."
For starters (please feel free to add your own)...

We have...

Attacking teachers
  • Loss of collective bargaining rights over most contract items.
  • Attacking the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a National Board Certified Teacher, because she's "...just a librarian."
  • REPA-3 allowing anyone someone to teach without knowing the first thing about education (Yes, I know this was the SBOE, but my guess is that they heard about it).
And...

Attacking Public Schools
  • Diverting funds for public education to private and charter schools.
  • Using an unproven and inadequate single letter grade to grade public schools...and insisting that we use it even though the testing was screwed up.
And finally...

Overuse and Misuse of Standardized Tests
  • Using student test scores to evaluate teachers.
  • Insisting on using an untested system before it's ready.

UPON FURTHER CONSIDERATION

My first thought was that Kruse and Behning are just stupider than I imagined...and then I started thinking about it and I have begun to suspect that they aren't worried about the lack of teachers at all.

First...this is the perfect excuse to saturate the state with TFA temps. Think of all the money the state will save without career teachers getting higher salaries.

Second...I think it will be time for REPA-4. The new crisis is that there won't be enough teachers so the state will have to lower even further the requirements for people to become teachers. Right now all you need is a bachelor's degree...and the ability to pass a test in your subject area and you can teach that subject in High School...without any teaching experience or training. Perhaps REPA-4 will drop the requirements even lower...and add elementary schools. Anyone with a college degree in anything could teach elementary school...and forget the test portion of the requirement...after all, how hard can it be to get a bunch of little kids to do what you want them to do! More low paid temps...

Third...not enough teachers? Raise the class size. Think how much money we can save there!

With those three things going think how easy it will be to claim that public schools are failing and we need to send even more money to private, parochial and charter schools. Let's just shut down the whole public education system in the state and let the Friedmanites take over...no regulation needed at all. After all, it worked well for the banks, didn't it?

~~~

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


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Teachers Subsidize Schools

The Indiana State Teachers Association posted a review of the new education laws effective July 1, 2015. Included in the list is this one...

New State Education Laws Effective July 1
Educator Tax Credit (HEA 1001)
The state's budget includes a new state income tax credit for teachers who spend their own money to pay for classroom supplies currently deductible under federal tax laws. The credit, a direct dollar-for-dollar offset of your state income tax liability, is capped at the lesser amount of what you spend on qualifying supplies or $100 each taxable year. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, members should retain appropriate receipts for tax purposes.
This Indiana tax credit goes along with the Federal Income Tax deduction of $250 (note that a credit is better than a deduction since the former reduces your actual tax while the latter just reduces your taxable income).


This new law is good news for Indiana's teachers, right?

Well...yes and no. We all know that teachers spend money on their classes during the school year. The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) (an organization of school supply retailers) found that nearly all teachers spend money on their classrooms and the average amount spent nationally is just under $500 per teacher.
The study found that 99.5 percent of all public school teachers spent some amount of money out of pocket, with the national average for 2013-2013 [sic] coming in at $485 among those surveyed.
Getting a $100 credit on one's state income tax, as well as the $250 deduction on federal income tax is nice for teachers. Most, if not all, teachers would continue to spend money on their classes for needed supplies or for their students whether or not they got a credit or deduction, but every little bit helps.

Two things, however, bother me about this.

I agree that tax money, in this case in the form of credits and deductions, ought to be spent on schools, supplies for public schools, and, when necessary, food, clothing, and supplies for children. We all benefit from public schools so we all are responsible for adequately funding them. However, there are two main reasons why public school teachers spend money for school.
  • Schools are underfunded and supplies like paper, markers, books, and toilet paper are not always available. Since teachers need these things to do their job, they buy them with their own money.
  • Low income students often don't have winter coats, shoes, book bags, or meals (aside from breakfast and lunch at school). Teachers support students with these sorts of gifts.
Teachers pay for these because the appropriate source of funding -- school budgets or parent income -- isn't always available, especially in underfunded schools with a preponderance of students from low-income families.

In a recently republished 2005 letter to Reading Today, Stephen Krashen wrote
Teachers face a serious moral dilemma. If they don't spend their own money on books, equipment, and even toilet paper, the students suffer, especially students from low-income families who often attend seriously underfunded schools and have little access to books outside of school. If teachers do spend their own money, there is no pressure on the system to supply these essentials...
School districts know that teachers will "pick up the slack" to help their students, and because of tight, reduced, or low funding they, often reluctantly, rely on the generosity of their teachers to provide what the system cannot. States, especially those run by "reformers" in the legislature or governor's office, continue to cut the budgets for public schools (many choosing, instead, to fund vouchers and charter schools), so school districts are finding themselves with less and less money for supplies.

The problem is not that teachers buy things for their classrooms...or that they are only partially reimbursed for supplies and necessities purchased...

The problem is that teachers are placed in the position of having to subsidize their employer because federal, state, and local funding is inadequate.

Children in America are just not a high priority.


~~~

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


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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

School as Vacation for Parents

Kmart has a new "not back to school" ad. It's the usual ad stuff coupled with an explanation to kids that, "this is not a back to school commercial."

Instead it's "vacation" commercial for parents to help them with "...relaxation and freedom from entertaining their children..."

That's right. School is the place where parents send their kids when they need a "vacation." It's the same as going out to dinner when Mom and Dad don't want to cook...or calling the babysitter when parents want a night out. The underlying concept here is that schools and teachers are a babysitting service...and what's even better, public schools, unlike charter, private and parochial schools, must take your kids because it's the law.

I get it...it's not really Kmart's fault. Even teachers joke about how summertime is the time when parents really learn to appreciate teachers. And, it's true. Kids are a lot of work...and sometimes two or three kids at home all day can be just as hard as a class of 25. Keeping kids entertained without resorting to Disney marathons or hours on the computer/phone/tablet, isn't easy. I'm sure that some parents will be relieved that their local public school will supply interesting content for their child...presented by a real, live, caring, person - aka the teacher(s).

But think about it for a moment...school is more than just a vacation for parents, right? The nation's collective attitude about the role of schools and teachers needs an adjustment. Would we be able to counteract America's tradition of anti-intellectualism with an acknowledgment that teachers are more than just babysitters? Would Americans begin to see teachers as well-educated professionals instead of part-time test-jockeys if we changed our attitude about school a bit?

Instead of a place to send our kids for a ten-month parent vacation, perhaps we ought to adopt the attitude of higher achieving countries. Pasi Sahlberg says this about the purpose of schools in Finland...
In Finland we think that children need to have a safe and balanced learning environment that is equally guided by academic and non-academic curricula, team learning and individual work, and formal and informal learning. We also believe that it is very important to learn about the world and its different languages and cultures from very early on. That’s why we give foreign language learning and international education high priorities. There is a Finnish saying: “Real winners don’t compete”. We believe that what children learn to do together today, they can do alone tomorrow.
Teachers already know they are much more than babysitters and school is much more than test scores. The vast majority of parents know this too, even if they do (half) joke, "I can't wait till school starts so you'll have something to do and get out of my hair!" Most parents understand and respect their kids' teachers. Polls show that parents of students in school...those people closest to the schools and best able to see what's actually happening in America's public schools...trust their kids' teachers and their kids' public schools.

With a change in national attitude maybe we could wash away some of that "traditional American anti-intellectualism." A strong social investment in improving the understanding of the purpose of school, along with fully funding our public schools, would do more to improve student achievement than "test-and-punish" policies and diverting money from public schools to private corporations and religious groups.

We ought to support, not trivialize, America's public schools.


Kmart ad for a parent vacation.

~~~

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


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Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 Medley #25: The Real Crisis in American Education

Teacher Shortages

AMERICA'S REAL CRISIS: A SHORTAGE OF TEACHERS

I will always be a teacher.

Flashback to the spring of 2010: I had mixed feelings about retiring. I enjoyed the work I did...helping young students who had trouble learning like I did when I was their age. I liked reading to and with students. I liked analyzing student difficulties and trying to come up with "work-arounds" or actual solutions.

But the focus of my work had turned more and more towards preparing students to pass a test. The school would be graded on its ISTEP scores, and third graders would repeat third grade until they could pass IREAD-3. Real learning had to take a back seat to test prep. The rationale was that the test accurately measured student learning, so teaching to the test was appropriate.

That rationale was wrong. I didn't like all the extra time that I had to spend on testing. I didn't like worrying about student test scores instead of what the students actually needed to improve their learning. I didn't like all the paperwork needed for "accountability" which was based only on test scores.

I had taught long enough. So I retired.

I retired because of personal reasons as well...I missed a month of school with a broken heel/ankle, and the school system offered a bonus for older teachers who were ready to retire. So I retired.

...and the very next year I was back in school volunteering and doing the parts of teaching that I liked -- helping struggling students and reading aloud to classes of second and third graders. I will always be a teacher...even when the time comes when I can't volunteer any more.

But not everyone has the luxury of doing what I did. Teachers who are well into their career but not old enough to retire have to choose whether to stay and fight the trends of so-called "reform" or to quit and try to find other work. High school and college students who are looking for career options can and are choosing to direct their lives away from public education. In state after state, around the nation, fewer and fewer students are looking at teaching as a career choice resulting in a nation-wide teaching shortage which, if things don't change, will get worse before it gets better.


Why America Demonizes Its Teachers

"I used to get mad at my school
"The teachers who taught me weren't cool
"You're holding me down, turning me round
"Filling me up with your rules..."
It's Getting Better, by Lennon and McCartney

Why is it that teachers are bearing the brunt of public school scapegoating? Retired teacher Frank Breslin gives us a five part look at what makes teachers such an easy target.

Does divide and conquer account for the fact that so many people hate teachers because we're "overpaid" and, according to Chris Christie, "get 4 months off a year." Did we bring it on ourselves by not dealing with the myths about teaching earlier? Is it because teaching is still a female-dominated career choice and our male-dominated society places a lower value on it? Did so many people hate school that the pent up anger against teachers exploded in a national attack against us? Is it just the normal reaction to an authority figure?

Do people who hate public schools and public school teachers understand that the memories of their own school days are the immature memories of a child?

Why is it that so-called "reformers" have, on the whole, never taught in a public school? Why is it that so many so-called "reformers" send their children to private schools where "test-and-punish" education doesn't exist?

It's well worth the effort to read this series of informative and insightful pieces.
The issue of teacher responsibility for student performance must be placed within this broader social context of what has been happening outside the American classroom for the last 30 years. Only in this way will the discussion about student learning become more realistic, and honest, and why singling out teachers alone distorts the true nature of both the problem and its solution.

When there are too few teachers in a school, and those few are overwhelmed by large classes and have no time to provide individualized attention for students -- many of whom come to school deeply troubled and alienated with all sorts of problems having nothing to do with the school -- is it any wonder that students find it hard to focus and learn?

The emotional, familial, and social problems of many inner-city students are often so deeply embedded and, in many cases, treatable only by professional help that the paltry resources of the school cannot begin to address them. These underfunded schools often lack even the essential services of counselors, social workers, and nurses because of draconian budget cuts.

What makes matters still worse is that these same schools are now set up for additional failure by being annually denied billions in vitally needed tax revenues diverted to charter schools, with no accountability, as part of a right-wing political agenda.

This is nothing less than the nationwide destruction of public schools by privatizing them for personal gain and rewarding charter-friendly legislators and governors with campaign contributions taken from that same taxpayer funding that should be going to support public schools.
Why America Demonizes its Teachers -- Part 2: Five Proposals That Would Change the World

Are parents formally evaluated on the behavior of their children? Are doctors evaluated on the health of their patients? Are clergy evaluated on the moral behavior of their parishioners? Are such ratings publicized in the newspaper for all to see? Are politicians evaluated by their promises, the economic condition of their constituency, the safety of their district...
Second, I propose that doctors be evaluated on the health of their patients. It wouldn't matter that there was no known cure for a particular ailment, or that the problem stemmed from heredity, poverty, or childhood neglect...

Is America so desperate for scapegoats that it willfully ignores the nature of children and the many outside influences upon children's learning and behavior beyond teachers' control?


Why America Demonizes its Teachers -- Part 3: What Teacher Evaluation Is Really About
Ostensibly, the policy of evaluating teachers on their students' performance is designed to improve public schools by holding teachers accountable. However, by refusing to take into account several factors which impede student learning and over which teachers have no control, this policy is, in essence, a punitive measure, a political weapon, a pre-emptive strike against teachers, intended to demoralize and drive them out of the teaching profession.
Why America Demonizes its Teachers -- Part 4: The Role of the Home in Student Learning
There are so many lost children in our schools today that one wonders whether they are the canaries in the mine shaft of American culture, signaling that there is something terribly wrong in our country. Many of the problems that afflict inner-city children discussed in Part 1 of this series affect many children at all levels of our society no matter where they may live.

Children come to school hungry, malnourished, unhealthy, troubled, and, in some cases, so irredeemably scarred by hopeless home situations that massive interventions are needed.

Many schools, however, cannot provide them due to the loss of school nurses, psychologists, and social workers, increasingly disappearing from public schools because of budget cuts and funding diverted to charters.
Why America Demonizes its Teachers -- Part 5: What's Wrong with Standardized Testing?
America has the highest rate of children living in poverty of any advanced nation in the world -- nearly 25%. This is the reason why our national average of test scores is low: "family poverty, the most reliable predictor of low test scores." Poverty, not teachers, drags down test scores.

Scores will be high for students with educated parents, and low for students from backgrounds of poverty, homelessness, joblessness, poor nutrition, absent parents or little parental support, as well as for English-language learners and students with disabilities.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Education "reformers" have it all wrong...
Students and teachers are being subjected to increasingly punitive extrinsic structures: Scores, grades, evaluations, assessments, punishments, discipline, rigidity, standardization, absence of context, divorced from individual experience.
All the factors that stimulate and perpetuate intrinsic motivation are disappearing.

To say education reform has it wrong is a monumental understatement. Policy makers and educational reformers seem hell bent on beating students and their teachers until their morale improves.

That's just stupid.

Teacher "Shortage" Coast to Coast

Indiana has gorged itself on the fat of "school reform." Schools are underfunded (last legislative session funded more school money for wealthy areas, and less for poor areas), collective bargaining rights for teachers have been reduced, tenure is no more, the law requires VAM based evaluations, there is extra money for charters, vouchers are ubiquitous, and more and more students who live in poverty (now more than 50% of America's public school students) are being taught by untrained or inadequately trained teachers. This all leads to fewer and fewer college students choosing an education career. The self-fulfilling prophecy of public school failure is being orchestrated by millionaires and billionaires who send their children to private schools...where the test-and-punish brand of education doesn't exist.

Remember this when it comes time to vote...
Indiana is wracked with concern over an oncoming teacher shortage. The state has been a reformster playground, rolling back teacher support and attacking teacher pensions, so some sources are reporting a jump in teacher retirement. But the supply end of the pipeline is even more damaged-- the state Department of Education reports a drop in issued teacher licenses from 7,500 in 2007-08 down to 934 in 2013-14. While trouble filling openings is still spotty, the future does not look good.


~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, July 23, 2015

2015 Medley #24 - Vouchers

Vouchers

VOUCHERS: FRIEDMAN'S PLAN

It has never been about poor kids...

The "money follows the child" philosophy has been a decades long excuse to divert tax money to private corporations and to provide tax breaks to individuals who send their children to private and religious schools.

ALEC Admits School Vouchers Are for Kids in Suburbia
The American Federation for Children (AFC), chaired by Amway billionaire Betsy DeVos, estimates that vouchers and voucher-like tax-credit schemes currently divert $1.5 billion of public money to private schools annually. But that is not enough. By expanding "pro-school choice legislative majorities" in state houses across the country the organization hopes that $5 billion a year will be siphoned out of public schools by 2020 and applied to for-profit and religious schools.

With vouchers gaining momentum nationwide, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is meeting in San Diego today [June 22, 2015], has decided to drop the pretense that vouchers have anything to do with social and racial equity, and is now pushing vouchers for the middle class—a project which, if pursued enough in numbers, will progressively erode the public school system and increase the segregation of students based on race and economic standing.
Those supporting vouchers don't see anything wrong with draining money from the public schools. In fact, the goal is the destruction of public schools entirely.
So what exactly was the brave new world Milton Friedman envisioned when he first floated the idea of school vouchers? While lecturing rightwing state lawmakers at a 2006 ALEC meeting, Friedman jumped at the opportunity to explain what his vision was all about. It had nothing whatsoever to do with helping “indigent” children; no, he explained to thunderous applause, vouchers were all about “abolishing the public school system.”

Here is an excerpt from Friedman’s ALEC speech:
...How do we get from where we are to where we want to be—to a system in which parents control the education of their children? Of course, the ideal way would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.
If you agree with Milton Friedman's plan to do away with public schools, then you and I will never agree.

WHY NOT VOUCHERS?


I come to the discussion of vouchers with the following assumption...that public schools supported by the public, is a common good.

I agree with President John Adams that...
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.
It is to our benefit as a society, that our citizens be educated and it's our obligation to educate all of our citizens...not just those who have enough money.

Vouchers don't improve education for everyone. They don't help poor children do better in school because the problem isn't failing schools...it's poverty and the failure of politicians to deal with it.

In An Inconvenient Truth, Vice President Al Gore said,
There are good people who are in politics in both parties, who hold this at arm's length because if they acknowledge it and recognize it, then the moral imperative to make big changes is inescapable.
He was referring, of course, to acknowledging global climate change, but the same can be said for child poverty in America. America's politicians are too busy fighting each other in a partisan struggle for donor capital and reelection, to worry about actually doing anything substantive about child poverty. It's easier to label America's public schools as "failures" and blame the schools, "bad teachers," unmotivated students, or lazy parents.

The political fight results in vouchers...a false hope for parents of children in poverty. Instead of supporting a public school system which accepts all students, vouchers send public funds to private schools which, when faced with hard-to-educate students, often send them right back to the underfunded public schools.

The case against school vouchers: Sen. Patty Murray takes a stand on Senate floor
For one, vouchers divert much-needed resources away from public schools and re-route it to private and religious schools...

Secondly, vouchers would send federal taxpayer dollars to private schools that are in no way accountable to the public...

...unlike public schools, private schools do not need to serve all students...

...they do not improve student achievement. Study after study has shown that vouchers do not pay off for students or taxpayers...


IN PRACTICE

• Nevada...

Nevada’s New Voucher Plan Is Designed to Bankrupt the Public Schools
“Starting next school year, any parent in Nevada can pull a child from the state’s public schools and take tax dollars with them, giving families the option to use public money to pay for private or parochial school or even for home schooling… Nevada’s law is singular because all of the state’s 450,000 K-12 public school children—regardless of income—are eligible to take the money to whatever school they choose...”

"...will cause a deficit for the local district, given the fixed costs of operating the school system for all children... ESAs also create instability in district and school budgets. Districts will not know how many students will exit and how much money will be taken out of the budget during the school year. This unpredictability will make it difficult to manage public school budgets, as local administrators won’t know how many teachers and staff to hire… or how to allocate funds to provide sufficient resources to schools throughout the school year...”

“Unlike Nevada public schools, the private and religious schools accepting ESA funds are not prohibited from discriminating based on race, gender or disability..."
• Milwaukee...

Vouchers don’t do much for students
Ever since the Obama administration filed suit to freeze Louisiana’s school voucher program, high-ranking Republicans have pummeled the president for trapping poor kids in failing public schools. The entire House leadership sent a letter of protest. Majority Leader Eric Cantor blistered the president for denying poor kids “a way into a brighter future.”

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused the president of “ripping low-income minority students out of good schools” that could “help them achieve their dreams.”

But behind the outrage is an inconvenient truth: Taxpayers across the U.S. will soon be spending $1 billion a year to help families pay private school tuition — and there’s little evidence that the investment yields academic gains.
• Florida...

Breaking News: Florida Governor Scott Signs Voucher Expansion Bill
Rita Solnet, president of the Florida chapter of Parents Across America, said:

“Voucher schools will not be held to Florida’s Common Core curriculum nor will they have to deliver its associated, highly trumpeted, high stakes tests that 2.6 M other FL students endure. No merit pay, no need to pursue credentialed teachers, no accountability for $3 billion of public tax dollars.

“Had the Governor not signed SB 850 today, the voucher program would have still grown to nearly $1 billion anyways with the escalators built in.

“Something is very wrong when the agency services 59K students in primarily religious schools and they admittedly provided false numbers for an alleged wait list. Something is very wrong when their non profit president is on video admitting to giving away a million dollars each year to legislators who favor voucher programs.

“Siphoning $3 billion away from 2.6 M students is shameful.”


• Cleveland...

An Idea Whose Time Has Gone
In Cleveland, a similar but now completed study that followed the same students over time showed dispiriting results from that city's voucher program. Tracking the scores of students who began kindergarten in the 1997-98 school year through their sixth-grade year in 2003-04, Indiana University researchers found no significant differences in overall achievement, reading, or math scores between students who used vouchers and those who stayed in public schools, after taking into account socioeconomic differences.
• Indiana...

Following money ...
Voucher dollars cause confusion for public schools

“The issue is not the money as much as the responsibility for management of the Individualized Education Plan,” said Superintendent Phil Downs, noting that the money is intended to support a student not enrolled in his district. The situation places public schools in the position of taking legal and financial responsibility for another schools’ students, and diminishing the decision-making authority of the private school...

...School choice supporters enthusiastically embrace the idea of money following the child. It’s time for Indiana to consider applying the concept to special education funds, provided the necessary legal and financial responsibilities also follow those dollars to voucher schools.
...now flowing in reverse
As voucher participation grows, the number of students attending private schools at taxpayer expense has grown from 3,911 to more than 29,000, including an increasing number of students who never attended public school. While their families qualify for a generous tax break, the families of children in public schools do not.
Report: School vouchers don't benefit students or taxpayers
"Vouchers don't promote student achievement," he said. "When you are taking public dollars and using them to subsidize decision making, you want those public dollars to generate a public good. Even supporters of the voucher system have come to the realization that vouchers don't support student achievement."
Expansions underway at local schools
...according to the law, you are allowed to use choice scholarship (money) for any education-related expenses. That could be for building, technology. You can use it for any of those things.
~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Monday, July 20, 2015

2015 Medley #23

Teachers Quitting, Evaluations, Poverty,
Testing, Privatization, Texas Textbooks

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Jennifer Higgins: I Am Not a “Developing” Teacher

Diane Ravitch posted yet another letter from a teacher who has decided to quit rather than punish herself for not being able to overcome the pain and cognitive dissonance of "education reform." Ravitch's comments before she reproduced the letter opened up a mild fire-storm in the comments section. Should you quit if you "can't take it any more" or does that mean that "the reformers have won?" Diane said the latter, although I think she meant her words to be encouraging people to stay...rather than disparagement of those who choose to leave.

There's a very interesting, sometimes heated, discussion in the comments which follow...
I have gotten to a point where I hate posting statements by teachers who are giving up because of stupid mandates and idiotic “reforms.” I don’t want anyone to quit. I want teachers to stay and fight for themselves, their students, their profession. At the same time, I understand that sometimes people reach a breaking point, and they can’t take it anymore.

The only good thing about these statements is that they tell the world about the damage done by ill-informed, misguided, punitive “reforms.” We can’t afford to drive good teachers away, yet that’s what current metrics are doing.

Here is a statement by Jennifer Higgins. She knows she’s a terrific teacher, but the data say she’s not. I hope she fights back. Don’t let the reformers win. If you quit, they win.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

A Reanalysis of the Effects of Teacher Replacement Using Value-Added Modeling

VAM, or Value-Added Modeling, has been shown to be unreliable and invalid, yet states around the nation, at the insistence of the US DOE, have been using VAM variations to evaluate teachers.
Conclusion: VAM is not reliable or valid, and VAM-based polices are not cost-effective for the purpose of raising student achievement and increasing earnings by terminating large numbers of low-performing teachers.




TEACHERS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM

Teachers in the United States are not the Problem

American teachers are regularly blamed for our "failing" schools. The obsession with "getting rid of bad teachers" has taken the attention away from the real problem which is the high rate of childhood poverty in the US.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), sends out the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) every few years. The most recent one was done in 2013 and the results are now available. The survey covers how teachers feel about their jobs.

Some things I noticed...
  • Teachers ought to get higher pay.
  • We need to quit bashing (blaming) teachers.
  • Collaboration, not competition, increases achievement.
Here are some of the findings...
  • 64% of middle school and junior high teachers feel that American teachers are not valued by society.
  • Only 67% of American teachers had a permanent contract. (The average internationally is 83%)
  • 64% of American teachers work in schools where more than 30% of their students come from economically disadvantaged homes. (This is the highest rate in 34 TALIS countries. The global average is 19.6%)
  • In the U.S. teachers have longer working hours (45 per week) and more instructional hours (27 per week). This is 20% more working hours and 40% more time instructional hours than their international counterparts.
  • American teachers have fewer Professional Learning Opportunities than their global counterparts. They do not team teach, plan activities with other teachers across grade levels and rarely have the time to observe other teachers and discuss techniques.
  • No other country surveyed tests students using external standardized tests at every grade level. Nor are their teachers evaluated with value added scores from any testing that is done.
  • Globally teachers receive more feedback from their peers than do American teachers.
As you can see U.S. teachers spend more time at their job compared to teachers in other countries. More importantly OECD found several important differences that affect student outcomes.

OECD found the following in higher performing countries:
  • Countries that value teachers, pay them more relative to other college educated workers.
  • Students achieve at higher levels in countries where teachers are valued.
  • There is a focus on creating a culture of collaboration in their schools resulting in innovative practices.
  • Higher performing countries find it easier to recruit and retain teachers.


POVERTY

Effects of Inequality and Poverty vs. Teachers and Schooling on America’s Youth

Inequality hurts everyone...those who ignore it for short term gain will lose in the long run...
I think everyone in the USA, of any political party, understands that poverty hurts families and affects student performance at the schools their children attend. But the bigger problem for our political leaders and citizens to recognize is that inequality hurts everyone in society, the wealthy and the poor alike. History teaches us that when income inequalities are large, they are tolerated by the poor for only so long. Then there is an eruption, and it is often bloody! Both logic and research suggest that economic policies that reduce income inequality throughout the United States are quite likely to improve education a lot, but even more than that, such policies might once again establish this nation as a beacon on a hill, and not merely a light that shines for some, but not for all of our citizens.

TESTING

SBAC results from Washington State confirm test designed to fail vast majority of children

Failure is a feature of standardized tests. Cut scores have become political tools.
The Common Core SBAC test results from Washington State confirm the worst fears that the Common Core SBAC test is designed to fail the vast majority of public schools students.

From the initial post of 2015, Wait, What? has been sounding the alarm about the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the SBAC testing scheme.




Pa. says 2015 standardized test scores dropped precipitously because of added rigor

Make tests harder...raise cut scores in order to ensure greater failure...blame the teachers and public schools...enter privatization.
The Pennsylvania State Educators Association, the state's largest teachers union, said that will undoubtedly feed misperception.

"You are going to see huge outcry, and I can certainly envision a scenario where teachers are very unjustly attacked for this process," said Chris Clayton, assistant director for education services at PSEA. "You have essentially moved the target for teachers to get their students to, and then you raised the bar with these cut scores, all in combination with funding cuts."

A bill that would tie teacher furloughs to the new teacher evaluation system has passed the state House of Representatives.

Another bill that would push back the state's standardized-test graduation requirement until 2019 has passed the Senate.

In concert, if advanced, these bills would give students less motivation to perform well on tests while holding teachers more accountable for student results.

"It's almost like a perfect recipe to attack teachers in many ways," said Clayton.

Iowa reform pushes students to read earlier - or else

Iowa joins the ranks of those states which punish third graders who struggle with reading.
Retention laws are seen as a way to stop students from advancing a grade level without merit, a practice known as social promotion. Since the late 1990s, there's been a focus across the nation on ensuring high school diplomas have validity and meaning.

But experts and educators have voiced concerns about the social and emotional effect of holding back students. A 2005 study found that repeating a grade for sixth-graders is as traumatic as losing a parent or going blind.

However, proponents point to a key part of Iowa's legislation: allowing students to progress to fourth grade if they attend a summer reading program, which is expected to incorporate teaching strategies that use some of the latest literacy research.

"My hope is that zero kids actually get retained," Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck said.

States such as Florida have stricter remediation laws, allowing students to progress only if they can demonstrate through a test or portfolio that they're not behind.

Iowa also allows "good cause" exemptions, such as if students have less than two years of instruction in English-as-a-second-language programs, do not take state exams because of a disability or demonstrate in another way that they are reading at grade level, such as through a portfolio.

PRIVATIZATION

Education: the Next Corporate Frontier
Privatization exists in different forms, including vouchers, public private partnerships, low-fee private schools, and charter schools. Whatever it’s called, it amounts to the same thing: private corporations gaining control of and profiting from an essential public function. In every country, the identical argument is used: public schools are failing, reform is needed and big business will do it best, providing choice and efficiency. If the statistics don’t match the argument, they are concealed or doctored to fit.

TEXAS TEXTBOOKS

TFN President Talks Texas Textbooks with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

The "Confederate Battle Flag" issue in South Carolina (and elsewhere) is not the only indication that we're still fighting the Civil War.
The Texas version of history could rewrite the story for all American school children...

We have moved away from listening to teachers and listening to experts from our colleges and universities about what kids need when they graduate...what do they need to be successful in colleges and jobs. That's where the emphasis needs to be.

And when it comes to history I think that the emphasis on facts and figures and certainly the politicized emphasis in Texas means that students aren't understanding why we study history which is about understanding ourselves today as much as it is understanding 150 years ago...



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


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Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Inevitable, Completely Expected, Teacher Shortage

A little over three years ago (see here and here) I started writing about how teachers were leaving the field and a teacher shortage was inevitable. Now, thankfully, the wider world is also noticing.

Educators Blame Teacher Shortage On Low Pay, Discouraging Policies
“Indiana, in many ways, has been ground zero for education reform…you have a constant barrage of policies that are designed to get people out of teaching,” [outgoing dean at Indiana University-Bloomington’s School of Education, Gerardo] Gonzalez says. “So what we have in Indiana is veteran teachers – effective teachers – leaving the profession because they’re tired of dealing with the very negative policy climate, and then younger people, particularly the high academic ability, talented people that we need in teaching, choosing other professions.”

Specifically, Gonzalez cites what he calls “wrong-headed, ill-informed” practices such as incorporating student test scores heavily into teacher evaluations, as well as the General Assembly’s decision to untie pay raises for teachers who work toward their masters degree or other higher-level academic training.


MICROMANAGING TEACHERS

Low pay is just one small part of the problem...and not the most important. Most teachers don't go into education for the money. I knew I would never be rich when I started teaching in 1975, but I also knew that I would have enough to provide for my family so I didn't have to worry about food, shelter, and medical care. I knew that if I persevered in my career I could eventually give up the part time job I held during the school year...and the summers working in home remodeling and retail. I continued teaching for 35 years and eventually I was able to give up the extra jobs.

Since the mid 2000s, however, salaries of many Indiana teachers have either stagnated or decreased. A teacher, who retired in June of this year ended her career with a salary that was nearly 10% less than what she received in 2009...and about the same as her 2007 salary (this does not include the increases in insurance each year).

And now that pay is tied to student test scores, teachers of low achieving students are seeing their salaries diminish even more.

Stagnant salaries account for only one reason there is a growing teacher shortage in Indiana (and Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, California, etc.).

There's more, though, and it can be explained in three words: "misguided 'education reform.'"

Teacher shortage impact in Northeast Indiana
“I think part of it has to do with all the reform that’s occurred over the last 5-7 years. That sent the message that teachers are not professionals. They don’t have a lot of control over their job. There are different laws that are telling them how long they have to do math, how long they have to do reading, and what they can consider reading. All of that plays into teachers feeling deskilled and like they’re not true professionals,” [Chair of the Department of Educational Studies at IPFW Terri] Swim said. “As the teacher, you often feel very ineffective. You don’t have time to teach, but you’re being evaluated based upon student performance that’s based upon not your best instruction because you were rushing or didn’t have enough time.”
In other words, after having been to school for four years (or more with a Master's degree) and accumulated thousands in college loan debt, teachers are told what to teach, how to teach, and how long to teach each subject. They are then blamed if the "what," "how," and "how long" don't improve student achievement. Teachers are told by non-educators in executive offices and legislatures...
"Teacher, you cannot choose how to do your job. You cannot use your professional judgment. You cannot make decisions which alter what we tell you to do. And your job will depend on how well your students do on 'the test.'
  • It does not matter if the teaching methods forced upon you are ineffective. 
  • It does not matter if the standards are developmentally inappropriate.
  • It does not matter if you have to deal with a child's home problems, their illnesses, their lack of ability or motivation, their community problems like crime and environmental toxins, or their lack of adequate food or medical care. 
  • It does not matter if 'the test' doesn't adequately show what students have really learned. 
  • It does not matter if 'the test' isn't valid or reliable.
  • It does not matter if 'the test' cut scores are at an arbitrary, unreasonable level. 
'The test' matters. That's all."

EVALUATIONS BASED ON FAULTY DATA

Some teachers are even evaluated on the test scores of students they have never met or taught.

How is this fair? Art teacher is evaluated by students’ math standardized test scores
I’m a New York City art teacher whose “effective” rating last year dropped to “developing” because of student standardized test scores — in math, a subject I don’t teach.

Yes, New York City takes Common Core math and English Language Arts test scores and attributes them to teachers who teach different subjects, even though they are not certified to teach those subjects, and even though they may never have met the tested students. Tens of thousands of teachers of science, social studies, all the arts, physical education, foreign language, technology and other subjects have at least 20 percent of their evaluation based on math or English Language Arts test results. (Because I am now required to have an “improvement plan,” I am curious to hear how teachers can improve the scores of kids we don’t teach.)
Why Are Some Teachers Being Evaluated Using the Test Scores of Kids They Didn’t Teach?
...But earlier this year, when Prior received his teacher evaluation, he was deemed “minimally effective”—earning just 33.25 points out of a possible 100 in the “student achievement” category that made up half of the document.

The reason? The “student achievement” had nothing to do with music. It was based on the state standardized test scores in reading and math of the lowest performing quarter of students in his school. Many of those students had never taken one of his classes...
Would a company evaluate one of its salesmen based on customer purchases from a different salesman? Would a hospital evaluate a doctor based on the health and recovery of patients she never treated?

Why do we subject teachers to this craziness?


It makes no sense...

THE PRIVATIZATION FACTOR

...unless you factor in variables under the umbrella of privatization: maximize profits for private and privately run schools, privatize public services, lower taxes for the wealthy.

Deprofessionalizing the teaching profession -- treating teachers like temporary, part time, short term employees -- means that benefits can be reduced and higher salaries can be avoided. With fewer teachers "at the top of the scale" schools can lower their personnel costs. With the ability to fire teachers for any reason older, more experienced, more expensive teachers can be let go before their higher salaries have an impact on the budget -- and the corporate profit margin.

As the job of teachers becomes more difficult, less fulfilling, less professional, there are fewer prospective teachers.

Wanted for Indiana: Many more teachers
...There is a growing sense, says Bill McDiarmid, dean of the University of North Carolina School of education, that that K-12 teachers simply have less control over their professional lives in an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.

One obvious solution is to pay teachers more, but the loss of millions to school districts in Indiana to property tax caps has made it difficult to maintain the status quo, let alone adding significantly to the cost. Another would be to seek more nontraditional teachers from the business world, but that move would be resisted by the teachers themselves.

On the way to education reform, state officials made a number of public relations blunders, often speaking in negative, all-encompassing ways about educators. Those missteps understandably made teachers feel as though they were being bashed for doing an already underappreciated job, and it has likely scared some students away from the field.
Teacher shortages have given privatizers in government an excuse to lower standards for teachers,  allowing for schools to hire even cheaper non-provessionals.

State Board of Education approves unlicensed teachers
The State Board of Education met in Topeka Tuesday to consider a number of changes to the state’s education system. One of the proposals approved will allow 6 “innovative “districts to hire unlicensed teachers. Those districts are McPherson, Concordia, Hugoton, Marysville, Blue Valley and Kansas City.

Supporters say it will help some districts fill voids left behind by teachers retiring or leaving the profession in recent years.
More public tax money is going to private schools (vouchers) or to privately run charter schools and requirements for teachers have already been lowered in Indiana. Lower personnel costs and higher profit margins are the goal.

The deprofessionalization of teaching has been purposeful in order to lower costs and raise profits. Curriculum and achievement are irrelevant. A teacher shortage under those circumstances is guaranteed.

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


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Friday, July 17, 2015

Public Education -- Disenfranchised

Which would you choose...the destruction of public education by the federal government, or by the states?

Steve Singer, blogger at gadflyonthewallblog, is justifiably upset that the Democrats in the Senate supported the Murphy Amendment to ESEA, which would have continued the test and punish policies of the Bush/Obama education programs, while most Republicans were against it.

Singer despairs that the world has turned upside down because the Democrats are pushing the federal government sponsored, "test scores mean everything," position, while the Republicans are for getting the feds out of public education.

Peter Greene offered a comment where he agreed...explaining that since No Child Left Behind, test and punish policies have been bipartisan.
This has been increasingly obvious for a while. And it’s worth remembering that No Child Left Behind isn’t really a Bush program, but was hailed as bi-partisan triumph at the time, championed by the old liberal lions like Ted Kennedy. It is in the dark part of Democrat DNA to believe that nothing can be done without making everyone accountable to the federal government.
I suppose the Democrats voted the way they did because they want to believe that tests are the only thing which ensures that there is federal oversight over the civil rights issue of poor children of color who are consistently underserved by urban school districts. They, too, don't want to admit that poverty is the largest issue and that they have been unable to solve the "poverty" issue any better than the Republicans. When nearly 25% of our children live in poverty, and when poverty is the number one out-of-school factor leading to low achievement as determined by test scores, it's easier to blame the schools for the low achievement than to accept responsibility for the rampant poverty in our culture. Even for Democrats.

Standardized tests merely show that students of color and students who live in high poverty areas achieve at lower rates than students in middle class and wealthy areas -- based on those tests. Democrats want the federal government to demand that the schools "do something about it" so that the test scores go up. In his article, The Democrats May Have Just Aligned Themselves With Test and Punish – We Are Doomed, Singer says,
The Democrats seem to be committed to the notion that the only way to tell if a school is doing a good job is by reference to its test scores. High test scores – good school. Bad test scores – bad school.

This is baloney! Test scores show parental income, not academic achievement. Virtually every school with low test scores serves a majority of poor children. Virtually every school with high test scores serves rich kids.
Might it be a question of ignorance? Do Democrats (and Republicans) not understand that poverty is the main out-of-school factor in school achievement? Do they understand it, but simply refuse to believe it? Do they understand it, believe it, but just can't (or won't) do anything about it?

It's probably a combination of all of the above. The fight over the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, however, seems to me to be a fight between the Republicans, who want to end federal involvement in public education, and the Democrats, who don't trust the states to support programs to help children in poverty.

The bad news is that neither the states nor the federal government have fulfilled the promise of Brown vs. Board of Education or the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). Neither the states nor the federal government have been able to solve the problem of poverty. Neither the state nor the federal departments of education have been able to find a way to overcome the effects of poverty and increase real achievement.

What Democrats (and the Republicans before them) in the federal Department of Education have done to public education is the same as what Republicans in the Indiana statehouse (and dozens of other states run by Republicans), and Democrats in cities have done to public education...and it's nothing good.

Arne Duncan is no better than Margaret Spellings. Race to the Top is no better than No Child Left Behind. The Privatization of Chicago Public Schools under Democrat Rahm Emanuel is no better than the privatization of New York City Public Schools under Michael Bloomberg. Andrew Cuomo is no better for the public schools and public school teachers and students of New York, than is Rick Scott for Florida or Mike Pence for Indiana.

There are dozens of examples which an unbiased observer would have picked up on over the last 35 years to indicate that there's very little difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to public education.

Peter Greene is correct. The privatization of public schools is a bipartisan issue. The main difference is that Democrats want the federal government to destroy public education...while Republicans want it left up to the states. The result will be the same...privatization will put money into the pockets of  political donors...which will feed more money in campaign treasuries. Meanwhile, public schools will continue to be blamed and punished for a situation which is out of their control.

This is why I am hesitant to trust Democrats in Indiana. I know that Republicans are the ones currently trying to destroy public schools in Indiana, but are Democrats voting the way I want them to vote on public school issues because they truly believe in them, or are they just reacting and voting against anything that the Republicans are for? Similarly, are the Republicans in the US Senate really on "our" side on this, or are they and the Democrats voting on opposite sides just because...?

Singer continues...
Up until now I’ve always been with the Democrats because they had better – though still bad – education policies than the Republicans. I’m not sure I can say that anymore. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

Which party is most committed to ending Common Core? The Republicans!

Which party has championed reducing federal power over our schools and giving us a fighting chance at real education reforms? Republicans!

Which party more often champion’s parental rights over the state? Republicans!

Sure, most of them still love vouchers and charter schools. But increasingly so do the Democrats.

This vote has me rethinking everything.

Our country’s education voters may have just been abandoned by their longest ally.

Where do we go from here?
Public education is, as another commenter on Singer's post put it, disenfranchised. Supporters of public education have no party to go for support in the political process.

The Federal Department of Education was established because states weren't doing the job of providing a free, appropriate, public education for everyone. Federal overreach by the last two administrations has spurred Congress to react and throw public education policy back to the states...where it failed in the first place. Why would we expect the states to do anything different than they did before? Do any public school advocates in Indiana believe that the current state government would end privatization and suddenly support public education? How about North Carolina? New York? Michigan? Ohio? Florida? Nevada? Arizona? Wisconsin?

I would echo Singer's question...

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


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