"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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Schools All Students Deserve

The Chicago Teachers Union has published a report itemizing what needs to be done to help improve the city's schools. To those who keep saying that critics of the "reform" movement never provide any ideas on how to "fix" the schools here's a good starting place. There's a 48 page report...and a 1 page summary all available at, The schools Chicago students deserve

Here is the one-page summary. You can download a pdf version here.
  1. Recognize That Class Size Matters: Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.
  2. Educate The Whole Child: Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of  subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.
  3. Create More Robust Wrap-around Services: The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.
  4. Address Inequities In Our System: Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS. It denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color, and enacts policies that increase the concentrations of students in high poverty and racially segregated schools.
  5. Help Students Get Off To A Good Start: We need to provide age-appropriate (not test-driven) education in the early grades. All students should have access to pre-kindergarten and to full-day kindergarten.
  6. Respect And Develop The Professionals: Teachers need salaries comparable to others with their education and experience. They need time to adequately plan their lessons and collaborate with colleagues, as well as the autonomy and shared decision-making to encourage professional judgment. CPS needs to hire more teaching assistants so that no students fall through the cracks.
  7. Teach All Students: We need stronger commitments to address the disparities that exist due to our lack of robust programs for emergent bilingual students and services for students faced with a variety of special needs.
  8. Provide Quality School Facilities: No more leaky roofs, asbestos-lined bathrooms, or windows that refuse to shut. Students need to be taught in facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.
  9. Partner With Parents: Parents are an integral part of a child’s education. They need to be encouraged and helped in that role.
  10. Fully Fund Education: A country and city that can afford to take care of its affluent citizens can afford to take care of those on the other end of the income scale. There is no excuse for denying students the essential services they deserve.
I don't know about you, but I think those are things that are appropriate for all public schools, in any city, in any state.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Monday, July 30, 2012

Desire to Learn or Need to Achieve?

When I was growing up my parents assured me that it didn't matter what career I chose, as long as it was something I wanted to do. In high school I focused on music and was convinced that I was destined for a musical career. I entered college as a music major, and quickly learned the difference between talent and ability (I had the latter, but not the former). I needed a change of direction.

After floundering in the College of Arts and Sciences for a while I graduated with a bachelors degree in Religious Studies which, like a degree in Philosophy, Sociology, History or any one of a dozen other "Liberal Arts" degrees, didn't prepare me for any "job" or career. So after graduation I gravitated back to music, something I knew and loved, and began working at retail music stores.

When my oldest child was born I became interested in child development. I returned to school and got my teaching certificate and a Masters degree in elementary education.

After teaching primary grades for 17 of my first 19 years as an educator I had the opportunity to work with students who were having difficulty learning. Like most teachers I spent extra hours focused on the students who were having difficulty in my class. When I had the opportunity to work with those students in a pull out program I took it. During the last 16 years of my career I worked with students who needed help in (mostly) reading and for 7 of those years I was a Reading Recovery teacher.

Throughout my own childhood and even into college I had difficulty with reading, so when I began teaching I worked hard to analyze where students were having difficulty. I became a passionate supporter of struggling students. It's clear that the interest I showed for those students was, at least in part, because of my own difficulties.

At each step in my adult life I focused on my interests -- music, religious studies, child development, elementary education, and finally teaching struggling readers. I didn't direct my attention towards a high paying career. I didn't consider what the "lifelong earnings" would be. I didn't spend time analyzing the future prospects for advancement in the job paths I chose. I followed my interests and my passions.

I felt no competition as an educator other than with myself. I compared myself to others only for the purpose of self-evaluation and deciding whether or not I was doing well. Perhaps because I had never been a high achiever I valued passion over practicality. I favored understanding over achievement -- interest over monetary gain. As an educator I was competing with the problems I faced, not other professionals. I focused on what I could do to be a better teacher and how I could reach students who were hard to reach.

Are today's students given the same opportunity to follow their interests?

High stakes assessments direct a child's attention to facts, details, and quick responses. There's little time for the higher level thinking skills of Bloom's Taxonomy -- creativity, evaluation, analysis.

In some places parents are very competitive -- often because the system forces them into it -- and push their children into a single minded quest for high achievement, high status schools and high paying careers.

The competitive, data driven madness of the current "race to the top" mentality of education, is robbing today's students of the joy of learning. Children are born with the desire to learn. They are natural wonderers...explorers...analysts. Our society's obsessive focus on "data" crushes the wonder and destroys the internal thirst for understanding. The desire to learn is replaced with the need to achieve.

The competition for grades, schools and achievement is often pursued at the expense of personal development. We're educating students to achieve but not to be well rounded human beings...and then we wonder why cheating is such a problem -- in education and in financial circles. Walt Gardner writes that Students Pay a Price For 'Success'.
We see this disconnect in Wall Street and in the legal profession, where elite credentials have failed to instill a modicum of integrity in so many. Their actions have hurt the country in a way not seen since the Gilded Age. Yet the obscene wealth they've amassed is glorified. Little is said about their achievements as human beings. Is self-service the only thing that matters? "For the super-elite, a sense of meritocratic achievement can inspire high self-regard, and that self-regard - especially when compounded by their isolation among like-minded peers - can lead to obliviousness and indifference to the suffering of others".

That's why I question the direction of the reform movement in the U.S. If schools are judged solely on data that are easily quantifiable, values are overlooked. Don't these count as much or more than test scores? The cheating exposés that took place at Stuyvesant High School in New York City and at Great Neck North High School on Long Island serve as evidence. It's well to remember what Oscar Wilde wrote in 1891 in The Picture of Dorian Gray: "Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." It's too bad that students are not taught this lesson.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Medley #15

Testing, Poverty, Teacher Evaluations,
Literacy, Michelle Rhee, Politics, Teaching Career.

Diane Ravitch Defends Public Education
“There is only one valid longitudinal measure of academic achievement for American students as a whole. And that is the Federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP is a no-stakes test and this is what it shows:

The test scores of America’s students are at their highest point in history.”

ISTEP + Scores Released: Winners and Losers Announced
Each time we use ISTEP scores to compare schools, to value or devalue schools, or to brag about their performance, we legitimize the existence of a tool that is being used not to improve public education, but to dismantle it.

If Bennett is successful at using ISTEP scores to come out as the big winner, then it is also a big win for the private corporations turning the education of Hoosier children into a commodity and backing his reelection campaign.

That also means it is a loss for Hoosiers, who can expect to see the continued distortion of public education from a pillar of democracy to a means of profit for big corporations. It is especially a loss for Hoosier students as educational practices continue to deteriorate under Bennett.

Invitation to a Dialogue: An Excess of Testing
The mediocre performance of American students on international tests seems to show that our schools are doing poorly. But students from middle-class homes who attend well-funded schools rank among the best in the world on these tests, which means that teaching is not the problem. The problem is poverty. Our overall scores are unspectacular because so many American children live in poverty (23 percent, ranking us 34th out of 35 “economically advanced countries”).

Georgia professors blast teacher evaluation system

A group of Georgia college and university professors have joined with their colleagues in Chicago and with principals in New York to question the practice of using "Value Added Measures" which employ student test scores to evaluate teachers.
According to a nine-year study by the National Research Council [21], the past decade’s emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing has yielded little learning progress. This is particularly troubling when we consider the cost of this emphasis to taxpayers.

We all cannot afford to lose sight of what matters the most—the academic, social, and emotional growth and well-being of Georgia’s children. Our students, teachers, and communities deserve better. They deserve thoughtful, reliable, valid reforms that will improve teaching and learning for all students. It is in this spirit that we write this letter.
You can read the complete letter HERE.


ACLU files 'right to read' lawsuit on behalf of students in Michigan school district
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed what it is calling a "first-of-its-kind" lawsuit against the state, its Department of Education and one Detroit-area school district for allegedly failing to teach students to read at grade level, as mandated by state law and its constitution.

"What's unique about this is that we're focusing in on literacy and the right to read" Michigan ACLU Executive Director Kary L. Moss said of the complaint filed last week in state court. "Literacy is the gateway to all other knowledge."

The suit names the Highland Park school district as a defendant, and it seeks to have the state and school district enforce a state law requiring that "a pupil who does not score satisfactorily on the 4th or 7th grade reading test shall be provided special assistance reasonably expected to enable the pupil to bring his or her reading skills to grade level within 12 months."

What Michelle Rhee Told the British Education Minister
...when Michelle Rhee went to England recently, she spoke of her great success in improving the D.C. public schools.

Her secret? Finding the best teachers and firing the worst teachers.

The only problem with her narrative is that it is not true.

Her IMPACT system was imposed in 2009. Since then, the D.C. public schools have made little progress on state or national exams.

The D.C. public schools continue to have the largest black-white achievement gap of any district assessed by the federal NAEP.

It is not clear whether her method identified the best teachers or the worst teachers, but it is clear that she created a level of turnover among teachers and principals that is staggering.

Students1st offering gift cards to those making “pro-reform” comments

Make "pro-reform" comments on blogs and Michelle Rhee's Students First will give you "a gift card to the restaurant or store of choice".


The Selling of American Democracy: The Perfect Storm

The Koch brothers have purchased several states, most notably Wisconsin.
As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

Not Another "Why I Left the Classroom" Story
There's no shortage of blogs on why teachers are leaving the classroom.

They're leaving because they're sick of the test-driven instruction and learning. They're leaving because everyone underestimates the complexity and the workload of classroom teaching. They're leaving because they've been on the job for 15 years and still don't make enough to pay the bills. They're fearful of speaking up against practices they know are harmful to children. They're weary and burned out and looking for greener pastures.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Myths About Public Education in Indiana

The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) has posted responses to some Myths about Public Education in Indiana on their blog.

They focused on four...failing public schools, charter schools, poverty, and teacher tenure. Here's the one about failing schools...
MYTH: Public Schools are Failing our children.
FACTS:
  • National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) test scores are the highest in the history of the Federal tests. On basic NAEP scores, Indiana has outperformed the nation on all 41 NAEP assessments since 1990.
  • Indiana Graduation Rates are the highest in history. 85.7% graduated in four years or less in the Class of 2012, up from 84.1%, 81.5%, 77.8%, 76.4%, and 76.1% in the last five graduating classes.
They provide links to prove the facts in each case. You can read the myths and the facts which disprove them at neifpe.blogspot.com/p/myths-about-public-education-in-indiana.html

You can also get a pdf version at sites.google.com/site/neifpe/docs/fs/MythsFacts.pdf

~~~

NEIFPE has signed the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing. Have you?

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Do Something

Diane Ravitch posted a letter she received from David Berliner. He included a quote that Noam Chomsky sent him.
If you do nothing, nothing will happen.
If you do something, chances are nothing will happen.
But if you do something you can at least look at yourself in the mirror.
We may not be successful against people like Bill Gates, Michelle Rhee, Tony Bennett or Arne Duncan, but we must keep trying.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

The Drive to Privatize

Here's a great, short video about ALEC's intrusion into public education and the drive to privatize.



In the meantime, money from the Walton Family comes to Indiana to influence the election. Tony Bennett, the privatizing Superintendent of Public Education, got a $200,000 donation from one of the Wal-Mart millionaires.
Walton has a history of bankrolling education-related politics here in Indiana. She's given almost $1.7 million to the Terre Haute-based American Federation for Children Action Fund over the past two years. That group, in turn, gives much of its money to Hoosiers for Economic Growth, which supports Republican candidates supporting anti-union education measures.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Time to Think Critically about Critical Thinking

Stephen Colbert on the Texas GOP's view of critical thinking...

(for mature audiences)


In contrast take a look at the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education's platform. It starts with...
To build a school, family, and community partnership that fosters learning, creativity, critical thinking skills, and success among our children...
See also, Valerie Strauss' analysis at Texas GOP rejects ‘critical thinking’ skills. Really.

To be fair, the Texas GOP claims that the plank was included in their platform by accident.
“[The chairman of the Texas GOP's Education Subcommittee] indicated that it was an oversight of the committee, that the plank should not have included ‘critical thinking skills’ after ‘values clarification,’” Elam said. “And it was not the intent of the subcommittee to present a plank that would have indicated that the RPT in any way opposed the development of critical thinking skills.”
It seems that the Texas GOP's Education Subcommittee could have used someone with critical thinking skills...

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Hard Bigotry of Poverty...

The June/July 2012 issue of the International Reading Association's Reading Today has a Report from the PISA/PIRLS Task Force reviewing the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) results from 2009. The report details information from Germany, Ireland, the East Asian Region (including Singapore, Shanghai, Japan and Korea), Finland, and the United States.

The United States scored 500, about average for the economically developed nations who participate in the assessment, and not much changed from its score of 504 in 2000. Looked at in detail, however, we get a clearer picture of what the United States' scores really mean.
...relative to the number one performer in the world, Shanghai-China with an overall score of 556, Asian Americans were number two with a score of 541 and White Americans ranked 6th in the world with a score of 525. On the other end of the spectrum, African Americans had an overall score of 441, 100 points below or the equivalent of over two years of school difference as compared with Asian Americans. Students in the 10% or less free and reduced lunch category had a score of 551, a close second globally, whereas students in the 75% and higher category had a score of 446. These staggering disparities in the U.S. between economic privilege and achievement as well as ethnicity and achievement are much greater than in the other countries represented by our other Task Force members.
The results clearly support the contention by critics of corporate reform that poverty plays a part in the achievement gaps, both ethnic and economic. Public education is not "failing." The problem is poverty.

In Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success Arizona State University Professor David Berliner identifies six out of school factors (OSFs) which "significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own."

The OSFs he reviews are:
  • low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children
  • inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance
  • food insecurity
  • environmental pollutants
  • family relations and family stress
  • neighborhood characteristics
Berliner says,
These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
Eric Jensen in The Effects of Poverty on the Brain takes a neurological approach and lists how the brains of children who live in poverty are damaged by their environments.
When compared to their middle- or upper-income classmates, more children from lower SES are likely to:
  • Live on or near toxic waste sites (Brody et al., 1993).
  • Live in areas that did not meet one or more of the Air Quality Standards (EPA 2000).
  • Have had more exposure to pesticides (Moses et al., 1993)
  • Have greater exposure to lead (Brody et al., 1993).
  • Have more exposure to cigarette smoke. (Childstats, 1999).
These are relevant because, for example, high levels of lead are dangerous to children because they can cause neurological and developmental impairment. The behaviors we see in the classroom may be a result of years of toxic buildup. The aggregate of exposure to multiple toxins creates damage to the brain, which manifests in behavioral, cognitive, emotional and social ways. It is the aggregate of factors that ultimately prove challenging to overcome, not any single one.
Jensen goes on to describe how chronic stress and the poverty environment impairs cognitive skill development (See also Brains R Us: The Science of Educating 2008: Teachers).

Stephen Krashen assures us that, with investment, we can counter the effects of poverty.
Until poverty is drastically reduced or eliminated, school needs to defend children against the effects of poverty. This means providing nutrition, health care, a clean environment, and books. For policy, this means continued and expanded support for free/reduced meal programs, increased school nursing care, and, of course, improved school and classroom libraries.
In a post for Valerie Strauss' The Answer Sheet Brock Cohen, a teacher and student advocate in the Los Angeles Unified School District wrote, "we can no longer afford to trivialize the critical role that poverty plays in a child’s learning experiences."
...closing the so-called achievement gap between rich and poor will first require Americans to recognize a far more uncomfortable reality: The policies employed to purportedly address the struggles of low-income children have ushered in a new era of school segregation. Claiming that poverty is no excuse for student failure trivializes the damage caused by years of actions and inactions that have widened the gaps between rich and poor communities. Good schools aren’t molded through harsh sanctions, private takeovers, or even soaring rhetoric. They emerge from healthy, stable communities. That is, they emerge from a commitment to justice.
It's clear that the methods of the corporate reformers, beginning with No Child Left Behind, have failed to equalize the economic and ethnic achievement gaps which still persist in the nation. We can't afford to keep wasting our time and money on the status quo of using excessive testing, false accountability and sanctions against the students most in need of help and their teachers.

It's time to demand accountability from politicians, policy makers, billionaires and corporate edupreneurs who are draining and destroying America's public schools.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Accountability: A Two-Way Street

from Making Education Work.


Where is the accountability for the social conditions under which students live? Where is the accountability for the mandated curricula imposed on public schools by politicians, legislators and testing companies?

Why aren't municipalities, legislators, and politicians held accountable for the high level of child poverty in the US? Why isn't Pearson held accountable if its tests and test-prep materials don't increase student learning? Why does it seem that the only options considered are to close schools and fire staff members? Is there no one else who has any responsibility for public education?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, July 13, 2012

Sign the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

I don't understand.

There are over 3 million public school teachers in the United States.

I know that many of those teachers are upset by the excessive focus on testing brought on by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. I know that many, many public school teachers would like to see us take a more rational approach to testing -- an approach where testing is used for classroom and instructional diagnosis rather than for ranking schools or evaluating teachers. I know that many, many public school teachers would like to see us spend less time on testing and test-prep and more time on learning.

So where are all those voices?

Why haven't they signed the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing?

The resolution currently has about 10,600 signatures. Even if all of them were from public school teachers (which they are not) it would be about 1/3 of 1% of all the public school teachers in the country.

The resolution was based on another resolution passed by more than 360 Texas school boards as of April 23, 2012.

It was written by Advancement Project; Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund; FairTest; Forum for Education and Democracy; MecklenburgACTS; Deborah Meier; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; National Education Association; New York Performance Standards Consortium; Tracy Novick; Parents Across America; Parents United for Responsible Education - Chicago; Diane Ravitch; Race to Nowhere; Time Out From Testing; and United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.

The resolution calls on states to develop assessments systems which...

1) do "not require extensive standardized testing"

and

2) reduce "testing mandates" and "promote multiple forms of evidence of student learning and school quality."

The resolution was written by a group which includes the National Education Association. Why haven't all of NEA's state affiliates signed on to this? Why haven't all of NEA's local affiliates signed this?

Three of the four local teachers associations in my county are affiliates of the Indiana State Teachers Association and the NEA. Only one, Fort Wayne Education Association, has signed the resolution. Where are the others?

10,000 individual signatures is not enough. We need millions!

400 group signatures is not enough. We need thousands.

We need to show the nation that the excessive emphasis on testing has gone too far. We need to send a message to legislators around the nation that there are hundreds of thousands of us who will vote for people to end the testing madness.

Get your colleagues to sign it. Get family members to sign it. Get your state and local association affiliates to sign it.

Mrs. Mimi told a story about trying to get a struggling second grader to finish "the test." While proctoring her class during "testing season" Mimi noticed something was wrong with one of her students...
Mimi: (noticing...one friend, a friend who struggles in reading... I mean STRUGGLES) (kneeling down and whispering) Are you okay?
Child: (tears streaming down face) (STREAMING!) I just can't do it anymore. (Is your heart breaking yet?)
Mimi: I know it's hard, sweetie, but you just have to do your best.
Child: The words are just too hard. I'm not smart enough.
Mini: (trying not to let tears stream down my face because I have to get this kid to try and finish) Just try a few more and then we'll stop.
Child: And we'll go back to learning?
Mini: (choking back sob) Yes, honey, we'll go back to learning.
It's time for us to get back to learning.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

2012 Medley #14

Public Education, Class Size, Tenure, Teacher Evaluations, Corporate Charters, Privatization, Politics, Testing.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Platform of NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education
To build a school, family, and community partnership that fosters learning, creativ- ity, critical thinking skills, and success among our children:

1. We believe tax money should support public education in the state of Indiana. All school districts in Indiana deserve equitable funding....
See the rest at http://neifpe.blogspot.com/

Indiana Teachers Would Like to See State Surplus Fund Education

This is a case of "put your money where your mouth is." Politicians talk about supporting schools, but when it comes to actually doing something, like replacing the millions which were cut because "times were tough" they often come up short.
INDIANAPOLIS — Though Indiana's fiscal year closing with a $2 billion reserve means $100 refunds for taxpayers, some educators say the surplus should be used to fund programs and budgets that were cut.

The Indiana State Teachers Association would prefer to see the money go toward K-12 education, where Gov. Mitch Daniels implemented $300 million in funding cuts in 2010 and 2011 as the recession forced the state to slash its budget, said spokesman Mark Shoup.

Shoup said the state has cut funding for K-12 education and has imposed cuts on higher education and unemployment benefits. He said he would like to have seen the surplus used to increase funding for those programs.

CLASS SIZE

Politicians Ignore Research, Say Smaller Class Size Makes No Difference
...research including long-term experiments such as Tennessee’s 1980’s Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (Project STAR), which has long been heralded as definitive proof of the difference class size makes in student achievement, and Wisconsin’s Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program.

In examining both Project STAR and SAGE, experts found that students in the smaller classes performed better than those in larger classes. Minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged students made the most gains, according to the Center for Public Education (CPE).

TENURE

Teacher Tenure Is Still Needed

The people who are in the schools, every day, working with children and following the mandates of districts, states and the federal government, are the ones we need to rely on to keep America's schools honest. This teacher was fired for telling the truth...for doing what was best for children...and for standing up to corruption. Tenure protects teachers.
Bruno Mpoy...was fired from Ludlow Elementary School in the District of Columbia after he told former Chancellor Michelle Rhee that his principal had instructed teachers to "change and falsify student records, to alter test scores on standardized assessments, and to fabricate levels of student achievement"...The judge allowed the suit to continue under the D.C. Whistleblower Act and the D.C. Human Rights Act, along with breach of contract, retaliation and wrongful termination.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Georgia professors blast teacher evaluation system

When are the no-nothings going to start listening to education professionals?
...No evidence exists that evaluation systems that incorporate student test scores produce gains in student achievement. In order to determine if there is such a relationship, researchers recommend long-term, small-scale pilot testing of such systems. Furthermore, student test scores have not been found to be a strong predictor of the quality of teaching as measured by other instruments or approaches[5].

CORPORATE CHARTERS*

Seize the Charters

Tony Bennett, the "Superintendent of Department of Education" is busy traveling around the country selling the public school students of Indiana.
An article in the Yuma, Ariz., Sun confirms that not only is the Indiana superintendent of public instruction eagerly supporting charter schools, he's also actively recruiting them.
Now It Can Be Told! The Secrets to Success and Riches

How would your local public school do with funding like the Geoffrey Canada's Harlem Children's Zone, for example?
His schools spend nearly three times as much per-pupil as the nearby neighborhood school, yet he unabashedly claims it is the great teaching alone which makes all the difference, again as a way to market the schools. (emphasis added)
Diane Ravitch explores what public schools could do with some of the same "rights" as corporate charters.
The same things that “work” in charter schools should also work in public schools.
  • First, the best charters spend considerably more money...
  • Second, the charters are free of burdensome regulation by the states and districts.
  • Third, the charters do not accept the same proportion of students with special needs or students who are English language learners.
  • Fourth, the charters have even more money to spend because of the small proportion of children with disabilities and English language learners...
  • Fifth, the charters make their own disciplinary rules and can toss out kids who misbehave by their rules...
  • Sixth, the charters have longer school days, longer school weeks, and a longer school year. More time to teach...
  • Seventh, charters keep their costs low by encouraging or tolerating or not minding constant turnover among the teachers...
Linda Sutton to Washington State Voters
...cutting the budgets, demonizing teachers, and trashing unions help make "bad" schools a self-fulfilling prophesy. And the public and parents, disgusted with what is left in these money-starved and dumbed-down curriculums (caused by teach-to-the-test), grasp for any straw of hope. Thus, the corporate-driven propaganda constantly tells them that charters are the answer.

PRIVATIZATION

Let Big Business Save Our Schools and Our Children

Shall we give our schools to the same hedge fund managers who brought us "Economy 2008?"

Students from middle to high income schools in America have among the highest scores on international tests. Poverty is the factor that lowers our scores compared to other nations. With our child poverty rate growing beyond 22% our "average" scores are diminished internationally.
P. S. No one seemed to notice that the "school crisis" in America was still limited almost entirely to the poorest inner cities and poorest rural areas.

No one seemed to notice that in the very best public school districts, teachers were still unionized.

No one noticed that Japan always ranked near the top in education; but that the Japanese economy stalled out in the 1990s and hasn't grown a bit since. And none of the right-wing thinkers bothered to explain how--if schools were failing--we were losing jobs to Mexico and Bangladesh and not Finland and South Korea.
Ten Years of “Reform” and Still So Much Failure
The New York Daily News has an editorial this morning complaining about an arbitrator’s decision to stop Mayor Michael Bloomberg from closing 24 schools.

As usual, the editorial lambastes the teachers’ union, which is supposedly the font of all evil in education. The editorial writer forgets that the city Department of Education agreed to enter into binding arbitration. Having lost the decision, the city and the newspaper forget the plain meaning of the word “binding.”

The crucial issue: No question is raised about why so many schools continue to “fail” after a full decade of “reform” in New York City.

How many years must it take before the failure stops? Twenty? Thirty? Forty?

The Daily News editorial writers will never hold the mayor accountable for improving the schools, over which he has had total control for ten years. He has a puppet board, which routinely approves whatever the mayor wants. Never in ten years has the board said no to any decision of his. He negotiates with no one.
When is a school not a school? When it’s a profit center.
...if the education reformers have their way it soon will be. No matter what direction the so-called reform comes from, and no matter what level it’s aimed at, all the solutions to what ails education in America today have one thing in common: taking money from public institutions and putting it into private pockets.

POLITICS

Mitt Romney unveils education reform plan heavy on 'parental choice'

This is the man who wants American students to have the best education that they can afford. His policies will mean mediocre or worse for whoever is unable to "afford" the best.
“As president, I will pursue bold policy changes,” said Romney. “Dramatically expanding parental choice, making schools responsible for results by giving parents access to clear and instructive information, and attracting and rewarding our best teachers – these changes can help ensure that every parent has a choice and every child has a chance.”

TESTING

How Indiana Students Fared On This Year’s ISTEP+ Exams

Testing can be an important educational tool, but it's being misused. The information in this report shows -- once again -- that our students who live in poverty are struggling. That's where we need to focus our attention.

This information should not be used to punish schools or school systems, to evaluate teachers, or to enrich the pockets of corporate edupreneurs. Test results give us an indication of where our public resources need to be directed. We need to fix and support our public schools...not privatize them.
Overall ISTEP+ scores are higher than they’ve ever been, but stubborn socio-economic achievement gaps remain. While low-income and minority students’ scores have increased slightly faster than the population as a whole, they still lag behind.
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*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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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

From: Bob Schaeffer at FairTest

Thank you for endorsing the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing!

The Resolution campaign is off to a great start. We now have more than 10,000 individual signatures and endorsements from nearly 400 organizations. Our work has earned national attention, including from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The Resolution has generated particular strength in Florida. School boards in several of the state's largest districts and the state PTA have endorsed it, and the Florida State School Board Association passed a parallel resolution. With similar outreach in other states, we'll have an even stronger impact!

To do so, we need your help. Please take a few minutes to build this important movement. You can find sample letters for use with friends and colleagues, school boards, PTAs and other groups, and legislators posted on the web at http://fairtest.org/how-you-can-build-support-national-resolution-high.

First: Tell your friends!

If each signer contacts just four family members, co-workers, and activist colleagues, the number of signers will soar. Can you reach out to a handful of other people who care about the damage high-stakes testing is doing to our children? (You can use the sample letters.)

Second: Introduce the resolution to organizations! These could include:

School boards. More than 550 Texas school boards representing two-thirds of the state’s children have passed a similar resolution, and boards around the country have endorsed the national resolution you signed.

PTAs and PTOs. PTAs and PTOs are especially strong voices in educational matters because they represent so many parents (and thus voters). State and local PTAs and PTOs around the country are starting to endorse the Resolution. Get your local and state PTAs and PTOs on board.

Civic organizations, religious denominations, Chambers of Commerce and other organizations. Many community organizations are strong advocates for high-quality education. If you are a member, ask them to sign on.

Third: Inform your elected officials of your position! Local, state and federal representatives need to know that a broad spectrum of voters opposes high-stakes testing. Send a letter or schedule a personal visit with an official or his/her staff. (You can reach your U.S. Senator or Representative through http://www.contactingthecongress.org/).

Thanks again for your help!

The Sponsoring Committee for the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

Reposted from Mike Klonsky's SmallTalk Blog

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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The State Continues to Damage Public Education

If there is anyone who still has doubts that the goal of the corporate "reformers" is the destruction of the public schools then Karen Francisco's editorial in the July 6th Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's blog site should convince them.
Textbook example: Slighting public schools

Some taxpayers received an early bonus with a new private school/home school tax deduction for textbooks....[which,] according to Chetrice Mosley of the Indiana Department of Revenue, has cost the state $2,649,091. About 44,000 tax filers have claimed $77.9 million in textbook and fees incurred at private and parochial schools and in home-schooling...The key here is that the deduction is not available to families who send their children to public school, even though Indiana is one of just a few states that allow textbook fees. (emphasis mine)
This is an economic incentive to parents to withdraw their children from public schools and send them to private and parochial schools...or not to send them to school at all. The State of Indiana, by allowing this deduction, as well as providing vouchers, is using public money to pay for private and parochial schools.

The $325 million which has been stripped from the public school budgets over the last couple of years has not been replaced despite the $2 Billion surplus the state is now sitting on. The surplus, which came from cuts to the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Education, the Department of Child Services, the Family and Social Services Administration, and elsewhere, is going to be returned to the taxpayers. Instead of using the money to pay for essential social services, the state is giving it back.

Instead of helping financially strapped public schools get through difficult times, the state is going to return the money to the taxpayers (who, by the way, pay their taxes to support public schools, child services, veterans affairs, etc)...and those people who withdraw their children from the public schools get an added bonus of a tax deduction for private and parochial school textbook expenses.

My local school system closed 4 elementary schools last year...and have plans to close two more...because of budget cuts. Teachers are being laid off. Programs are being cut. School systems around the state are cutting essential services for children. Meanwhile the state increases financial resources for corporate charter schools, private and parochial school vouchers, and tax deductions for private and parochial school patrons.

It's public money. It should go to public schools.

Diane Ravitch published Five Steps to Destroy Public Education in her blog entry of June 17, 2012.
1. Under-fund/STARVE the schools financially
2. Overcrowd the classrooms, reduce programs, supplies
3. Fail the public school using NCLB and/or Race to the Top laws leaving the public school in death-throws
4. Sell the school to private charters
5. Public school, Dead On Arrival
I think it's time to edit #4 in that list. It should read,
4a. Sell the school to private charters
4b. Pay parents to move their children out of the public schools.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Still Test-Crazy After All These Years

We were cleaning out some old books and found this cartoon stuck in one of them. It's from April 21, 2000. The title is If Mozart and Michelangelo Were Washington Students Today. [What's more amazing is that I found it online here.]

The message is no different today than it was 12 years ago...except now, with the over-focus on nonfiction of the Common (rotten-to-the) Core Standards, we should probably add a picture of Will Shakespeare in the corner writing on his parchment...

This is appropriate for the entire nation, not just the state of Washington, and just as important today as it was in 2000. We're still following the same foolish test-crazy path.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, July 6, 2012

What About the Students with "Pre-Existing Conditions?"

A Fox News medical contributor complained that doctors will resent being forced to cover people who don't take care of their health...people who are neglectful of their health or live unhealthy lifestyles. Dr. Marc Siegel said,
They are forcing me to cover all pre-existing conditions, which sounds great. Let’s take care of everybody’s pre-existing condition. You lie on the couch for 30 years, you never exercise, you gain weight, you eat all the wrong foods, you get diabetes and now you have Obamacare. But the fact is, doctors don’t have to play ball with it. If they are not paid enough they won’t play ball with it.

Doctors that don't have any other choice, that are new in the game, or haven't made the amount of money they need, or aren't well known, those doctors will be accepting Obamacare. The others will be accepting cash. That's a two tiered system...
Dr. Siegel seems to be saying that doctors will reject being forced to take certain patients...and patients who have enough money will be able to pay cash and will get good service, while others might not.

I wonder how that would sound if we swap doctors for educators and medicine for education. Let's rewrite Dr. Siegel's comments from a teacher's point of view...
They are forcing me to teach students of all backgrounds, which sounds great. Let's teach everyone's children. The children with no literacy in the home, whose parents don't (or can't) work with them, who are dropped in front of a TV for hours each day...and now you have public education.

Teachers who don't have any other choice, who are new, or who haven't got the seniority...those teachers will have to work with students who are the most difficult to educate, who need the most help. That's a two tiered system.
"...and now you have public education." Exactly! That's what public education is...every child is accepted. It doesn't matter what their background is, or who their parents are. It doesn't matter if they have had numerous literacy experiences during their infancy, toddlerhood and early childhood. Public education accepts everyone.

The two tiered system Dr. Siegel refers to is expanding in the education sector. Public funding for public education is being cut. Increasingly public funding is being diverted to corporate charters and to vouchers for private schools.

The education debate has been redefined. The community aspect of public education is being lost and public education is no longer a place where children learn to be good citizens. The democratic advantage of a publicly funded educated citizenry is no longer valued and we have, as a nation, become selfish. The selling of the public education system, which is proceeding at an alarming rate, reflects the competition of our "me-centered" society. "This is what I want...if you want something get your own." With fully funded public education we were "in this together." Now, it's "every man for himself."

Race to the Top is the educational opposite of the Affordable Care Act. It doesn't provide resources to those who need it most. Instead, it rewards selected states who agree to the DOE's educationally and statistically unsound practices like the misuse of testing and increased corporate charters despite research which shows that most charters are no better than most neighborhood public schools.

The privatization of American public education creates a two tiered system. Those who have the resources can provide a sound education for their children. As Mitt Romney said, American students should "get as much education as they can afford."

What about the students with "pre-existing conditions?" What about students with special needs, emotional and academic problems? What about the students who don't have a lot of money or haven't had a lot of experiences? What about the students whose parents are immigrants and don't speak English? What about students who don't have enough food or are homeless?

"As much education as they can afford" leaves a lot of students behind.

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By the way, you can hear for yourself what Dr. Siegel had to say, here.

Think Progress responded,
In reality, only a small minority of doctors in higher-income areas refuse to accept insurance. Most providers participate in Medicare and Medicaid and will continue to do so under the Affordable Care Act.

The law increases incentive payments for primary care physicians in Medicare, general surgeons in rural and underserved areas, and some mental health services. Primary care physicians in Medicaid will also receive a payment bump in 2013 and 2014. ACA also invests in preventive care and wellness initiative to encourage people to lead healthier life styles.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Don't Throw Your Hands Up and Walk Away

Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University (also read HERE and HERE) recently posted this on Facebook:
There is a growing consensus among both political parties that our public schools must be reformed; there is no such consensus on reducing poverty, ending draconian drug laws, dismantling the prison industrial complex, raising the minimum wage or ending "stop and frisk" policing. There is no evidence that the school reform measures being proposed will have any impact in reducing racial and economic inequality or removing the police state atmosphere in working class and poor communities. It is a diversion, a distraction, or a smokescreen for profiteering and consolidation of privilege-take your pick.
One has to wonder how much could be accomplished if Gates, Broad, Walton, Duncan, et al focused their attention on ending the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world. Unfortunately, there's no profit to be made from ending poverty, improving people's lives, or saving public institutions.

Instead of thinking up ways to test kindergartners maybe the "reformers" could find ways to increase the number of students for whom a developmental early childhood education program is available.

Instead of closing public schools in city after city maybe the "reformers" could help public schools improve by providing resources instead of redirecting resources to privatizers.

Instead of shuffling students from one closing school to another thus further reducing their achievement and increasing the drop out rate, maybe the "reformers" could help provide stability to neighborhood schools with support for after school programs, day care, jobs, and community improvements.

Instead of blaming schools and teachers for "failing" maybe the "reformers" could focus on improving the social conditions which lead to failure.

The truth is, we don't have "failing schools." We have a "failing society."

How should we improve public education? Elizabeth Walters, a public school teacher in Louisiana suggests this...
It seems self-evident that one of the best ways to to improve public education would be to allocate more resources for public schools–to improve technology, to expand professional-development opportunities for teachers, to buy classroom supplies, up-to-date textbooks and all the other materials that come with a good education. Perhaps one of the best ways to improve public education would be to loosen the strictures that tie student and school evaluations to test preparation and instead to allow teachers to instruct students in the sort of project-based units supported by educational research and the sort of critical-thinking skills that cannot be measured by filling in bubbles–the sort of academic freedom that is praised in charter schools but restricted in traditional public schools.

Perhaps most importantly, one of the best ways to improve public education would be to work to alleviate those factors beyond teachers’ control that affect students’ ability to learn...unemployment, poverty, violence, crime rates, family instability, childhood hunger, access to health care.
That would be a good start.

In 2007 Candidate Barak Obama told us not to "label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next." Why are we still walking away from America's public schools?
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Coming Soon to a City Near You -- Part II*

City after city and, in the case of Louisiana, even states, are losing their public school system to privatization -- through corporate charters and vouchers. New Orleans (where Arne Duncan claimed that Katrina was the best thing that happened to education) and all of Louisiana, as well as Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago...and now...

Memphis
Memphis District to Lose $212 Million to Charter Schools by 2016

The story unfolding in Memphis around the consolidation of Memphis and Shelby County Schools gets more and more interesting. Today one of the Gates front men, Gary Shorb, published a plea in the Commercial-Appeal for all sides to come together to embrace what is essentially a resegregation merger plan written by the Gates Foundation and their political arm-twisting outfit, Stand On For Children (SFC). SFC has successfully led the anti-teacher, anti-child, and anti-parent fight for corporate education reform in Colorado, Ilinois, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. It is most interesting and the ultimate irony that the County Commission, which supports the "merger" plan, is now accusing outlying Shelby County towns of racism for planning to bail out on this corporate-sponsored apartheid plan for Memphis.
There are obvious conflicts of interest here...yet no one seems to notice or care. There is also the fact that the public school system is being removed from public control.
Theft of Public Education in Memphis
By 2016, a mere four years from now, enrollment in charter schools will increase from 4% to 19%. This will happen not because parents or students have asked to be assigned to charters but because the planners want it to happen (one guess as to who devised the plan).

This will result in a handover of $212 million of public funds to privately managed charter schools.

That is, $212 million will be removed from the budget of the public schools and transferred to charter schools whose governance is private and not subject to local, democratic control.
Cleveland

...and add Cleveland to the list, too. Cleveland is already home to America's oldest voucher plan in which millions of dollars each year are given to private schools. Research has shown that the achievement of the students in the privately run, but publicly funded schools is no better than the public schools.
Cleveland's corporate reform bill signed by Kasich

The new law overrides the union's contract and discards previous board-union agreements governing teacher pay and layoffs, does away with tenure, lengthens the school day and year without accompanying compensation, evaluates and pays teachers based largely on student test scores, and pushes the biggest move yet towards privately managed charter schools along the lines of the Philadelphia model. The new law is also an affront to parents, requiring them to attend meetings under penalty of law. It will take badly-needed funds away from neighborhood public schools and line the pockets of politically connected consultants.
This is not a case of so-called "failing" public schools being improved by corporate intervention or of privately run schools doing a better job with the influx of public funds. This is simply a giveaway of the public schools by corporate and conservative interests. It's privatization of public schools for the sake of profit. America needs it's public schools...and we need them under public control and scrutiny, not run by the same people who gave us our current economy. If schools are broken, invest in them and fix them. Don't give them away.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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*Coming Soon to a City Near You, Part I dealt with the publication of teacher evaluations.