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

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

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Carved in Stone

What we learn in childhood is carved in stone.
What we learn as adults is carved in ice.
Jim Trelease used the above quote from poet David Kherdian to begin chapter 2 of his Read-Aloud Handbook. The first line is as good a reason as any for parents to read aloud to their children – from birth.

Unfortunately, that's not happening as much as it ought to...


In a recent survey on Read-Aloud the percentage of parents who read to their children from birth had increased to 30%, up from 15% in 2015. That number is still way too low. In addition, it was noted that even though there was an increase in the number of parents reading to their children from birth, only 14% of parents spent at least 15 minutes reading with their children. This also is an increase (from 8%) but, again, still pathetically low. Sadly, the increase is not across the board when it comes to reading aloud to children.
• 2018 data shows a slight decrease, from 46% to 42%, in the frequency with which children ages 0-8 are being read aloud to every day. This decrease is driven mostly by parents of children ages 6-8. (Page 23)

• Only 30% (of total parents) say their child is currently read aloud to every day, for at least 15 minutes. This too is down slightly from 2016 (34%). (Page 24)
The survey catalogued reasons for the decline which included such things as,
  • doing other things which are just as good as reading aloud
  • the inability of the child to sit still long enough to read aloud
  • parents don't have time
  • the child doesn't like to be read to
  • the child is read to at school, so they don't need to be read to at home
I accept all those reasons (and the others given in the survey) as completely legitimate, unless the family (parents and children) spend at least 15 - 30 minutes a day watching TV.


What's the big deal? What good is reading aloud, anyway. Back to Jim Trelease [emphasis added]...
The [1983 Commission on Reading, funded by the U.S. Department of Education] spent two years poring through thousands of research projects conducted in the previous quarter century, and in 1985 issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

“It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom.

In their wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than work sheets, homework, book reports, and flash cards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better tool than anything else in the home or classroom—and it’s so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma to do it.
In other words, 1) reading is one of the most important tools for children and 2) reading aloud is positively correlated with learning to read. Meanwhile, as the previously mentioned survey reveals, less than half of the parents of 0-8 year olds in the U.S. read aloud to their children.

Trelease explains why reading aloud helps children learn to read...
...in reading aloud, we also:
  • build vocabulary
  • condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • create background knowledge
  • provide a reading role model
  • plant the desire to read
[For an in-depth study of why these points are important to reading see two series of blog posts by Russ Walsh. The first, an eleven part series on When Readers Struggle, which begins with Background Knowledge. The second, a four part series (so far) on Building Vocabulary which starts with an Overview.]

If language development, gaining background knowledge, instilling a desire to read, building literacy skills, and personal bonding aren't enough to convince you that reading aloud is important...try these two...


Reading aloud to your children can help offset some effects of poverty [emphasis added].

Families Armed With Books Repel The Effects Of Poverty
The important fact is that parents who insert themselves most firmly into early literacy activities—participating in reading, conversation, and writing—and bring those activities into the home regularly provide the best academic foundation for their children. Parent involvement makes a greater difference than money. And children love to listen to books, especially when parents read, and the act of reading together promotes lifelong literacy because people enjoy it. It continues to be fun at any age, long after a child learns to read fluently. We all love a well-spun story.
[See also Reading aloud to children: the evidence]

The more a child is exposed to reading, the better they become at reading. As an elementary school reading specialist, I tried to help the parents of my students understand that reading was one of the most important skills learned in elementary school and quantity was important. Kids should read a LOT.  As Jim Trelease wrote...
The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
Even as adults we recognize that reading is an important skill, which brings us to...


Adults who read continue to learn throughout their lives, are better informed, and live longer. Reading aloud to children helps them become life-long readers as this book review attests to. [Full disclosure: the "dad" in the review below, refers to me!]

There is No Life I Know to Compare with Pure Imagination
As an adult I have realized that it is not just the books I read as a child, but those that were read aloud to me when I was little, that mean the most to me. They are the ones I have the strongest memories of and the ones that can evoke the strongest emotions. I never read My Side of the Mountain or Hatchet, but my 3rd grade teacher read them aloud to us, and I’ll never forget them. The Narnia books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Ramona books, all the Roald Dahl books–my parents read them all to me, plus countless others, and these are the books that I remember most fondly. There is nothing better than sharing a story with someone. It was not unusual in my house to be reading a book and find certain passages were bracketed or had notes in the margin–my dad read aloud to all his classes, and would use these notes to guide his reading. When I read these books now as an adult, it’s not my own voice in my head that is narrating, but that of my parents. This adds an extra element of pleasure to rereading childhood favorites.


Help your children live longer lives! Read to them from birth. Continue until they are at least 8 years old – longer if you can.

If you know someone with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors, let them know the value of reading to their children from birth.

Get books at the public library. Ask librarians for suggestions, or check out The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. You can find it at the library, get your own copy, or use an abridged version online.


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2018 Medley #6

'Ed-Reform' is Bipartisan, Teacher Pay,
School Shootings, Vouchers 


Betsy DeVos Didn’t Say Anything in Her Viral 60 Minutes Clip That Democrats Haven’t Supported for Years

Education reform, which, in Indiana has resulted in the loss of public revenue to parochial, private, and charter schools, is not a Republican-only phenomenon. Democrats have participated in the slow, steady, dismantling of public education in the U.S.

Starting with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (which is not necessarily the start of the privatization movement), the Democrats have thrown their weight behind privatization. 92% of Democrats in the U.S. House voted "Aye" for the bill, as did 94% of Democrats in the Senate.

In keeping with that tradition, when it came time to replace the damaging law, the Obama administration replace the bill, with Race to the Top (RttT), which continued many of the damaging effects of NCLB.

In the last presidential election, there was little or no discussion at all of K-12 education because the two parties weren't that far apart on the issue. The Republicans came out in favor of "choice" in their platform (p.32)
We will continue our fight for school choice until all parents can find good, safe schools for their children. To protect religious liberty we will ensure that faith-based institutions, especially those that are vital parts of underserved neighborhoods, do not face discrimination by government.
I assume by their behavior that to Indiana Republicans, "discrimination by government" means refusing to give private religious schools public tax dollars. So, to rectify that, nearly a half billion dollars of public tax revenue has been spent on Indiana vouchers since 2011, and more than $150 million in the current 2017-2018 school year.

Democrats weren't quite as "free-market" oriented, opting for "public" charter schools and saying nothing about school vouchers.
Democrats are committed to providing parents with high-quality public school options and expanding these options for low-income youth. We support democratically governed, great neighborhood public schools and high-quality public charter schools, and we will help them disseminate best practices to other school leaders and educators. Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources.
K-12 education was rarely if ever mentioned during any of the candidate debates.

Perhaps Democrats haven't been quite as bad as Republicans, but in this article for Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley, explains how Democrats have also done their best to damage public education...
The bad news for Democrats who found DeVos’ performance appalling is that these principles have been a crucial part of their party’s education policy for 17 years. Broadly speaking, the regime of compelling competition between schools by creating charter-school or school-choice programs and by rewarding those whose students do well on standardized tests was launched at a federal level by the No Child Left Behind Act; the NCLB was co-sponsored by Ted Kennedy and passed the Senate in 2001 with 87 votes. When Barack Obama became president, he created the Race to the Top program, which the Washington Post described at the time as a “competition for $4.35 billion in grants” that would “ease limits on charter schools” and “tie teacher pay to student achievement,” i.e. direct extra funds to already-successful schools.


Indiana teacher pay shrinking

Isn't it time for teachers in Indiana to speak up?
Average teacher salaries in Indiana have declined by over 15 percent in the past 15 years after adjusting for inflation. That’s according to an interactive analysis produced last week by Alvin Chang of Vox, drawing on data from the National Education Association.

Indiana’s pay cuts, Chang writes, are “worse than the nation as a whole, where teachers have had their pay cut by an average of 3 percent when we adjust for inflation. And since 2010, teachers in Indiana had their pay cut by 9.7 percent.”

They’re also worse than in West Virginia, where low pay and a lack of raises touched off a two-week teacher strike that pushed state officials to approve a 5-percent raise for educators. Clearly, lagging teacher pay is an issue across the country. The West Virginia strike could be a harbinger of things to come. Kentucky or Oklahoma could be next.


Justice Department’s School Safety Plan Puts Black, Brown Students In Danger, Critics Say

This is what happens when you focus on symptoms rather than causes. We need better policing of who can get and who owns guns in our society...better limitations on the kind of guns, sizes of magazines, and quantities of ammunition that people are allowed to buy...and better support services for people in need.
“The decision to funnel more money into the militarization of our schools and policing of young people is really problematic,” Kaitlin Banner, deputy project director at the liberal nonprofit Advancement Project, told HuffPost. When states or the federal government encourage school districts to increase the presence of police in the schools, the officers end up mostly in schools that serve children of color, who bear the brunt of the tougher security policies, she said.

“We’re similarly concerned about bringing more guns and weapons into the school environment,” Banner said.

White House vows to arm teachers

The POTUS realized that we ought to raise the age for gun purchases (we already have a higher age for handguns, why not for rifles?). Then - NRA - and he changed his mind. The NRA is a tool of the gun manufacturing industry interested only in the number of guns sold, not the safety of American citizens.
The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide “rigorous firearms training” to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Donald Trump's earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month's gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out a series of policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers lobby, among other groups.

Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include any substantial changes to gun laws.

Schools Should Use Walkouts in Protest of Gun Violence as a Teaching Moment

Today's walkout is an example of informed citizenry. Learn from it...
School administrators owe it to their students to examine their reaction to young peoples’ self-expression and to ask how they can help build on this moment of protest as an educational experience. As the Supreme Court observed in Brown v. Board of Education, education is “the very foundation of good citizenship.” Public school is the place where students experience and interact with government, learn through discussion and debate with other students from differing backgrounds, and build the foundation for participation in a democratic society. Rather than seeking to silence students’ political engagement and quashing their desire for conversation, schools can approach this moment as an opportunity for learning about civic action.


School vouchers are not a proven strategy for improving student achievement

In case you missed this...vouchers don't work to improve education and are simply a way to transfer public funds into private and religious hands. This report is from 2017.

School "failure" is almost always the result of high poverty, lack of opportunities, and out-of-school factors. Vouchers can't solve those issues.
The lack of evidence that vouchers significantly improve student achievement (test scores), coupled with the evidence of a modest, at best, impact on educational attainment (graduation rates), suggests that an ideological preference for education markets over equity and public accountability is what is driving the push to expand voucher programs. Ideology is not a compelling enough reason to switch to vouchers, given the risks. These risks include increased school segregation; the loss of a common, secular educational experience; and the possibility that the flow of inexperienced young teachers filling the lower-paying jobs in private schools will dry up once the security and benefits offered to more experienced teachers in public schools disappear.

Here are two excellent editorials about Indiana's ever-expanding, wide-ranging voucher plan.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan

Our state gives money to private schools which do not have to follow the same rules as public schools giving them an advantage. Yet, when they still "fail" the state "waives" their responsibility.
Nearly $13 million in voucher money flowed to schools receiving a D or F on state report cards. The Indiana State Board of Education just last week granted a waiver to Ambassador Christian Academy, a “D” school. The state board agreed a majority of students showed academic growth over the last school year, even though the same board proposed new accountability rules for public schools that will not give credit for academic growth.

Voucher use rises to record high

Indiana's voucher plan was originally sold as a way to help poor children "escape from failing schools." No longer. More and more middle income parents are using vouchers without trying public schools. It has become an entitlement program for religion.
Indiana's school voucher system continues to grow, with the state spending $153 million for the 2017-18 academic year – a record for the program – to help more than 35,000 students attend private schools.

A report on the 7-year-old voucher program – also known as school choice – shows a 3.4 percent increase over the previous year in the number of students taking part. It also shows the cost to Indiana public schools continues to rise.

State numbers mirror data from Allen County, where voucher numbers are up in three of the county's four public school districts.

Allen County has 6,215 voucher students, up from 6,209 last year. The estimated cost to public school districts in the county rose by more than $500,000 to $25.8 million in 2017, according to the report.


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Time to Arm the Clergy**

Enough is enough. There have been too many churchgoers killed by gunmen over the last few years, so instead of doing anything about the actual guns, we must arm clergymen. Like the NRA says, "The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a God guy with a gun."

If a homicidal maniac knew that walking into a church or other house of worship meant that he would be met with gunfire he would think twice. Even a crazy person wouldn't go into a place where the preacher would "shoot the hell out of him" before he knew what happened.

The President agrees. After all, he said, "These preachers love their congregants. And these preachers are talented with weaponry and with guns. And they feel safe."**

Churches should end the "gun-free zones" around their buildings. Instead signs should be posted warning would-be assassins that the preacher is armed and ready to defend his congregation. "...with everything that’s going on in the world, we’ve heard that you may possibly see more attacks from radical groups looking for churchgoers."

After all, I think it was Jesus who said, "No more Mr. Nice Guy!"

Texas Church Shooting
26 people were killed at First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas, authorities said. The shooter fled and was pursued by a resident and police but was found dead after running his car off the road.
Charleston shooting
A white man opened fire in a historic black church, in Charleston, South Carolina the night of June 17, 2015, killing nine people, including a pastor, during a prayer meeting. The suspect, Dylann Roof, was arrested in North Carolina and extradited to South Carolina June 18, 2015 for what authorities are calling a hate crime.
Gunman Kills 6 at a Sikh Temple Near Milwaukee
The priests had gathered in the lobby of the sprawling Sikh temple here in suburban Milwaukee, and lunch was being prepared as congregants were arriving for Sunday services.

Instead of worshipers, though, an armed man stepped through the door and started firing.
Gunman Kills 7, and Himself, At Baptist Church in Fort Worth
As a hymn ended and prayers began at a special service for teen-agers this evening at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, a man with a semiautomatic handgun walked in and began firing, killing six people in the church before turning the gun on himself. An eighth person died later at a hospital, officials said.
**This makes as much sense as arming teachers. Mass shootings don't just happen in schools. It's not a school (or church) problem. Arming teachers won't help people murdered at a concert. Arming clergy won't help people murdered in a theater. It's a problem with NRA owned legislators and a gun-crazed society.

See also ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens


Friday, March 9, 2018

Listen to This #2

Random Quotes...


Tests Can’t Measure the True Strength of Schools And Other Reasons Your Kids Aren’t Numbers

Datamongers don't seem to understand that schools are more than just test-prep facilities. When "reformers" claim that public schools are "failing" they referring to the poverty-related problems which cause low test scores...not the quality of the education students receive.

If we really want to improve the education of our children, we might consider importing ideas from successful countries (most of whom imported ideas from American researchers). One of the most useful ideas would reverse a trend in the U.S....that of spending more of our education money on wealthy children than on poor children.

From Stu Egan at Caffeinated Rage
The fact that West Forsyth is recognized as a high-performing school and that our students pursue worthwhile post-secondary endeavors speaks incredibly well, but our students are more than achievers in academics. It’s because they succeed in being good people that helps set this school apart.


We don't have to do this, you know

"Reformist" legislators are anxious for highly qualified, well-trained, and therefore, expensive, educators to quit. The destruction of the profession of education means no more unions and lower wages.

From Peter Greene at Curmudgucation
We do not have a teacher shortage. We have a shortage of states and districts willing to make the job attractive enough to recruit and retain teachers.


When “Big Data” Goes to School

When was the last time you saw an actual public school teacher get excited about giving a standardized test and analyzing the data?

Most teachers get excited about seeing the "light" of understanding in their students. Most teachers are excited when they pique their students' interests.

Data is for computers. Relationships are for people.

From Alfie Kohn
An individual’s enthusiasm about the employment of “data” in education is directly proportional to his or her distance from actual students.

...Those scores may be lousy representations of learning – and, indeed, egregiously misleading. But, by gum, they sure are readily available.


The Horace Mann League Honors Carol Burris as Outstanding Friend of Public Education: This is What She Said

Carol Burris is the Executive Director of the Network for Public Education.

...and yeah, Jeb Bush, she's talking to you!

From Carol Burris
When I hear someone define a system of community schools, governed by unpaid volunteers elected by their neighbors as a “government-run, unionized, politicized, monopolies”– there is one thing I know for sure about the speaker—he does not want to improve that system, he does not want to compete with that system, he wants to destroy it.


Bang Bang Sanity

Jim Wright has written a series of twelve blogs entries about school shootings. The latest is Bang Bang Crazy, Part 12: Excuses, Excuses.

Bang Bang Sanity, on the other hand, is his single post about what we ought to do about gun violence. He wants us to require gun owners to act responsibly or pay the consequences. There are no "gun accidents," he says. There is only negligence. Is it an accident when a four-year-old shoots his two-year-old brother with a gun left on the kitchen table? No, it's negligence on the part of the gun owner.

Negligence and irresponsible behaviors need consequences. I agree.

He thinks that background checks, gun-free zones, banning high-capacity magazines or assault weapons, won't "do a damned thing." That horse, he said, "is out of the barn." I disagree. Part of responsibility includes society's responsibility to take steps to correct the mistakes of the past. We have bans on drunk driving, but it still happens. We have bans on using illegal drugs, yet they are still being used. The fact that people will break the laws is no excuse not to put them in place...and that should include consequences for gun owners, manufacturers (including the NRA, the lobbying arm of the gun industry), and sellers.

From Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station
We hold people who sell alcohol responsible, at least in some aspects, for enabling drunken driving. We hold auto manufacturers responsible, at least in some aspects, for the safety of their product. We hold state licensing agencies responsible for administration of standards. We hold the drivers themselves responsible for their actions. We set rules and limits and we work to improve them every single day.

And we, both left and right, drivers and non-drivers, drinkers and non-drinkers and reformed drinkers, engage in reasonable dialog and conversation without hysteria or accusations that the other side is coming to take either our booze or our cars.

But what we don’t do is say stupid shit like, well now you retards, there’s just nothing we can do about drunk people and/or crazy drivers who kill people with cars, uh, uh, uh. Hey, every once in a while crazy people drive buses through pre-schools. Dead kids, that’s just the price you pay for freedom to drive...

More than half of U. S. gun owners do not safely store their guns

This quote means that 45% of gun owners with children under 18 years old DO NOT store their guns safely (in a locked gun safe, cabinet or case, locked in a gun rack, or secured with a trigger lock)!

What are the consequences for this behavior?
Slightly more than half, or 55 percent, of gun owners with children under 18 reported storing all of their guns safely.

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

The satirical site, The Onion, posts the article, "No Way to Prevent This," Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens," whenever there's a mass shooting. The title is the quote.


A Lesson On Know-Nothingness

From Sheila Kennedy
When knowledge and expertise are devalued, when empirical evidence is scorned, when the weighty and complex search for meaning that characterizes serious religiosity is replaced with superstition, rejection of reason and fear of the Other, the know-nothings have won.


Military Families Deserve Fully Funded Public Schools, Not Harmful Voucher Schemes

This bill, introduced by the U.S. Congressman representing my district, doesn't surprise me. He is as far right in his politics as you can be without actually taking up a torch and marching with David Duke in Charlottesville, Va.

According to Politics the Work, his votes in congress consistently oppose...
  • taxing businesses
  • environmental protection
  • financial sector regulation
  • gun control
  • public health
  • increasing revenues
  • taxing the wealthy
  • women's rights.
With this bill we can add that he also opposes...
  • support for public education
The sad thing is that, in this part of the country, Jim Banks (R-IN) is representative of the majority of his constituents.

From Americans United for Separation of Church and State
The bill provides relatively no accountability or oversight mechanisms. For families wishing to participate, it requires only that parents state that they will use the funds to “provide the child with instruction in, at minimum, the fields of reading, language, mathematics, science, and social studies.” And the funds can be used for a wide variety of programs, including for an unaccredited private school or for homeschooling expenses.

The bill also explicitly prohibits the federal or state government from exercising any oversight over the program. Basically, this bill sends the message that federal dollars should be given to families and then the government should back off and have no say over how those taxpayer dollars are actually spent.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

It's (almost) Spring. Time for baseball, longer days, and, of course...

Right now most grade 3 through grade 8 students here in Indiana are taking ISTEP+...or more correctly, ISTEP+ Part 1. ISTEP+ Part 2 is given in April, less than a month after Part 1. At least, that's how it is for most students. Third graders aren't quite as lucky.

Indiana is a member of the "Learn or be Punished" club, so third graders also get to take the high-stakes IREAD-3. IREAD-3 is an additional reading test (yes, reading is also tested on the ISTEP+ Part 1 and Part 2). IREAD-3 immediately follows ISTEP+ Part 1 and their scores on IREAD-3 determine if they get promoted to fourth grade for the next school year. [See Research on Retention in Grade for why this is a terrible idea.]

Tenth graders take ISTEP+, too. Secondary students also take ECAs (End of Course Assessments).

There are other tests from the state as well...the alternate assessment, ISTAR...the Kindergarten readiness test, ISTAR-KR...the English proficiency, WIDA....ACCUPLACER. Next year ISTEP+ will be replaced with ILEARN, which promises to be somewhat different, but also somewhat the same.


...on tests in Indiana? We've spent $300 million since 2002 and $38 million for the last two years of ISTEP+ alone. The State Superintendent of Public Instruction hopes to spend $26.3 million for the next two years. Such a bargain!

But the cost of testing is much greater than just the cost of the test booklets. Personnel costs...the loss of instructional time...the cost of paying teachers, administrators and others to fiddle around with testing chores instead of actually working with students...and the cost in emotional and physical stress related to the tests.

The money (and time) we have wasted could surely have been put to better use in classrooms...lowering class sizes perhaps with an additional 200 teachers statewide...updated technology...textbooks...classroom sets of books...building repairs...science equipment. Perhaps that money could have helped the people of Muncie and Gary retain their democratic right to elected school boards.

If you include the millions of dollars dumped into private pockets through charters and vouchers we would have enough to build a pretty solid system of common schools in Indiana.


What are we doing with all those different test scores? Test scores are used to (among other things)...
  • evaluate teachers
  • determine grade placement for children (IREAD-3)
  • rank and grade schools
  • rank school systems
In Rise Above the Mark, Linda Darling Hammond said,
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that, number 1, we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and number 2, we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways.
Standardized tests are developed to determine how much students know about the tested material. They are not made to evaluate teachers, schools, and school systems. Using them inappropriately is invalid and a misuse of the test.

The entire country misuses and overuses tests...and we do it with the blessing of the U.S. Education Department and all 50 state Departments of Education at a cost of nearly $2 billion (The last study I could find was done in 2012, and the cost, at that time, was $1.7 billion. I think I'm safe in assuming that it's more than that now).

[UPDATE: As I was getting ready to post this, I saw this video from NPE. It's worth your time. Watch it...

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, 2007
Testing is not teaching and a child (or a school/state/nation) is more than a test score.

So what can one teacher do?

Here are some things to keep in mind when you're administering tests this month -- or at any time during the school year.

1. You have already prepared them as much as you can. No matter what you do you can't (legally) add more to their knowledge once a testing session begins.

2. Standardized tests measure knowledge, but you have provided your students with growth opportunities, experiences and skills which aren't (and can't be) tested such as (but not limited to):
creativity, critical thinking, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, endurance, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, a sense of beauty, a sense of wonder, honesty, integrity
3. Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests -- the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation -- is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that were important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn't be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that's not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.

4. People who make rules and laws about teaching, from legislators to billionaires to presidents, don't understand the teaching and learning process. For most of them, their understanding of teaching comes from the point of view of a learner.

They don't understand what it means to be a teacher in a classroom.

They don't know the planning that takes place before the first day of school. They don't understand the thought behind creating an entire year's worth of lesson plans. They don't know the emotional responses a teacher feels when a class leaves her care at the end of a school year. They don't know all the time and effort spent preparing at night, on weekends, and during "vacations."

They have never helped a child decide to remain in school only to lose him to a drive-by shooting. They have never gotten a letter from a former student thanking them for supporting her during a family crisis. They have never tried to explain to a class of Kindergartners why their classmate who had cancer is not coming back. They have never felt the joy of watching a student who they helped all year long walk across the stage to accept a diploma.

State legislators who come from jobs as attorneys, florists, or auctioneers don't know what preparing for a class -- or half a dozen classes -- of students, day after day, for 180 days, is like. They have an image of what a classroom teacher does based on their childhood and youthful memories, but they don't know how it really works.

Understand that. Remember that you are much more valuable to your students than what is reflected on "the test."

5. Do what you have to do to survive in today's classroom. Make sure your students are, to the extent that you are able, ready to take "the test." Then, let it go and return to being the best teacher you can be. Keep in mind that the most important thing you will do for your students is to be a person they can respect, learn from, look up to, emulate, and care about.

One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child. -- Carl Jung