"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, October 31, 2012

2012 Medley #21

Corporate ChartersEnvironment, Facts-Myths and Fallacies, Indiana Election, Poverty, Teacher Evaluation, Testing .


CHARTERS

Charter schools: Finding out the facts: At a glance*

The Center for Public Education has a fairly balanced information base for charter schools and the research surrounding them. Remember that not all charter schools are run by corporate, for-profit organizations and that different states have different rules regarding charters.
...found that while some charter schools do better than the traditional public schools that fed them, the majority do the same or worse. Almost one-fifth of charters (17 percent) performed significantly better (at the 95 percent confidence level) than the traditional public school. However, an even larger group of charters (37 percent) performed significantly worse in terms of reading and math. The remainder (46 percent) did not do significantly better or worse.

ENVIRONMENT

Off-topic.

The media is finally starting to ask questions about extreme weather. Climate change shouldn't be a political issue. We all live on the surface of the same planet.

Amazing How a 2 x 4 Upside the Head Focuses the Mind. Media Starts Asking “What the *bleep* Happened?”
Just eight months earlier, the Princeton University professor reported that what used to be once-in-a-century devastating floods in New York City would soon happen every three to 20 years. He blamed global warming for pushing up sea levels and changing hurricane patterns.

New York “is now highly vulnerable to extreme hurricane-surge flooding,” he wrote.

EDUCATIONAL FACTS, MYTHS and FALLACIES

Education’s Own 47%

How many "bad teachers" does it take to ruin the economy and cause American students to perform poorly on international tests? Oh, wait...teachers didn't ruin the economy and when you factor out poverty American students from low poverty schools score the highest in the world.
Education has been having it’s own dramatic “47%”ing for sometime now. You see, as the story goes, the reason why education is “failing” is because educators just “don’t care enough.” A small percentage of amazing teachers believe in kids, the tale continues, but most, especially those who work in high poverty schools, do not believe in the children they serve, their expectations are too low, and they in fact do not know how to teach. Goliath. Bad bad Goliath. And here’s the thing, it’s not 47% this story aims at, instead the majority of education is in the cross hairs.

‘All Children Can Learn’: Facts and Fallacies

This is an old article from PDK, Kappan. The claim from politicians that "all children can learn" despite their backgrounds in poverty or abuse is disingenuous. Of course all children can learn...but not everyone (children or adults) learns at the same rate in the same way and at the same depth of understanding. Sometimes you have repeat things over and over so the ones who learn more slowly (in this case, the politicians, pundits and policy makers) will learn.
The fallacy that all children can learn: at the same level and in the same amount of time. All children can learn, at some level, and most children, as Ronald Edmonds stated, can learn the basic curriculum if sufficient resources are provided. The fallacy, however, is the belief that all children can learn the same curriculum, in the same amount of time, and at the same level. The problem with such an unexamined belief is that it may be used to deny differential financial support for those who come to school with environmental disadvantages. Not all children have high-quality nutrition, stimulating homes, and extensive learning opportunities prior to entering school. [emphasis in original]

Unreason on the Throne of American Thought*

The facts just simply don't support the "reform" movement which has been the status quo in our public schools for the last two decades. Charters aren't better (though many aren't worse) than regular public schools, merit pay for teachers doesn't work, competition through vouchers (or charters) doesn't improve public schools, parent triggers don't give parents more "choices" and unions don't lower achievement. Is there another reason why all these policies are being foisted on public education? Hint: Follow the money.
We are told that competition will make our schools better, never mind the fact that it didn’t in Chile. Or in Milwaukee. We are told that more charter schools are desperately needed, even though Stanford University’s groundbreaking study found charters twice as likely to under perform (37%) rather than outperform (17%) traditional schools. We are told that merit pay will improve the quality of teaching, even though scientific studies have consistently found otherwise...Despite the cries of dissenters, merit pay for teachers, charter school expansion, and voucher/tax credit schemes are all moving full steam ahead all over the country, ample contradictory evidence notwithstanding.

In the push to re-make our education system, we are seeing a fight over ideology raging across the land. Public school systems and the students and teachers who inhabit them are simply collateral damage. And so are factual precision and the honest consideration of data.

Why You're Likely to Believe Political Lies

This isn't an education issue like I normally post, however, it helps explain why people believe what politicians tell them despite the facts proving otherwise.
If the subject isn't very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold, according to the researchers. They point out that rejecting false information requires more cognitive effort than just taking it in. That is, weighing how plausible a message is, or assessing the reliability of its source, is more difficult, cognitively, than simply accepting that the message is true. In short, it takes more mental work. And if the topic isn't very important to you or you have other things on your mind, the misinformation is more likely to take hold.

INDIANA

Bennett, Ritz debate at NIPR

If you live in Indiana and haven't voted yet, take a listen to this debate between Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett and his challenger, Glenda Ritz.
Republican incumbent, Dr. Tony Bennett, and his opponent, Democrat Glenda Ritz, spent an hour answering questions from StateImpact Indiana reporter, Kyle Stokes.

POVERTY

David Berliner on Inequality, Poverty and the Widening Education Gap

Read this, then tell me that poverty doesn't matter, that poverty isn't destiny or some other platitude used to ignore the greatest threat to children in the United States. I've asked this so many times....What other 'rich' nation in the world would be satisfied with 25% of their children living in poverty? Why are we ignoring this? Children need to be our national priority.
America’s dirty little secret is that a large majority of poor kids attending schools that serve the poor are not going to have successful lives. Reality is not nearly as comforting as myth. Reality does not make us feel good. But the facts are clear. Most children born into the lower social classes will not make it out of that class, even when exposed to heroic educators...Powerful social forces exist to constrain the lives led by the poor, and our nation pays an enormous price for not trying harder to ameliorate these conditions.

...out-of-school variables account for about 60% of the variance that can be accounted for in student achievement. In aggregate, such factors as family income; the neighborhood’s sense of collective efficacy, violence rate, and average income; medical and dental care available and used; level of food insecurity; number of moves a family makes over the course of a child’s school years; whether one parent or two parents are raising the child; provision of high-quality early education in the neighborhood; language spoken at home; and so forth, all substantially affect school achievement.

What is it that keeps politicians and others now castigating teachers and public schools from acknowledging this simple social science fact, a fact that is not in dispute: Outside-of-school factors are three times more powerful in affecting student achievement than are the inside-the-school factors (Berliner, 2009)? And why wouldn’t that be so? Do the math! On average, by age 18, children and youth have spent about 10 percent of their lives in what we call schools, while spending around 90 percent of their lives in family and neighborhood. Thus, if families and neighborhoods are dysfunctional or toxic, their chance to influence youth is nine times greater than the schools’! So it seems foolish to continue trying to affect student achievement with the most popular contemporary educational policies, mostly oriented toward teachers and schools, while assiduously ignoring the power of the outside-of-school factors. Perhaps it is more than foolish. If one believes that doing the same thing over and over and getting no results is a reasonable definition of madness, then what we are doing is not merely foolish: it is insane.

TEACHER EVALUATION

Traumatic lives of students affect teacher’s evaluation

Poverty matters in achievement...as do the other out of school factors mentioned in the Berliner piece, above. Why then, do we insist on using faulty standardized achievement tests to evaluate teachers?
I am the same teacher with an exceptionally high growth score from the previous year. I declined the accolades from my well-meaning principal because we are a team with a common goal, not competitors. Will the number crunchers say I was talented one year but incompetent the next?
You might also be interested in...

Who Needs Certification? NYC Dept. of Ed. Wants to Train Teachers on the Fly
If the Department of Education gets its way, new teachers won’t have to enroll in local colleges or universities to get certification to work in city schools.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s second in command, said today that the department would ask the state for permission to certify teachers internally by using top educators to train new recruits in shortage areas. Currently, teachers must either have completed an education certification program at a college or university or be enrolled in one.
Get Rid of Bad Teachers by Lowering Standards
The "reformers" consistently call for states and school systems to get rid of bad teachers, yet Tony Bennett, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction and the new poster-boy for the national reform movement, supports these changes which will lower the standards for teachers in Indiana.

TESTING

What Test Scores Don't Tell Us: The Naked Emperor

End the testing madness.
Until we have more data showing that improving test scores actually teaches students to think well, or that an improved test score predicts better life outcomes, we’re all willfully looking away from the Emperor’s nakedness.

While we try to come up with measures that tell us something about individual children, their teachers, or our schools, we’re better off using no tests than ones which have unintended bad effects, and haven’t yet been shown to measure anything meaningful.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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