"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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Quotes...

•••••

"I think it high time Congress enact similar mandates for other professions that utilize a single measure to determine success. Dentists should be evaluated on how many teeth they save, doctors should be evaluated on how many patients they save, lawyers should be evaluated on how many cases they win, accountants should be evaluated on much money they save clients, and engineers on how many buildings they've designed get built. Congress should also enact national, comprehensive standards for each profession without any input from members of said professions since we know they can't be trusted to make informed decisions or contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way. Anyone who won't come on board should be fired and labeled a dissident. Conformity and control are a must, so teachers should be thankful they are first in the firing line."

—Priscilla Gutierrez, Huffington Post comment

•••••

" Children can be trained to get the right answer, like parrots or seals, but the higher scores are not a measure of a good education or a good teacher."

—Diane Ravitch, Wash. Post, Answer Sheet, 1/19/10

•••••

"I would like to know who in our country would like their pay to be based on the actions of a group of children. "

—Laurie, in response to R. Weingartner, On Point, 1/26/10

•••••

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flowers and Sausages...

Teaching has it's drawbacks...politicians who have too much power over public education and too little understanding of what education is, poor teachers ignored by administrators, angry parents, paperwork, administrators who have forgotten what it's like being in a classroom, ignorant newspeople, US Secretaries of education who have no education credentials (the last two, for example)...

For the last 34 years I've searched for ways to improve my teaching and for ways to reach hard to reach students. The challenge is always there and what we as teachers do affects the lives of children in ways we can't imagine. It's frustrating that the people who control what goes on in the public schools of America (in the form of standardized tests, funding, etc) don't have a clue. Am I self-righteous about my quest to improve my teaching? Yes...of course I am. I have worked hard to learn what I have learned about education and children. To have a basketball player with a degree in Sociology, who NEVER ATTENDED OR WORKED IN A PUBLIC SCHOOL and who is NOT a teacher, lead the nation's public schools is, dare I say it, irresponsible on the part of the federal government.

Not that just any old teacher would make a good secretary of education...Rod Paige comes to mind...

Only another teacher understands what it's like...and we need to be the voices heard the loudest in the national discussion about education.

One of my favorite "voices" is a blogger...Mrs. Mimi, the author of "It's Not All Flowers and Sausages", a second grade teacher in New York City (currently on leave to work on her Ph.D. dissertation).

Mrs. Mimi shares the essentials of teaching. No, not pedagogy, although she sometimes touches on that...and not knowledge of subject matter, though that's obvious in her writing as well. What she shares is an understanding of children, a sense of humor tempered by love for her students, an appreciation of the human growth process and most of all, a sense of wonder at the delightful things that our students bring to us every day. She writes as "every teacher" giving us examples of the good things we are lucky enough to see in our classrooms. She writes about experiences that are universal to teachers everywhere.

Her profile says that she has to "make it funny so I don't routinely poke myself in the eye" and she does just that. Her insight into the workings of schools, the hearts of teachers and the lives of children provides a bridge that reaches across cyberspace to inspire and entertain her readers (and it also impresses me that her favorite books include "anything Jonathan Kozol").

In the short time that I have been reading her blog (and her book) I have gained a new appreciation for what we do every day. Teachers have the challenging task of growing citizens. It's up to us to prepare the next generation of cooks, doctors, writers and truck drivers (and yes, basketball players and sociologists). We're charged with leading children into their future.

Mrs. Mimi provides pain relief for the frustrations heaped upon us by the state legislatures, the US DOE and the media. I look forward to each day's post (she's promised to give us one every day in January and so far has come through) for my dose of understanding, insight, and humor.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Blueberry Story...

Think schools should be run like businesses? Read this...

The Blueberry Story.

Jamie Vollmer is a former business executive and attorney who now works to increase public support for America’s public schools. His new book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone is available at www.jamievollmer.com

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Open Letter to President Obama

Spread this around...join the Facebook group...

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=166176941518&ref=nf

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By Anthony Cody on November 2, 2009 9:56 AM

Dear President Obama,

I was one of the millions of teachers across the USA who actively supported your candidacy. I organized a fundraiser with fellow educators, and walked my neighborhood precinct during the primary. I used my blog on Teacher Magazine to share your vision. I took heart when I read on your campaign website:

Obama believes teachers should not be forced to spend the academic year preparing students to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. He will improve the assessments used to track student progress to measure readiness for college and the workplace and improve student learning in a timely, individualized manner. Obama will also improve NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them.

You have spoken eloquently of a new era of mutual responsibility for our schools, and have called on parents to take a greater role in their children's education. The provision of health care for families without it will be a tremendous help to our students, so this work is deeply appreciated. This year ARRA funds have saved many thousands of teachers' jobs, but we have a huge problem looming. State budgets, and the schools that depend on them, remain in dire straits. It appears that Race to the Top funding will not be used to save jobs or plug massive holes in state budgets, but instead will be used to "drive reforms." But these reforms do not enact the vision you have put forward.

As it stands now, Secretary Duncan has initiated policies to:
  • "Turn around" 5000 of the nation's "worst" schools (based on test scores) although recent reports from Chicago reveal that the 5,445 students displaced by his school closures there did not do any better than before.
  • Tie teacher pay to test scores, though research and common sense suggest this will result in even more narrowing of the curriculum and teaching to the test.
  • Insist, in spite of more and more research that questions their effectiveness, that charter schools should be dramatically expanded.
  • Rank teacher preparation programs - once again, by how well they increase student test scores.

We have had eight long years of No Child Left Behind, which systematically assaulted our schools by establishing impossible to meet test score targets and Byzantine rules about subgroups. Your election a year ago was supposed to change all that. But thus far the policies we see are actually worse than before.

We can agree that teacher quality is critical for the success of our schools, but test scores are a wholly inadequate means to measure or improve quality. Furthermore, you have a Secretary of Education who is not listening to teachers. Teachers need to be active partners in school reform at every level, from the classroom up to the cabinet meeting. Right now our views are being shut out and ignored, and we are not represented. This is driving morale down at a time when our schools need to rally together for our students. If teachers are demoralized and sidelined, we are lost as partners in the change process. We will remain the subjects of change rather than agents, and our creative vision will be missing. This is the biggest reason NCLB has failed, and will continue to fail under Secretary Duncan so long as he maintains this direction.

It does not have to be this way. Teachers are ready for change, ready for mutual responsibility, ready for better assessments of student learning that honor our classroom practice and our students' capacity for critical thinking. We are ready, but we are still waiting to see these things.

I urge you to take a closer look at the policies that are being implemented by the Department of Education.

  • Review the report recently offered by the National Academy of Sciences which points out many flaws in the Race to the Top guidelines.
  • Review research that reveals that charter schools are no better on average than their public school counterparts.
  • Pay attention to the continued narrowing of the curriculum that you decried as a candidate.
  • Listen to the deeply held concerns of this nation's classroom teachers.
  • Hold your Secretary of Education accountable for enacting the vision that you campaigned on, that gave so much hope to millions of teachers and students across this country.

Your supporter still,
Anthony Cody

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2009/11/open_letter_to_president_obama.html

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Daniels fails...

In his State of the State address, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels called for an end to the "Social Promotion" of third graders and encouraged legislators to pass a bill requiring schools to retain third graders who are "illiterate."

Once again...retention doesn't work, and, in fact, makes things worse. The Position Statement on Student Grade Retention and Social Promotion from the National Association of School Psychologists has this to say:
Impact [of grade retention] at the elementary school level:

. While delayed entry and readiness classes may not hurt children in the short run, there is no evidence of a positive effect on either long-term school achievement or adjustment. Furthermore, by adolescence, these early retention practices are predictive of numerous health and emotional risk factors, and associated deleterious outcomes.

. Initial achievement gains may occur during the year the student is retained. However, the consistent trend across many research studies is that achievement gains decline within 2-3 years of retention, such that retained children either do no better or perform more poorly than similar groups of promoted children. This is true whether children are compared to same-grade peers or comparable students who were promoted.

. The most notable academic deficit for retained students is in reading.

. Children with the greatest number of academic, emotional, and behavioral problems are most likely to experience negative consequences of retention. Subsequent academic and behavioral problems may result in the child being retained again.

. Retention does not appear to have a positive impact on self-esteem or overall school adjustment; however, retention is associated with significant increases in behavior problems as measured by behavior rating scales completed by teachers and parents, with problems becoming more pronounced as the child reaches adolescence.

. Research examining the overall effects of 19 empirical studies conducted during the 1990s compared outcomes for students who were retained and matched comparison students who were promoted. Results indicate that grade retention had a negative impact on all areas of achievement (reading, math and language) and socio-emotional adjustment (peer relationships, self esteem, problem behaviors, and attendance).
You can read it all at http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/pospaper_graderetent.aspx

In recent years similar plans were tried in New York and Chicago, among other places, and it didn't work there. The research against retention has been consistent for decades. Why do the governor and the legislators who support this idea think it is going to work in Indiana?

(Also see the links to research on retention in the right hand column of this blog)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The US vs. Poverty

--

Submitted to Washington Post but not published
11/24/2009
To the editor,

President Obama claims we must improve math and science education to compete with other countries ("From Obama, a new focus on math and science education," Nov. 24).

Actually, we are doing quite well. According to the World Economic Federation, the US ranks 5th out of 133 countries in "availability of scientists & engineers," second in "quality of scientific research institutions," first in "university-industry research collaboration," and third in patents (per capita) for new inventions.

Why are math and science test scores mediocre? Students from high-income families attending well-funded schools outscore all or nearly all other countries on tests of math and science. Only our children in high-poverty schools score below the international average. Children living in poverty do poorly because of factors unrelated to school (e.g. diet, pollution, little access to books). Our national scores are unimpressive because the US has the highest percentage of children living in poverty of all industrialized countries (25%, compared to Denmark's 3%).

There is no science/technology education crisis. But to ensure that all students have the chance to learn, we must solve the problem of child poverty in the US.

— Stephen Krashen

Stephen Krashen is professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, who moved from the linguistics department to the faculty of the School of Education in 1994. He is a linguist, educational researcher, and activist. Dr. Krashen has published more than 350 papers and books, contributing to the fields of second language acquisition (SLA), bilingual education, and reading. He is credited with introducing various influential concepts and terms in the study of second language acquisition, including the acquisition-learning hypothesis, the input hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the affective filter, and the natural order hypothesis. Most recently, Krashen promotes the use of free voluntary reading during second language acquisition, which he says "is the most powerful tool we have in language education, first and second."

Krashen was inducted into the International Reading Association's Reading Hall of Fame in 2005. Krashen is a member of the National Association for Bilingual Education and was elected to the NABE Executive Board in 2005.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Duncan failed in Chicago...

Duncan failed in Chicago...now we've given him (through President Obama) the power to fail Nationally...

" If Arne Duncan knows exactly how to reform American education, why didn’t he reform Chicago’s schools? A report came out a couple of weeks ago from the Civic Committee of Chicago (”Still Left Behind”) saying that Chicago’s much-touted score gains in the past several years were phony, that they were generated after the state lowered the passing mark on the state tests, that the purported gains did not show up on the federal tests, and that Chicago’s high schools are still failing. On the respected federal test (NAEP), Chicago continues to be one of the lowest performing cities in the nation. I want to know why Washington is pushing “reform” ideas that have so little evidence behind them, ideas that might do serious damage to public education in America?"

—Diane Ravitch, interview with John Merrow, 8/4/09

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Better teachers, the union way...

There was an editorial in the LA Times a few days ago written by some LA Teachers Union officers. I liked what they said...most of it anyway...Unfortunately, some of the comments indicate that it really doesn't matter what you say...it's who you are. The negative comments on the post were mostly just against the Union writers of the article and not much against what they said. Public education gets bashed daily in the press...and the Union gets blamed at least as often.

Here's the link if you want to read it yourself...

The most important thing in that article is something I have been telling our administrators for decades..."NO ONE WANTS POOR TEACHERS IN THE CLASSROOMS OF OUR (or any other) DISTRICT." Not parents...not administrators...and certainly not teachers (unions).

We need good evaluation processes with trained administrators doing the evaluating. We need tools to help identify teachers weaknesses and more tools to help them improve. If there are teachers who are not succeeding and, in fact, doing educational damage to students, then they should be given the chance to improve and, if they don't, they should be removed from their classroom.

It really is a team effort...parents, teachers, students as well as administrators, and the general public.

Oh...and they stuck up for experienced teachers. We do have things to add...When I taught kindergarten a couple of years ago, one of my former 6th grade students was teaching in the room next door. It had been 30 years since I taught kindergarten and the curriculum had, indeed changed. My former student helped me immensely to regain my bearings and do a decent job. She also said that she appreciated the knowledge that I provided as to what kindergarten used to be (and, IMHO, what it should still be). We worked together, growing from the strengths each of us brought to the job at hand.

I like to tell my colleagues that I'm just a first year teacher...for the 34th time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

...material that some may find offensive...

The home page for my school system has a link to the state department of education. When you click the link you get a standard disclaimer:
You are now leaving the East Allen County Schools website.

The content of both the web pages themselves and/or material accessed via links to other pages may contain material that some may find offensive. The views and opinions expressed in the pages are those of the page authors only. East Allen County Schools accepts no responsibility of the content of these pages.
So, if I do find things on the state department of education web site which are offensive (which, I do) to whom do I report it?