"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, May 31, 2009

Obama's Plan to Corporatize American Public Education

CEOs, Businessmen, Politicians...they are the so-called "school reformers." Where are the educators?

From Schools Matter:
While many of us were out busting our humps to gather up a few dollars and votes for the change we thought we could believe in, the Harvard boys were cutting backroom deals with the multi-billionaire oligarchs to fully engage their plan to corporatize American public education, beginning with the urban schools.

There is no wonder that Spellings and Paige were running around breathless and wild-eyed, even as it became clear that McCain was going down. The insiders knew the Bush charter plan would not only go forward under Obama, but it would be slammed into overdrive by the clan of vulture capitalists and tax credit leeches who paid plenty to play the high stakes game for control of American schooling.
The plan is still Merit Pay, Charter Schools, Privatization, Free Market Competition...

From the Nation, quoted in Schools Matter:
. . . the single-mindedness--some would say obsessiveness--of the reformers' focus on these specific policy levers ["free market competition"] puts off more traditional Democratic education experts and unionists. As they see it, with the vast majority of poor children educated in traditional public schools, education reform must focus on improving the management of the public system and the quality of its services--not just on supporting charter schools. What's more, social science has long been clear on the fact that poverty and segregation influence students' academic outcomes at least as much as do teachers and schools.
Let's try this instead...

A Broader, Bolder Approach to Education:
More than a half century of research has documented a powerful association between social and economic disadvantage and low student achievement. Weakening that association is the fundamental challenge facing America's education policymakers...

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Framework Cannot by Itself Meet the Challenge...

Continue to pursue school improvement efforts. Research support is strongest for the benefits of small class sizes in the early grades for disadvantaged children, and for attracting and retaining high-quality teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools...

Increase investment in developmentally appropriate and high-quality early childhood, pre-school, and kindergarten education. Every American child should arrive at the starting line of first grade ready and able to learn...

Increase investment in health services. Research supports the provision of prenatal care for all pregnant women and preventive and routine pediatric, dental, and optometric care for all infants, toddlers, and schoolchildren, in order to minimize the extent to which health problems become obstacles to success in school...

Pay more attention to the time students spend out of school. A body of research has shown that much of the achievement gap is rooted in what occurs outside of formal schooling...
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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
Nearly 35,000 signatures so far...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Early Entrance to Kindergarten - Update

On March 20 I published a blog entry titled Early Entrance to Kindergarten. In it I explained how our central administration had gone from denying that we let students into kindergarten whose birthdays are after the state cutoff date, to saying that it is a unique situation and it doesn't happen very often.

I proved that we do, indeed let students into kindergarten early, and that it is not a unique situation (18 for the current year).

I've been after the administration to take the lead in finding a method of screening children whose parents request early entrance to make sure they're ready for the academic focus of our kindergartens.

Last week I asked for an answer.

Me: I'd like a response.

Deputy Superintendent (DS): I thought we had answered this.

Me: Are we going to continue to allow children who are younger than the state's minimum to enter kindergarten without screening them?

DS: The state says that we are to let everyone into kindergarten.

Me: No, that's not correct. The state says that we may enroll students whose birthdays are after the cutoff date. It would be different if we had developmental kindergartens, but ours are academic and we need to make sure that the students are ready.

DS: There are 6 year olds who enter kindergarten who are not ready.

Me: That's not the point. We're letting children into academic kindergartens who are not ready. That ends up hurting children and costing the district money in extra supports, special services and retentions.

DS: Our kindergartens have developmental standards.

Me: I'm not saying that there are not children who might benefit from early entrance, but not all of them do. We need to screen them to make sure that the students who are allowed to enter early are ready. I'd like a yes or no answer - are we going to continue to allow children into kindergarten on early entrance waivers?

DS: Our district policy is to allow them in.

That was the end of the discussion. Time to get the kindergarten teachers involved. I'm not going to fight this battle alone. I've made the noise, done the research and argued the position...alone.

If that doesn't work, maybe the school board will help.

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No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
Nearly 35,000 signatures so far...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

NYT - "Soaring dropout rate..."

Today's New York Times included an editorial about the dropout crisis in the US. We're "losing ground" to our competitors overseas, it said. The dropout crisis they said, will require "a lot more money and a national strategy."

The "scope" of the dropout crisis is "alarming," the numbers are "disconcerting." The dropout crisis "presents a clear danger to national prosperity." Read it for yourself, here...it's not long.

Meanwhile, in Florida, whose dropout rate, according to the Times, is one of the nation's highest at 20.1%, approximately 20,000 seniors won't graduate because they failed the state "graduation test." See "Schools Matter: Over 20,000 Florida Seniors Denied Diplomas By State Exit Exam Policy."

One of the things I've learned along the way is that when too many students fail a test (in this case 80% failed the Reading, 74% failed the Math), then the problem is not with the students...it's with the tests.

Doesn't anyone else notice a pattern here? I wonder if the high drop out rate has anything to do with the insane torture that passes for testing in the United States. How many kids are going to stay in school once they know that the odds are 4-1 that they won't "pass the test" and graduate?

Secretary of Education Duncan knows how to fix this...his answer to everything is Charter Schools - and it's generally for profit Charter Schools. It seems that we have to get our schools out from under the thumb of the nasty teachers' unions...that will solve all the problems.

I'm glad that Obama is going to nominate the next Supreme Court Justice candidate...I'm glad that Obama is mending fences with our neighbors on the planet...but at the Department of Education, it's business as usual...blame the teachers...blame the students...blame the educational system.

Statistics for 2006 show that nearly 1/5 of American children live in poverty. The current economic situation has likely raised that number. I wonder if anyone sees any relationship between the poverty rate and the dropout rate?

I wonder if the CEO's of the major test manufacturers (Pearson, McGraw-Hill, et al) are worried about where their next meal is coming from...

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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...