"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, February 26, 2009

...but I'm not the only one...

Guess what the education bloggers are talking about? Right...the President's comments on Charter Schools, Incentives for Teachers (Merit pay?), and all the things that make Arne Duncan happy. Maybe the new version of No Child Left Behind won't be as punitive as it has been under the Bush administration...and that's good...if it turns out that way. Still, Margaret Spelling (Bush's Secretary of Education) is a big fan of Arne Duncan (which in itself is enough to make me sick), and with good reason. He spews the same pro-charter, pro-testing, pro-standards, pro-business roundtable, anti-child-centered-education drivel that has brought public education in the US to the brink of disaster.

This is definitely not change we can believe in.

Time to tell him what we think...Email the President at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/

If you're interested here are some good articles among those critical of the President's speech from Tuesday night...in my order of importance...Click on the title to read the whole thing...or just read the blurb I cut.

by Diane Ravitch
February 24, 2009
Is Arne Duncan Really Margaret Spellings in Drag?
"...Everything I have seen and learned since Duncan came to office has supported Secretary Spellings' admiring comments about Secretary Duncan. It turns out that Duncan, like the Bush administration, adores testing, charter schools, merit pay, and entrepreneurs. Part of the stimulus money, he told Sam Dillon of The New York Times, will be used so that states can develop data systems, which will enable them to tie individual student test scores to individual teachers, greasing the way for merit pay. Another part of the stimulus plan will support charters and entrepreneurs..."

by Jim Horn
February 24, 2009
Roosevelt Economics, Reagan Education Policy
"...The President reminded us tonight that we are going to offer hundreds of billions more to bail out the banks AGAIN, but if the overpaid and lazy teachers expect a raise, they are going to have to prove they can wring out higher test scores for a couple of thousand dollars a year. And as the President reminds us, "from the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age," we are now ready to sacrifice that system for a ragged collection of cheap corporate charter schools without public governance..."

by Gerald Bracey
February 25, 2009
On Education, Obama Blows it
"I have not the expertise to address the merits of President Obama's speech to Congress on the issues of the economy. I do claim some expertise on education. He blew it.

"He accepted the same garbage that the propagandists, fear mongers such as Lou Gerstner, Bill Gates, Roy Romer, Bob Wise, Craig Barrett and many others--God help us, Arne Duncan?--have been spewing for years..."

by Norm Scott
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Did Obama Fail His Ed Test?
"So what exactly did Obama say in his speech tonight about reforming education? You see, it's not just about getting resources for schools but about, you know, reform. Like incentives for teachers - you know - merit pay. And charters. And early childhood ed. Well. 1 out of 3 ain't zero.

"But as you drill down it gets worse. Shame on you if you don't graduate from not only high school, but college. Does he know that an overwhelming number of jobs over the next decade - if there are any – will not require a college education? I mean, he is telling us his stimulus plan will stimulate infrastructure jobs - mostly vocational-like skills that do not come from a college education. Then in the next breath he makes it look like you are a failure and unpatriotic if you don't go to college. If anything, he should have talked about NOT going to college and learning how to do the kinds of work with your hands that is so missing in this society..."

by Terry
February 25, 2009
Obama, Charter Schools, and the Pearl
"Nancy Pelosi was a veritable jack(ie)-in-the-box during Barack Obama's speech last night to a joint session of Congress, leaping to her feet to lead an ovation anytime Obama said something inspiring. There was one notable exception, however. When Obama raised the issue of charter schools--
'We'll invest ... in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.'
"--Pelosi remained seated. In fact, the mention of charter schools was perhaps the weakest applause line of the evening..."

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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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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Federal Education Policy: GW's Third Term

Diane Ravitch was an assistance Secretary of Education under Bush the First. In my opinion, she was not a friend of Public Education. Bush the Second, however, changed her, and in some ways she has come over to "our side." She advocates for Public Education, now, and decries the overuse of tests. She wrote this for the Arena.

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Diane Ravitch, Historian of education, NYU, Hoover and Brookings:

In education, the new administration is as ruinous as the old

Education was not a big issue in the campaign, but it is a big issue for our society. Our future depends on having a strong and effective public education system, as well as excellent institutions of higher education and a variety of successful private institutions of education.

When President Obama ran for office, he promised sweeping change, and educators understood him to mean that he would reverse the Bush administration's ruinous No Child Left Behind legislation. I say "ruinous," because NCLB has been a costly failure. On national tests, given by the U.S. Department of Education, student achievement is either flat (as in 8th grade reading) or has improved less than in the days prior to NCLB (as in every other grade and subject tested). I say "ruinous" because NCLB is punitive, has caused nearly 40% of the nation's schools to be labeled "failing," and has set the nation on a course in which nearly all of our schools will be declared "failures" within the next five years.

NCLB's remedy for "failing" schools is harshly punitive. When a school is struggling, there is no help on the way, just punishment: Fire the staff; close the school; turn the school over to private entrepreneurs, etc.

So it was reasonable to expect that the Obama administration would throw out this harsh regime and replace it with a program intended to improve, help, support, and strengthen our schools.

But along comes Arne Duncan, our new Secretary of Education, and everything he has said to date might have just as well been said by Bush's Secretary Margaret Spellings. Duncan paid his visit to New York City and toured a charter school, not a regular public school. He declared that the nation's schools need more testing, as though we don't have enough information already to act on our problems. He declared his support for charter schools, where only 2% of the nation's children are enrolled.

The one educator close to Obama who actually has experience in the schools--his chief policy advisor Linda Darling-Hammond--was demonized by the new breed of non-educators and their media flacks, and she has returned to Stanford University. There was no room apparently in this administration for someone who had been deeply involved in school reform for many years, not as an entrepreneur or a think-tank expert, but as an educator.

It looks like Obama's education policy will be a third term for President George W. Bush. This is not change I can believe in.

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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, February 11, 2009

More on Poverty...

One of my favorite blogs is hosted by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
A recent post there started a discussion about the merits of home schooling, the "failures" of the public schools, and the poor showing that our students make in the world.

My first response was to post Steven Krashen's words which I reproduced here a few days ago.

Someone wrote back that poverty is not the only issue...Here's how I responded to that.

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Of course poverty is not the only issue, however, it’s a condition which effects everything that happens to a child from their prenatal care onward. Take a look at the references I put in my last post…especially the one by Gerald Coles. Read anything by Jonathan Kozol.

Schools mirror society. We’re going to have to change some things if we want schools to cure the ills of our society which the leaders can’t - or won’t - address.

My point, by the way, was not that home schooling is bad, though I think home schooler’s should have the same requirements that are required by public schools. My point was not that our schools are not in need of improvement because even the best schools can improve. My point is that the public school systems in the US are there for the benefit of students. There are some serious issues which some children face…and those are being addressed by most school systems. Some of the methods of solving the problems completely ignore the facts of life for these children.

No school can make up for years of neglect before a child reaches school age. No school can correct the damage done by lead poisoning or poor nutrition as the child grows. No school can teach a child who has been traumatized by violence. Closing public schools and opening militarized charter schools - such as our new Secretary of Education did in Chicago - does not solve the problem caused by years of social indifference. “Better” tests don’t improve teaching and learning. You don’t fatten the cow by weighing her with a better scale.

Schools need to be included as part of the solution to the problems of generational poverty, crime and malnutrition - absolutely…but someone has to carry the ball back to the children’s homes…and someone has to deal with the other 18 hours a day that the children are not in school.

“When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind.” — Susan Ohanian

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 34,000 signatures so far...

Monday, February 9, 2009

The elephant in the classroom - poverty

"When people have said 'poverty is no excuse,' my response has been, 'Yes, you're right. Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'" - Gerald Bracey

Another cheer to Yvonne Siu-Runyan for her tireless campaign on behalf of American Children. In the unpublished letter below she reminds readers that schools in the US do not operate in a vacuum.

The following is from Susan Ohanian's web site.

To the editor

From Yvonne Siu-Runyan

Submitted to USA Today but not published (01/15/2009).

A few words for Obama on closing the "achievement gap"

Those interviewed in "A few words for Obama" (Jan. 15) claim that our schools are bad because of bad teaching and poverty. Their cure is "teachers who demand rigor, improved standards and accountability, monitoring homes to make sure children get enough sleep, food and fresh air, and moving children to "good" schools, charter schools, and school vouchers." This kind of thinking only perpetuates problems that need to be addressed by the new congress-issues of long standing.

There is plenty of evidence that some our schools are bad, but poverty is the issue that must be addressed. Children who live in high-income areas score as well as those in the highest scoring countries on international tests. Study after study shows that levels of poverty are strongly related to school achievement.

The obvious solution, not considered by any of the experts, is to reduce poverty. When adults in a family can earn a living wage for honest work, in nearly all cases, their children will have good diets and get enough sleep and they will live in areas with fresh air. Their children will be surrounded by books and other advantages that middle and upper class children have, and they will achieve the same high levels that middle and upper class children do.

There is no small measure of hypocrisy bemoaning the poor academic performance of children from poverty and blaming the schools.

The author is Professor Emerita at University of Northern Colorado.

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 34,000 signatures so far...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Give us Hope!

Thank you to Dr. Yvonne Siu-Runyan, 40 year educator, and Priscilla Gutierrez, Outreach Specialist, New Mexco School for the Deaf, and to tauna, a public school special education teacher, a founding member of the Educator Roundtable and a blogger at A Place to Respond, for spreading the word about this video.

tauna says, "Thank you to the teachers in Hoover, AL for putting this video together. And to the children in the video...wow! You are wonderful!"

I agree.



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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 34,000 signatures so far...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Arne Duncan's Assumptions.

Posted by Steven Krashen on US News website, in response to "What Arne Duncan thinks of No Child Left Behind" Feb. 6.

Arne Duncan's view of what needs to be done (better tests, better tracking systems, rigorous and uniform standards, earlier start, better teachers) is based on the assumption that there is something seriously wrong with American education.

The only thing wrong is poverty. When you control for the effects of poverty, American children do quite well compared to children in other countries. US schools with fewer than 25% of children in poverty outscore all countries in the world in Math and Science (see Gerald Bracey's column on the Huffington Post, July 22, 2007). US children only fall below the international average when 75% of more of the students in a school are children of poverty.

The obvious solution is to reduce poverty. When all children have proper diets, are surrounded by good reading material, and have the other advantages that children from high-income families have, our schools will be considered the best in the world.

For a description of the devastating (but often reversible) effects of hunger, see Gerald Coles: "Hunger, academic success, and the hard bigotry of indifference" Rethinking Schools, vol 23, 2, 2008/2009.

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 34,000 signatures so far...