"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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bail them out...

Angry comments about who to bail out in this economic crisis.

Rated "R" for language. Listen before you share this with the kids.


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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
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If you like this guy, there's more Brian Dykstra poetry and other stuff here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9CK42oHnFo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPoYw-mbicU
http://www.briandykstra.net/

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Look Out Arne Duncan!

People from the President's own home town are standing up and speaking out. Parents in Chicago are organizing to fight Renaissance 2010, the Daley/Duncan plan for privatizing and militarizing Public Schools.

There's a great video here, at This Little Blog: A Place to Respond - long, but worth the watch, especially for white middle class Americans. Here's how the blog entry starts:
Dare I say it? May the floodgates open! There is hope. Grassroots resistance and organizing by the parents, students and teachers in communities actually affected by the corporate hijacking of public education. Don't miss this video about resistance to Renaissance 2010 in Chicago...
...and check out the links on the side to PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education) and Substance Online.

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Thoughts on January 20th...

In order of importance...or maybe in order of appearance...or maybe in no order at all...

1. The man who called himself the "uniter," but who was much more of a "divider" is finally out of the White House. He claims that history will be kind to him, but I can't believe that 70+% of the American people (his disapproval rating) are wrong. #43 was a disaster.

2. I agree with the new president's generalizations...

"The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do."

3. I noticed that he forgot to mention "and the rest" when he listed our religious diversity...

"We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. "

...however, it's with a HUGE sense of relief that he included non-believers since even non-believers are citizens.

4. Some of his appointments, most notably his choice for Secretary of Education, make me nervous. However, unlike Rush Limbaugh who publicly announced that he hopes Obama fails as President, I hope that the new president proves my misgivings false and pushes the Department of Education towards authentic assessment, not just bubbles and DIBLES. I hope that the "change" promised includes best practices like problem solving and thinking, not just learning how to choose the best answer on a test. I hope that the era of punishing schools for the poverty of their clientelle is over.

5. I might focus on the misgivings I feel about the "politics of change," but only because things have been so horrible for so long...an 8 year nightmare of international swaggering and petty posturing has finally come to an end. Still, I remember the political disappointments of the past and while I'm hopeful that, with the end of the Bush era (please Jeb...don't do anything foolish) things will improve, I'm merely cautiously hopeful because I know that the president only represents one branch of the government. The faltering progressive majority on the Supreme Court needs to be reinforced as does the faltering progressive majority on the benches of the various Federal courts throughout the country. The progressive majority in congress is hopeful, but the Democrats proved themselves incompetent to stand up to the Bushes and the Cheneys. Do they have the brains to lead the country back from the nightmare we've just been through? Furthermore, I know that the new president is a politician...and by definition (mine at least) a politician has a tendency to tell people what they want to hear.

So, call me a cynic, but, as Ed Brayton, one of my favorite bloggers, said while talking about being moved to tears at the inauguration,
"The common misconception is that cynics are merely cold and negative, people who always find the worst rather than the good, but the truth is that every cynic is a frustrated idealist. Only someone who holds an ideal in mind can be bothered when they see that ideal undermined and ignored."
I've been called an idealist...and a cynic...

(My dad called me an idealist during the late 60s, when we discussed the "issues" of the day - most notably, Capitalism and the Viet Nam War. I don't think he meant it as a compliment.)

There are a few idealists left - Alfie Kohn, Jim Horn and Richard Allington to name a few of the more well known educational idealists...some masquerade as cynics, like Jerry Bracey and Susan Ohanian.

We all have been frustrated by the damage that the last 8 years has brought to the ideal of public education. So when the Promiser of Change brings in someone who has supported the damage of the last 8 years...and even worse, has contributed to it...it's disappointing to say the least.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Inaugural Quiz: A Baker's Dozen

Do you know what important "firsts" are represented by the pictures below? Name the People and the important "First."

1

1967
2

This lady gets two firsts.
1968, 1972
3

1870
4

1986

5

1956
6

1968
(You knew I had to put this one in here, didn't you)
7

1947
8

1884

9

1975
10

2007
11

1872
12

1870

13

1990, 2008, 2008
Can you name three firsts for this guy...

Answers below:
  1. A. 1967 - First African American appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States: Thurgood Marshall
  2. B. 1968 - First African-American woman elected to U.S. House of Representatives: Shirley Chisholm (Democrat; New York) *1972 - First African American to campaign for the U.S. presidency in a major political party: Shirley Chisholm (Democratic Party)
  3. 1870 - First African American elected to U.S. Congress: Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels (Republican, Mississippi)
  4. 1986 - First African-American musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the inaugural class: Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, and Little Richard.
  5. 1956 - First African-American male star of a network television show: Nat King Cole, The Nat King Cole Show
  6. 1968 - First African-American interracial kiss on network television: actors Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner
  7. 1947 - First African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era: Jackie Robinson (Brooklyn Dodgers).
  8. 1884 - First African American to play professional baseball at the major-league level: Moses Fleetwood Walker.
  9. 1975 - First African-American manager in Major League Baseball: Frank Robinson (Cleveland Indians)
  10. 2007 - First African-American NFL head coach to win the Super Bowl: Tony Dungy (Indianapolis Colts), Super Bowl XLI
  11. 1872 - First African-American nominee for Vice President of the United States: Frederick Douglass by the Equal Rights Party.
  12. 1870 - December: First African American elected to U.S. House of Representatives: Joseph Rainey (Republican, South Carolina)
  13. 1990 - First African American elected president of the Harvard Law Review: Barack Obama *2008 - First African American to be nominated as a major-party US presidential candidate: Barack Obama, Democratic Party *2008 - First African American elected president of the United States of America: Barack Obama

Sunday, January 18, 2009

He never studied education, never worked in a school, and is not qualified to teach.

Duncan's Chicago Record Poor Model for America

Chicago Sun-Times
January 14, 2009

Like millions of Americans, I was thrilled and filled with hope over Barack Obama's victory on election night. I have been a supporter of Mr. Obama since his days in the Illinois Senate. And, in a very small way, as past president of the Chicago Teachers Union, I helped him get his first labor union endorsement when he was running for U.S. Senate, that of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

But though it pains me to have to say this, I cannot support his choice for secretary of education, Arne Duncan.

How can Mr. Duncan be so rewarded for a strategy of giving up on low-performing schools serving primarily low-income children? It is ironic that Duncan is now moving to the Cabinet post when he essentially has admitted that he does not know how to manage low-performing schools. His entire approach has been to close underperforming schools and turn their management over to outside organizations, many with no track records of school reform. Yet during his tenure, the Chicago Public Schools graduation rate remained stubbornly at barely 50 percent.

Read the rest here!

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Do it really matter?

ISTEP+ is moving to the spring!

The Indiana Department of Education is trying to put a happy face on the fact that we're torturing kids with two sets of ISTEP+ tests this year. Three weeks of test-prep plus a week of testing in the fall is not enough for our lawmakers. This year, while we're making the switch from Fall to Spring testing, we get to waste more days with this exercise in inept and abusive pedagogy.

In Friday's email, our corporation test coordinator informed all the building level test coordinators that there is an Indiana Department of Education Web Site with samples for our teachers to use to help "prepare" our kids for the Spring testing. I went to investigate and found the following...

Item Samplers

The Item Samplers on this website provide information about ISTEP+ for students, parents, educators, and others. The items in each sampler are examples of the types of items found on ISTEP+. These examples can serve as models when teachers are constructing items for classroom assessment. It should be noted that the samplers are not practice tests.

Sample test items and scoring rubrics are included in the Item Samplers. The items are samples only and not actual items. The samples are representative of the types of items that appear on ISTEP+.

The first Item Sampler I looked at was titled "Sample Items Grades 3-5" and was posted on December 2, 2008.

On page 2 of this publication, there is an inane little story called “Mei-Win’s Blue Beads” about a little girl's first day at a new school...her fears about finding friends...and how her Grandmother's necklace of blue beads helps her meet the children in her new class.

It' s typical ISTEP stuff...story followed by questions. The very first question, though, presents a problem. It's grammatically incorrect. Is the student supposed to answer the question or correct it?
"How does Mrs. Jackson and the other students in the class show kindness towards
Mei-Win? Use details from the story to support your answer."
I always thought that subject and verb should agree, right? If we substitute the pronoun "they" for the subject, Mrs. Jackson and the other students, the question would read, "How does they show kindness..."

We can give the DOE the benefit of the doubt and assume that it just slipped by...a typo...perhaps it started out as "How does Mrs. Jackson show kindness..." and after editing someone forgot to change the does to do.

I know that it's too much to hope that we would stop misusing these stupid tests year after year...but perhaps there's still time to have someone proofread the tests for this sort of error so that our students aren't subjected to poor teaching by the Indiana DOE in addition to poor testing.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Did You Ever Wonder?

From Change.org

William Farren, an advocate of education reform focusing on well-being and the elephant in the edu-living room called environmental stewardship, produced “Did You Ever Wonder?” as a response to “Did You Know?” Pairing these videos brings out fundamental questions about the purpose of education.



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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
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Monday, January 5, 2009

Did you know?

From Change.org

Karl Fisch’s “Did You Know?” is probably the most-watched education video on YouTube. It’s vision of the future of the world, and of how America must face up to that future with necessary changes in education, starkly shows that “our past is not their future” - so maybe our schools should not be either.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A New Start?

Well...in 16 days he's finished...and not a moment too soon. The Bush White House has done its best to destroy Public Education in the US.

On January 8, 2002, at the signing ceremony fo
r No Child Left Behind, GW said,

"And so the new role of the Federal Government is to set high standards, provide resources, hold people accountable, and liberate school districts to meet the standards. ... We're going to spend more on our schools, and we're going to spend it more wisely." [Remarks on Signing the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 1/8/02 here]

Oh...wait...I forgot. His budgets actually cut money from the NCLB act...
  • The Bush Budget Cut $90 Million From "No Child Left Behind" Education Reform Law. According to an analysis of the Bush education budget by the House Education and the Workforce Committee, "Just one month ago, Congress and the President enacted the most important education reform legislation in 30 years. This bipartisan law is based on the principle that, with adequate resources, real reform is possible. But rather than building on this progress, the President's budget cuts initiatives in The No Child Left Behind Act by a net total of $90 million." [House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Democratic staff, The Bush Budget: Shortchanging School Reform, 2/12/02 here]
  • Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who worked closely with Bush crafting the education reform law, criticized Bush's education budget. "This budget is a severe blow to our nation's schools. Just four weeks after the President signed the education bill into law, the Administration's budget cuts funding for it," Kennedy said. [Kennedy Press Release, 2/12/02 here: under "archive" and "press releases"--2/12/02]
  • Bush Education Budget Provided Smallest Funding Increase In Seven Years. President Bush proposed a 2.8 percent increase, roughly $1.4 billion, in education funding, the smallest increase in seven years. [House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Democratic staff, The Bush Budget: Shortchanging School Reform, 2/12/02 (here)
  • The Bush administration and its hit-men did their best to prove that public education was failing. They squashed creativity, demanded impossible results and have continued to lie about the success of NCLB. There has been an obsessive focus on test scores, a scandal surrounding Reading First followed by reports from the Department of Education's own researchers showing that Reading First is an academic failure. There has been an increase in drop out rates as schools push out failing students in order to "increase" their test scores. This was how the Houston Miracle occurred...the system which Bush used as the foundation for his federal education plan.
So, in a couple of weeks the new president takes over and with him, a new Secretary of Education. Unfortunately, President-Elect Obama has chosen someone who is of the same ilk as the current Secretary of Education. A non-educator, Arne Duncan has manipulated test results to "prove" that the Chicago Public School system has successfully increased learning. He does this by cherry-picking statistics...choosing only grade levels which have increased their test scores, comparing test scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests taken in 2005 to scores on the same test taken in later years, after the Illinois Standards Achievement Test had been realigned in 2006! Jan Wright, Assistant Superintendent of Batavia Public Schools said, "Because of the changes in the ISAT in 2006, one cannot make any fair comparison to the data prior to 2006." But that did not stop Duncan when he reported this to the US Congress.

From the Sun Times in 2007, "Numerous changes to the 2006 ISATs -- including extra time and a livelier format -- made some question whether the new tests were truly comparable to the old ones.
Plus, in eighth-grade math, the passing bar was lowered from the 67th to the 38th national percentile, to better conform with other tests. As a result, state passing rates soared by 24 percentage points, to 78 percent meeting state muster. In Chicago, they doubled."

Read the entire list of Duncan's misrepresentations here...at "Schools Matter".

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What else has gone wrong since January 20, 2001? Click here for a great web site...it's called Broken Government: An assessment of 128 (and counting) executive branch failures since 2000.

The list for education:
(You can also see information for health care, defense, transportation, the economy...)

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 33,000 signatures so far...