"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

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Medley #25

Poverty, Charters, Teen Pregnancy,
Common Core State Standards, Teacher Preparation.

POVERTY

Students living in shelters hit hard by government funding cuts

The beginning of this article reminds me of a scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Charlie's father loses his job...and the family begins to starve.
And now, very calmly, with that curious wisdom that seems to come so often to small children in times of hardship, [Charlie] began to make little changes here and there in some of the things that he did, so as to save his strength. In the mornings, he left the house ten minutes earlier so that he could walk slowly to school, without ever having to run. He sat quietly in the classroom during recess, resting himself, while the others rushed outdoors and threw snowballs and wrestled in the snow. Everything he did now, he did slowly and carefully, to prevent exhaustion.
We already have the highest rate of child poverty among the world's "rich" countries (almost 25%) and as is typical, while the wealthy in Washington DC debate what social safety nets to cut rather than increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires, the weakest members of our society are paying the price. The President's children aren't discussed in this article. Children of Senators and Congressmen aren't discussed in this article. They will all go to bed in warm beds...in a comfortable home...after a filling and nutritious meal. Tomorrow they'll wake up and get dressed in nice clothes, eat a healthy breakfast and go to clean, well resourced schools. Hold on to that image as you read this article.
A 10-year-old boy recently walked past rows of boarded-up houses, dilapidated storefronts and abandoned lots on his way home from Nathaniel Pope Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side. He took a detour to make sure the students walking behind him didn’t see that he lived in a homeless shelter a half-mile away.

Located in Lawndale, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, Pope Elementary is the boy’s fourth school in the last 18 months. He started there in November after moving into the nearby shelter with his mom and younger sister. Hoping to avoid the endless taunting he endured at his previous three schools, the boy asked that his name not be published.

CHARTERS*

educational equality and the economic divide

Parents are in a bind. With funding for public school dropping...and being transferred to vouchers and corporate charter schools the privatizers are forcing the hand of many middle class parents...even those who want to support their local public schools. Here's a blog entry from a mom who has children in both the local public school and a nearby charter.
I have mentioned before that my two kindergartners were accepted via lottery into a public charter school this year, while Jafta is attending a more traditional (and technically “underperforming”) local public school. What I haven't mentioned is that when this public charter school was proposed, I actually fought against it. I’ve been hesitant to talk about my cognitive dissonance in sending my kids to a school that I initially opposed. and to call out some of the classism and racism I observe in my local school district. But I’m going to go there today...

...One of the reasons I’ve not fleshed out my feelings on all of this in a post is that I’m not sure what my conclusion is. I don’t have an answer or an action step. I continue to sit in this cognitive dissonance as I notice the disparity between the two schools my kids attend, and I don’t have a clue what to do about it. The one thing I can do, that I see very few people in my community doing, is to acknowledge that it’s happening. Race and class and privilege are huge factors in the public school system, and few people are talking about it. I guess that is where I’m going to start.

TEEN PREGNANCY

Poor Reading Skills Tied to Risk of Teen Pregnancy

Poverty predicts low achievement...and low achievement predicts a higher risk for teen pregnancy. The fact that this ends up costing everyone in society because young mothers and their babies have a higher rate of complications and health problems...and girls who get pregnant are at risk for dropping out. It's in the nation's best interest to provide early services to children in poverty. Schools in high poverty areas need more support and stability...not punishment.
Seventh grade girls who have trouble reading are more likely to get pregnant in high school than average or above-average readers, according to a new study...

...Among girls who scored below average on their reading tests, 21 percent went on to have a baby as a teenager. That compared to 12 percent who had average scores and five percent of girls who scored above average on the standardized tests...

...the answer to preventing teen pregnancy in less-educated girls isn't simply to add more sex ed to the curriculum...

..."This is really about adolescent health and development more broadly, so it's really important for us to make sure that kids are in schools and in quality educational programs and that they have opportunities to grow and develop academically and vocationally"...

COMMON CORE

The fiction vs. non-fiction debate: A distraction from a more important question

Stephen Krashen raises the more important question about the Common Core State Standards -- do we really need them?
The rational for the [Common Core] standards is the belief that our schools are “broken.” There is no evidence this is true: Middle class American students who attend well-funded schools score at the top of the world on international tests...There is no evidence that standards and tests improve school achievement.
A Literacy Expert Opposes the Common Core Standards

Again...Stephen Krashen on how the organization of the CCSS is not research based. This will eventually incentivize rearranging curricula...and micromanaging when and how literacy skills are taught.
There is very good evidence from both first and second language acquisition that aspects of language and literacy are naturally acquired in a specific order that cannot be altered by instruction...

There is also very good evidence that we acquire language and literacy best not through direct instruction but via “comprehensible input” – for literacy, this means reading, especially reading that the reader finds truly interesting, or “compelling.”...
Also...Diane Ravitch offers two opposing views.

TEACHER PREPARATION

Missouri Teacher Preparation Faces Heightened Standards For Education

The State of Indiana recently changed the rules for who can be a teacher...making it easier for untrained and inexperienced people to fill classrooms.

When I saw this article I thought..."aha, here's a state where they are making it more difficult." In some ways that's true...however, included in the "higher standards" are evaluations of teachers using standardized tests and evaluating higher education teacher preparation programs using standardized test scores. Requiring stronger academic training for teacher candidates is one thing, as long as plenty of time is spent in classrooms with actual children under the direction of a master teacher. Continuing to use standardized tests in ways which are unsupported by research, however, is a mistake.
The state recently adopted evaluations that will assess some teachers, in part, on how well students fare on state exams.

Now the state is going further.

Under a plan approved last month, the state will zero in on the effectiveness of teacher colleges.

...the state will now require future teachers to maintain a 2.75 grade-point average, up from 2.5. And for those seeking a particular certification, such as math, the required GPA will rise to 3.0...

*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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