"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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Democrats' plan...Kindergarten...Money...

The Democrats' plan for NCLB...


Kindergarten, NCLB style...Money for children...
"If the military needs more money, it is appropriated, as it would be for police, fire, or highway departments if we thought their product was substandard. But, if irrelevant tests suggest that schools are struggling, our solution is to cut funding, rather than to give them what they need."

-- Jack Blatherwick (Jack Blatherwick has been a physiologist and teacher for 40 years), http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/122806K.shtml


No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 21,000 signatures so far...



Sunday, December 24, 2006

Edison, Einstein, and Everyone else

Thomas Edison was intelligent and creative. Albert Einstein was brilliant and insightful. Both men left their fingerprint on western civilization through their contributions to science and society. Neither however, was predicted to have a great future when they were young. Einstein, for example, was a patent clerk repeatedly passed over for promotion because he was so "ordinary."

Both of these men were, in their younger days, low achievers. Both had trouble in school...and were considered less than capable by the adults who were charged with their education.

Why was it that they were missed? How did they get from being "below average," to their positions as leaders in the sciences?

I'm not an expert in either man's biography, and I'm not about to go on a big research mission just for a blog entry, but I can take a guess as to why no one realized how highly intelligent these two men were. The adults evaluating them did not understand the difference between ability and achievement.

The online version of the American Heritage Dictionary has the following definitions:

ABILITY: 1. The quality of being able to do something, especially the physical, mental, financial, or legal power to accomplish something.

ACHIEVEMENT: 1. The act of accomplishing or finishing. 2. Something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance.

Simply put, if you have ability you are capable of doing something...if you achieve, you do it.

They are not the same thing. In school, teachers talk of ability grouping when they mean achievement grouping. Putting kids in groups based upon their individual skill levels is grouping by achievement because, as Edison and Einstein proved, you can't determine one's ability by how well you do in school.

So what does this mean for practical use in the classroom? There are several things that educators need to be aware of

1. If a student is a low achiever it does not mean that he/she is of low ability.
2. Children of extreme high ability are entitled to be part of the programs for high ability students whether they are achieving or not.
3. High achievers, while most certainly of high ability, are not necessarily the highest ability students in a given classroom. Not all high achievers are gifted. Not all gifted students are high achievers.

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

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

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 21,000 signatures so far...

Monday, December 18, 2006

No Child Left Behind failing our children

This letter comes from the Contra Costa Times (California).
Sign the petition...

-----

December 13th, 2006

LETTERS TO THE CONTRA COSTA TIMES


No Child Left Behind failing our children

It's really ridiculous the way our educational system has become under the No Child Left Behind Act.

Testing, testing, testing and still we have the problem of increasing high school dropouts, fewer highly qualified/veteran teachers, more failing schools and fewer people entering a beat-down profession.
It's time for the politicians to stop playing with our educational system and begin listening to the people who have been working directly with the students and schools' staffs. It's time for President Bush and the politicians to show all of America that our schools are just as important as the war in Iraq.
Invest in the building of highly supplied and efficiently run schools. Invest in educational settings that are technologically current and aesthetically pleasing. Value the teachers by paying them living wages and sound benefits. Encourage youths by having community support centers that have homework help, as well as social and philanthropic activities for our young people.
Cheryl Powell
Richmond

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/local/states/california/16228361.htm

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Leave this law behind...

The test results are back.

"How did the corporation do?"
"How did our school do?"
"How did my class do?"

WRONG QUESTIONS!!!

At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically...to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that...and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.

No Child Left Behind has made it impossible to look at test scores without considering the fate of the entire school. The scores are published and used to rank schools. Teachers use them to rank their students, and the government, of course, uses them to decide which schools are worthy of praise and which deserve punishment.

Even the Democrats don't get it. They want to "Fully fund" the law. But a fully funded train wreck is still a train wreck. The No Child Left Behind Act was designed to destroy the public schools in the US...and fully funding it won't change that goal. So the new congress is not going to provide any relief to the millions of students whose educations are threatened by this punitive law. Millions of teachers are going to have to put aside their pedagogical skills and "teach to the test." Thousands of good teachers are going to quit in disgust.

The poorest students, economically and academically, are the ones who are going to be hurt the most. Those who are more focused on finding a meal than finding a definition...those who are struggling to learn at their own pace...those who can't speak the language...they are the ones who will be punished as their schools face sanctions, cuts in funding, and state or corporate take-over.

Sign the petition. If it doesn't work at least we tried.

As Valerie Lute, signer #16048 said, "I don't think this is going to work, but what the hell."

At best it will help...at worst, it can't hurt.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Letter to the Senator...

Here's a letter I sent to Senator Kennedy...

Senator,

I have always been a staunch supporter of your policies for those who are less fortunate. I became a teacher in order to help children meet the challenges they face no matter what personal obstacles they encounter.

I am a reading specialist in my 31st year of teaching. Over the years I think that I have learned a few things about how children learn and about how public schools function.

I am writing to you to urge you to help dismantle the No Child Left Behind Act. I understand your reasons for sponsoring that bill, and I agree with them, however, in practice, more children have been left behind than before. The law has had just the opposite effect that it was intended to have.

Children in the poorest schools in America have been subjected to the worst sort of teaching available because of NCLB. We had difficulty finding good people to staff inner city schools in the past, but this has made it worse. The schools in which the majority of poor students attend have now become test prep centers and so much of education of the entire child has been lost.

Special ed students, who are not able to function at the same level as their peers are now, in many cases, being required to achieve at the same level and, of course, fail. Schools have been labeled failures because they have not been able to "cure" these students of their disabilities and the students are hurt the most.

The bill was not funded properly. If we had funded it at the same level as the War in Iraq it might have been able to help some students, but as it is, it is causing school systems to cut programs for the neediest students in order to pay for more testing.

I know you have invested yourself into this law, but it is time to step back and take an objective look. I have signed a petition at:

http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?1teacher

and urge you to look at the comments made by some of the signers.

It's time to take the public schools back from the testing companies and give them back to the children and the teachers who staff them.

Please rectify the terrible wrong that this bill has placed upon the public schools of the United States and upon its children.

Thank you.