"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

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Medley #26

Corporate Education Reform.

Usually my "Medleys" contain 5 or more articles dealing with several subjects. Today, though I want to highlight just one thing.

As the last "Medley" of 2012 this one covers just one topic focusing on one blog entry and its comments.

KatieO is a teacher in a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. In her post from December 28, 2012, she wrote about ways in which corporate "reform" is the hurting the education of her students. By extension, the same can be written about students all over the country. It's worth the read...

Make No Mistake, Corporate Ed Reform is Hurting Kids
And those proponents of choice brag about closing down "under-performing charters" the same as neighborhood schools as if this were a good thing! The number one thing my students require is stability and connection. And those are the very things which are being lost as CPS follows the corporate education reform path. Edreform's goal is a neverending cycle of chaos, with schools being opened and shut down again like shoe stores. And this model goes against everything we know to be good for children.

Education Reform does not work. It shuffles kids around, concentrating a few high-achievers in the choosen "miracle schools" in order to be able to market "choice", but does not actually do anything remotely innovative or even new. And to condemn so many of those bright young charter kids to "no excuses" discipline codes makes me ill. Why can't they get creative, progressive teaching and learning like the children of the suburbs get? Edreform is all smoke and mirrors. And while reformers try to spin their made-up successes, the children being left behind are being hurt, neglected, and abused like never before.
As is so often the case, there are thoughtful comments which include valuable insights. This is part of Comment #4 by Maureen Reedy.
It is time to take action from the Outside/ In.

Keep contacting people in a position to bring Katie’s facts to light, keep going with reaching your contacts, newspaper columnists, talk show hosts, etc.

Keep moving with your words, your expertise, your stories, your ACTIONS.

Keep doing what you can to save our children and public education.

Thank you Katie, thank you Diane, thank you to all friends who are fighting for our precious children, the real victims of corporate reform.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Cost of Exploration

The Mars Rover, Curiosity, is now crawling about the surface of one of our nearest neighbors in space. NASA released a picture which Curiosity took of itself...the equivalent of holding a camera in front of your face and snapping a picture. Take a look...

[Click here to see Curiosity's arm movement for taking a self-portrait]


Can We Afford This?

It's estimated that Curiosity's mission to Mars (over 9 years) has cost us about $2.5 billion. Can we really afford that? Is it worth the money?

Let's put the cost in perspective. Compare $2.5 billion with the following:

$1.38 trillion on two wars over the last 10 years
$17.6 billion on Christmas 2012,and more than $8 billion on Halloween
more than $20 billion a year on beer and more than $80 billion on cigarettes

The cost per American for the Curiosity's mission is about $8.00. For a family of four that's less than the average monthly cost of cell phone service ($47), even less if you have a smart phone.

We also spend around $750 billion on education, including public and private schools, from preschool through college.

We Can't Afford Not to Fund NASA

What have we gotten for our investment in the space program over the years? In an article titled Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost? a group of space experts discussed the cost of the venture...over the lifetime of America's space program.
It is true that, for every dollar we spend on the space program, the U.S. economy receives about $8 of economic benefit. Space exploration can also serve as a stimulus for children to enter the fields of science and engineering.
Apparently STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is important. Inspiring children to go into those areas is probably a good thing.
Is there a price to inspiration and creativity? Economic, scientific and technological returns of space exploration have far exceeded the investment. Globally, 43 countries now have their own observing or communication satellites in Earth orbit. Observing Earth has provided G.P.S., meteorological forecasts, predictions and management of hurricanes and other natural disasters, and global monitoring of the environment, as well as surveillance and intelligence. Satellite communications have changed life and business practices with computer operations, cell phones, global banking, and TV. Studying humans living in the microgravity of space has expanded our understanding of osteoporosis and balance disorders, and has led to new treatments. Wealth-generating medical devices and instrumentation such as digital mammography and outpatient breast biopsy procedures and the application of telemedicine to emergency care are but a few of the social and economic benefits of manned exploration that we take for granted.

Space exploration is not a drain on the economy; it generates infinitely more wealth than it spends. Royalties on NASA patents and licenses currently go directly to the U.S. Treasury, not back to NASA.
It seems that NASA is bringing money back into the US Treasury...not just taking it out.
Unquestionably, manned exploration of that era also created unintended economic consequences and benefits, such as the spinoff of miniaturization that led to computers and cell phones.

To be certain, tax dollars spent on space projects result in jobs — a large proportion of which are high paying, high tech positions. But many other government programs do that as well — some more efficiently.
I don't remember any of the presidentail candidates talking about stimulating the economy and helping the job market by increasing spending for NASA...
Still, for those who would moan that this money could be “better spent back on Earth,” I would simply say that all of this money is spent on Earth — it creates jobs and provides business to companies, just as any other government program does. You have to spend all of NASA’s money “on Earth.” There is no way to spend it in space — at least, not yet.
One of my favorite people, Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about space exploration...



Innovations of scientific technology have been the drivers of...they've been the engines of economic growth ever since the Industrial Revolution.

The space program can be the tentpole for the entire scientific enterprise which can give manifold benefits in various different ways.
He also wrote an article for The Atlantic, How Space Exploration Can Make America Great Again. We need to educate adults about the benefits of space exploration.
Give NASA the money it needs, he argues, and the agency will stimulate the economy and inspire students to pursue innovative, ambitious projects. (Say, for example, a way to thwart a wayward asteroid that could threaten to wipe out humanity.) Continue to fund NASA at its current rate -- a shade more than $18.7 billion in 2011, or as Tyson often reminds, six-tenths of a percent of the federal budget -- and the country will lose an ongoing space race to the Chinese and European space agencies of the world.

The challenge has never been children. The challenge has been adults. I don't think you have to do anything special to get kids interested in science, other than to get out of their way when they're expressing that curiosity.

All the adults are saying, "We need to improve science in the world. Let's train the kids." I've never heard an adult say, "We need more science in the world. Train me." I've never heard an adult say that. It's the adults that need the science literacy, the kind of literacy that can transform the nation practically overnight.

...and in his book, The Space Chronicles...
At least once a week, if not once a day, we might each ponder what cosmic truths lie undiscovered before us, perhaps awaiting the arrival of a clever thinker, an ingenious experiment, or an innoabtive space mission to reaveal them.We might further ponder how those discoveries may one day transform life on Earth.

Absent such curiosity, we are not different from the provincial farmer who expresses no need to venture beyond the county line, because his forty acres meet all his needs. Yet if all our predecessors had felt that way, the farmer would instead be a cave dweller, chasing down his dinner with a stick and a rock.

During our brief stay on planet Earch, we owe ourselves and our decedents the oppportunity to explore -- in part becuase it's fun to do. But there's a far nobler reason. The day our knowledge of the cosmos ceases to expand, we risk regressing to the childish view that the universe figuratively and literally revloves around us. In that bleak world, arms-bearing, resource-hungry people and nations would be prone to act on their "low contracted prejudices." And that would be the last gasp of human enlightenment -- until the rise of a visionary new culture that could once again embrace the cosmic perspective.

Just how has the space program benefited us? Specifics? Here are two sites with some information.

NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives
Space exploration has created new markets and new technologies that have spurred our economy and changed our lives in many ways.

Health and Medicine (Artificial Limbs)
Transportation (Anti-Icing Systems for aircraft)
Chemical Detection (Identification of corrosive conditions in aircraft)
Public Safety (Firefighter Gear)
Consumer, Home, and Recreation (Freeze Drying Technology)
Environmental and Agricultural Resources (Harnessing Solar Energy and Water Purification)
Computer Technology (Better Software)
Industrial Productivity (Improved Mine Safety)
Food Safety Systems (guidelines for handling food to prevent danger)
Space Program Benefits: NASA’s Positive Impact on Society
...since 1990, NASA has recognized its “Government and Commercial Invention of the Year” and, since 1994, the “Software of the Year.” The following examples, shown by the year they were published in Spinoff, are merely indicative of NASA’s positive societal impact over the years.

1978: Teflon
1982: adaptations for portable cooling systems for treatment of medical ailments such as burning limb syndrome, multiple sclerosis, spinal injuries and sports injuries
1986: lightweight breathing system for firefighters
1991: safer, more reliable, advanced school bus chassis
1994: a mechanical arm that allows surgeons to operate three instruments simultaneously
1995: an artificial heart pump
2000: Global GPS Network
2000: a low cost ballistic parachute system that lowers an entire aircraft to the ground in the event of an emergency
We can't afford not to fund NASA and the space program. Looking at the list of benefits to society it's clear that most of us live in a society built on NASA's innovations. Finally, click here to see a longer list...

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!



~~~

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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Som Sabadell

...posted on Youtube by Banco Sabadell.
On the 130th anniversary of the founding of Banco Sabadell we wanted to pay homage to our city by means of the campaign "Som Sabadell" (We are Sabadell) . This is the flashmob that we arranged as a final culmination with the participation of 100 people from the Vallès Symphony Orchestra, the Lieder, Amics de l'Òpera and Coral Belles Arts choirs.


Thanks to Diane Ravitch's posting, The Happiest Teachers in America? for directing her blog readers here...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Darling-Hammond on American Education

Got some extra time between Christmas and New Years?

Take a listen to Linda Darling-Hammond talking about improving education in the United States and comparing our education system to other nations. She discusses how our international scores have dropped...the relationship between achievement and poverty...the importance of a stable teaching force...how No Child Left Behind has actually lowered achievement in the country and increased teacher attrition and how schools in high poverty locations are not given the resources to succeed and then punished when they fail. She answers the question, "How can we improve education in the US?"

The actual presentation is about an hour long (1:12 if you listen to the intro and questions)...and well worth the time spent.

During the question and answer period she talks about the effects of Teach for America, immigration (legal and otherwise), the cost of American education, and Race to the Top.

Linda Darling-Hammond: The Flat World and Education, August 2, 2010



Linda Darling-Hammond: The Flat World and Education from Chautauqua Institution on FORA.tv

Some quotes from the presentation...
It's not that all schools are failing...we have wonderful successful schools...It's that we are neglecting this group of schools serving our neediest Americans.
  • Each year of additional education nets a 4% gain in long-term economic growth.
  • A new high school dropout in 2010 had less than a 50% chance of getting a job.
  • That job earned less than 1/2 of what the same job earned 20 years ago.
  • Lack of education is ever more strongly correlated with incarceration.
  • Prison costs now complete with education expenditures in many states.
We all now have to care about the education of every person's children. It's not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn't spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders...to be sure they could learn to read...we're spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.

A system of winners and losers is not going to be the most direct course to getting the investments that we need...In every community children grow up and they will have access to preschool education. In every community children should go to a community school where there are well-prepared, thoughtful teachers who are there for the long haul with a thoughtful curriculum. In every community those wrap-around services ought to be there. To do that...we can't do it by winners and losers. We can't do it by some people writing grants and getting two years of funding and then the funding goes away and then you've got to do something else. We've got to do it by making long term, purposeful investments...

Linda Darling-Hammond bio from Chautauqua Institution
Linda Darling-Hammond is Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching and policy work focus on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity.

From 1994 to 2001, Darling-Hammond served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, a blue-ribbon panel whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching and teacher education. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation's 10 most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. She recently served as the leader of President Barack Obama's education policy transition team.

Darling-Hammond has worked with dozens of schools and districts around the nation on studying, developing and scaling up new model schools -- as well as preparation programs for teachers and leaders -- that enable much greater success for diverse students. She has also worked with civil rights and community-based organizations to leverage changes in state and local level policies and to create practices that promote greater equity in educational opportunity and access for traditionally underserved students. For this work, she has been awarded, among others, the Charles W. Eliot Award for Outstanding Contributions to Education, the Asa G. Hilliard Award for Outstanding Achievement in Racial Justice and Education Equity, the Founder' Award from the National Commission on African American Education, the Woman of Valor Award from Educational Equity Concepts, and the Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Having written more than 300 journal articles, Darling-Hammond is author or editor of 16 books, including The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future, Powerful Teacher Education: Lessons from Exemplary Programs and Preparing Teachers for a Changing World: What Teachers Should Learn and Be Able to Do, co-written with John Bransford. She received her bachelor's degree from Yale University and her doctorate in urban education (with highest distinction) from Temple University.

Also check out this review of The Flat World and Education on the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) Blog.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Common Core Confusion

A requirement embedded in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for more reading instruction using non-fiction is causing confusion. Exactly how much more non-fiction is going to be required? Some writers have said that elementary reading instruction must have 50% non-fiction and 70% for high school. Others indicate that the exact amount is not determined by the standards.

Apparently, the amount of non-fiction required will be based on the interpretation of school systems and/or state departments of education. Many are already asking teachers to reduce the amount of fiction students read...and replace it with non-fiction.

There's been an expected backlash against reducing the amount of fiction which students read...and replacing it with non-fiction. Elementary teachers and English teachers, especially, are concerned because of the important place fiction holds in their classrooms.

So, just how important is reading fiction? It turns out that it's extremely important.

Your Brain on Fiction discusses the neuroscience associated with reading fiction.
Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life...Fiction, Dr. Oatley notes, “is a particularly useful simulation because negotiating the social world effectively is extremely tricky, requiring us to weigh up myriad interacting instances of cause and effect. Just as computer simulations can help us get to grips with complex problems such as flying a plane or forecasting the weather, so novels, stories and dramas can help us understand the complexities of social life.”

These findings will affirm the experience of readers who have felt illuminated and instructed by a novel, who have found themselves comparing a plucky young woman to Elizabeth Bennet or a tiresome pedant to Edward Casaubon. Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined.
It's also true that reading and listening to fiction helps students develop a desire to read...and, since reading improves reading, the more students read, the better they will become at it. Teaching reading skills is important, but it's also important to give students an incentive to learn to read. We know that motivation matters...and the motivation to read is improved by reading fiction.

The confusion over the CCSS requirement for non-fiction needs to be addressed before schools, school systems, and states change curricula. Here's Diane Ravitch (reference to David Coleman - see here)...Will the Common Core Standards Reduce Time for Literature?
...English teachers across the nation are cutting back on fiction, because they have been told that the Common Core standards say they must.

The standards say that reading must be 50% fiction/50% nonfiction, and increase in high school to 70% nonfiction. Teachers are dropping novels and poetry and short stories to comply.

But David Coleman says that people are misinformed.

He points to a footnote on page 5 of the 66-page document. He says that English teachers can keep teaching mostly fiction, while math and history teachers teach more reading about math and history. (Had math and history teachers been teaching fiction up until now? Is this a change for them?)
Is the problem with the way the CCSS have been written? One of the "key points" of the language arts standards is to teach students to "write logical arguments based on substantive claims, sound reasoning, and relevant evidence..." Maybe the writers of the CCSS need some instruction on how to construct a clear and concise sentence.

Or maybe I just didn't read enough non-fiction when I was a student.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, December 21, 2012

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Why are we still overusing and misusing tests? One answer seems to trump all the others: Money. The more tests taken, the more the test-makers profit. The four largest test producers are raking in record profits, and here in Indiana we're spending almost $50 million a year to tell teachers what they already know.

We've been pushing back against the overuse of test since Clinton's Goals 2000 -- with little success. As money comes in to the test-maker's pockets it's transferred to lobbyists, to politicians, and legislatures find new uses for tests. No longer content with ranking children and schools based on one less-than-reliable test, it's now national policy to evaluate teachers using a measure designed for something else entirely.

We can't give up. We need to keep fighting against the overuse and misuse of testing which harms schools, teachers, children and public education in general.

It's time to end No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. It's time to end the testing insanity and concentrate on teaching and learning. Lisa Guisbond wrote in What's wrong with standardized tests?
The federal NCLB and other state-imposed high-stakes testing policies have failed to improve our schools and, according to the National Research Council, have caused harm by increasing high school dropout rates. Our misguided national testing craze has squeezed out art, music, sports, social studies and science, even recess, and turned too many classrooms into test preparation centers. It's time for a new direction.
Do Something!

1. Add your voice to the nearly 14,000 individuals and 475 group (including our own Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education) who have signed the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing.

2. Share FairTest's infographic, “What’s wrong with standardized tests?” Send it to friends...put it on social media sites...tuck it into Christmas presents...or just hand out paper copies (get a pdf of the infographic here)!

Want to know more? Visit the FairTest web site for fact sheets and other information.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

No Greater Advocate for America's Students

Here is a wonderful letter from Lisa Myers, a high school English teacher (who also teaches a couple of composition courses at a local college) in Texarkana, Texas.
To America from a Teacher

Dear America,

It feels strange to hear your voice praising teachers for their selflessness, dedication, and love for their students. We’re listening to what you’re saying, but we must admit that we are listening with tilted head and quizzical eye. Why? Because we’ve become accustomed to hearing a very different voice from you.

For the past few years, you’ve been certain that most of society’s problems stem from our schools, more specifically the teachers in those schools. We are lazy and useless, we are only in it for the money, we only teach for the vacation time, we don’t possess the intelligence to teach anyone much of anything, our demands for a respectable wage are selfish, we don’t teach students respect, we are leaches sucking the blood from State coffers, we don’t even work a full day like everyone else, and the most hurtful one of all - we don’t care about our students. Concerned citizens have even documented these ills in grossly successful movies that take the worst of us and use it to convince the public that teachers are deserving of nothing but disdain.

Yet, in one weekend, with one horrific tragedy, your voice has changed. The general indictment that has been assigned to us has seemingly been lifted. All of the sudden, America is looking to us with respect, admiration, trust, and something that looks a bit like… awe. It’s puzzling, really. We are the same people we were last Friday morning, doing the same job we’ve diligently done since choosing our career.

Of course, we do realize what has happened. Something horrific occurred last Friday, and as a result, America saw the uncensored soul that resides in the vast majority of teachers. There were no special interest groups telling you what teachers are really like, no businessmen or women proffering data-driven solutions that will fix every instructional problem, no politicians pontificating about the grading of teachers based on the value they add to students. No, what you saw was the real thing, teachers who love America’s children so much that they dedicate their all to their welfare.

No, for most of us, our all does not include a sacrificial death, but it does include a sacrificial life. It means working a full day at school then continuing that work at home well into the evening as we grade papers and prepare materials that will lead to authentic learning in the classroom. That’s our surface work. At a deeper level, however, we also do the following:

  • notice our students’ hurts as well as joys so we can be sure to validate them with our comments and actions
  • communicate with our students in a manner that conveys regard for them, even if regard isn’t shared for us
  • advocate for services that will improve the likelihood of students’ success
  • volunteer for extra-curricular activities so children will know we care about their whole life, not just what they do in the classroom
  • coordinate numerous fund-raisers in order to attain the resources needed to teach students
  • spend our own money where fundraisers fall short

In truth, our souls are just about as self-sacrificial as souls come, and it is this part of us that you witnessed last Friday in Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto. Yes, they paid the ultimate price, but we want you to understand that what they did on Friday was a natural outpouring of what they were already practicing: a dedication of their lives to your children. It is generally true that if one is going to die for another, he or she is first willing to live for that person. These women did just that.

It is inevitable that days will grow between last Friday and the present, and thoughts will turn to memory. However, we pray that you will not forget this glimpse into the souls of teachers this tragedy afforded us. Please do not return to lumping us together into a rejection bin after seeing a few examples of teachers who do not belong in our ranks. Realize that you will find no greater advocate for America’s students than in us. Appreciate our efforts, and in so doing, create an atmosphere of respect for what we do. In short, simply treat us with the dignity that you’re displaying today. We might find that many answers lie in that action alone.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

At School: Teachers as First Responders

I had decided that I was done posting stories about the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut...but as people process the events there are many thoughts which I believe are valuable to read.

It's unfortunate that this only seems to happen when there's a tragedy or disaster of some sort...mass killings like the ones in Newtown or Aurora...disasters like Katrina...or acts of war like the attacks on 9/11. The intensity of the experience gives people the unwelcomed opportunity to put themselves in another's shoes -- to empathize with others. We know that it can happen anywhere. We are fragile, emotional beings and some of our co-inhabitants on this planet, and sometimes the planet itself, remind us of that all too often.

For whatever reason, humans have always had trouble not killing each other. Has there ever been a time when someone somewhere wasn't at war with someone else? On the other side of that coin are the "helpers" as Fred Rogers called them.
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
There are always helpers who spend their days and often risk their own lives for the sake of others.

Some "helpers" deal with the physical...like nurses, EMTs and doctors. Others deal with the societal...like firefighters, police officers and soldiers. Still others attend to the emotional like therapists, more nurses, and more doctors.

Often "helpers" in one area have to cross over to another. Teachers do that on a daily basis. While focusing on academic growth, teachers have to help students in emotional distress...and sometimes, they have to help them deal with life-threatening situations like the teachers at Sandy Hook did.

The first first responders: Teachers stand on the front lines every day

Those of us who have been calling out the misuse and overuse of tests and the wrong direction the so-called "reformers" are taking public education, have been saying for years that there's more to being an educator than getting kids to pass a test. We were reminded of that in stark, horrible, and terrifying terms last Friday.

Teachers perform acts of heroism daily while being insulted, dismissed and ignored by politicians, pundits and policy makers.
We need to remind ourselves why teachers do what they do, how they care for our children, how they are co-guarantors, along with parents, of our future. Far beyond instruction, fidelity to curriculum, Common Core State Standards and the like are the daily challenges of teaching children who come to school with a limitless supply of problems and struggles.

It is true that we teach because we want children to learn, grow and succeed in this tough world. But there is so much more that we do.

We dry tears.

We try to keep sleep-deprived students alert enough to keep their heads off their desks.

We hug and hold students who have experienced a death in the family, a drug overdose, the incarceration of a parent or sibling, a shooting in the neighborhood, physical or sexual abuse, the emotional trauma of their parents' separations and divorces, abandonment.

We comfort students who are pregnant or seriously ill.

We purchase and distribute clothes (including socks and underwear), books, food, even beds, so that our students will have one less worry to distract them from learning.

We hand out stickers, trinkets, candies and treats.

We break up fights, mediate conflicts and mentor curious and creative children.

Frequently, we are the first to recognize signs of mental illness.

Every day at school, we are the first first responders.
[emphasis added]



Remember the Children

I've said this before...Children are not a high priority in our nation. Our priorities are money, money, and money. We've mortgaged their future, damaged the environment they're going to have to live with, and now, those who are jockeying for power are using them as a pawn in a quest for control of the money spent on public education.

We have the highest child poverty rate among advanced nations in the world and we're taking away their already meager safety nets. We're squandering our greatest resource -- our children.
America’s children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.

Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty.

And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb.
Connecticut Shooting: Sandy Hook Elementary Teacher Kaitlin Roig Protected Her Students

Yes, Ms. Roig, it's ok to tell your students that you love them.
"She only spoke, she said, because she wants us to know this is a school of teachers who care so much about each other and their students..." -- Diane Sawyer


Gene Rosen, Newtown Resident, Took In 6 Children During Sandy Hook Shooting

This story really touched me...see the last sentence below.
Rosen said Sandy Hook had always been a place of joy for him. He taught his 8-year-old grandson to ride his bike in the school parking lot and took his 4-year-old granddaughter to use the swings.

"I thought today how life has changed, how that ground has been marred, how that school has been desecrated," he said.

He said it wasn't his training as a psychologist that helped him that day – it was being a grandparent.
Tragedy @ Sandy Hook Elementary: Educators Respond
Educators across the nation mourn the violent loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. Together we reflect, pick up the pieces and console our students. We honor the teachers and staff who risked their lives, gave their lives and saved lives.


Opinion: Sandy Hook Shows Teachers' Enduring Values
Perhaps part of their legacy will be a societal re-examination of the significance of educators and a better appreciation for our sense of duty to our students and our profession. Across the country, our educators commit countless deeds of kindness and altruism for the good of their students, colleagues, schools and communities. They expect nothing in return but to know that they have made a difference.

In other countries, the respect afforded the teaching profession bolsters their societies and helps to sustain it in so many ways. We should find ways to emulate these values and perceptions. We can honor the memories of the deceased by honoring the teachers who perform their noble duties daily. We can collectively elevate the status of education in our society and better support our teachers, students and schools.

...To so many, the educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School demonstrate that the core values of education mirror the greatest ideals of humanity, and they are exemplars in this regard. They offer us hope, and reinforce our belief in the goodness of others and the power of education. In an era of accountability, standards, testing and data, they affirm that what ultimately matters most are the immeasurable lessons and the enduring relationships teachers cultivate with their students.

To the educators of Sandy Hook Elementary School, thank you for the powerful, inspiring example of dedication and compassion you have given us. You have made, and continue to make, a difference to so many. In the midst of this unfathomable loss and profound sorrow, you have buoyed our spirits and given us hope. Because of your passion, courage, sacrifice, and devotion, I am once again reassured to proudly declare to educators everywhere: Never again say, "I am just a teacher."
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reactions to Tragedy, Part 2

More voices reacting to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

[UPDATE:] Heroism In Newtown
...everyone of these people expected to die, and yet their first priority, indeed, their only priority, was to protect their students. Not one of them ran off and left their kids, not one of them did this because of it was in their contracts, because they had to get their kids to pass standardized tests, or because of union agreements.

We go into this profession not for the money or the glory, we go into it for the love of learning, for the love of teaching, and for the love of children. And understand this, too: Every single teacher in America would do the same thing. That is the true meaning of "No Child Left Behind."

President Obama’s full speech


~~~

America's Teachers: Heroes or Greedy Moochers at the Public Trough?

I could have posted the entire article here. It's that good...
Let’s just note that the heroic teachers who died while courageously trying to protect their kids at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and the others who survived but stayed to protect the kids, were all part of a school system where the employees are members of the American Federation of Teachers.

Let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Those teachers, who are routinely being accused by our politicians of being drones and selfish, incompetent money grubbers worried more about their pensions than about teaching our children (though most, even after 10 years, earn less than $55,000 a year for doing a very difficult job that involves at least 12-14 hours a day of work and prep time counting meetings with parents), stood their ground when confronted with a psychotic assailant armed with semi-automatic pistols and an automatic rifle, and protected their kids. The principal too, a veteran teacher herself, stood her ground, reportedly suicidally charging at the assailant along with the school’s psychologist in a doomed effort to tackle him and stop the carnage.

Shaken Sandy Hook teachers: 'In time, we're going to heal'
“We’re going to stick together and in time, we’re going to heal.”

Reflections from Readers, 14, Diane Ravitch's blog

Diane Ravitch has 40 (and counting) "reflections from readers" filling her blog.
People don’t usually think of teachers as first responders, but that is exactly what they are. Whether it is physical assault, social aggression, emotional trauma or cognitive battering, educators are there to protect and defend our nation’s children each day.

Teachers risked, lost their lives to protect Sandy Hook children

Two kindergarten teachers take care of their students.




You touch hearts every day.
You change lives every day.
Monday is no different.
The people who will have the biggest influence on how our country will heal and who will bear the biggest responsibly for making it whole again are sitting right in front of you.
They need you.
You are their teacher.
You know exactly what to do

Dichotomy

These two articles show the divide in America. The first one is a congressman who is suggesting that we keep automatic weapons in our classrooms. The second, a senator who is going to introduce an assault weapons ban first chance she gets. Interesting reads...

GOP Rep Suggests Teachers Should Be Armed With Assault Rifles

Senator Vows To Introduce New Assault Weapons Ban On The First Day Of Congress

~~~

Reactions to Tragedy

I can't imagine any teacher in America, or the world for that matter, who hasn't spent some time in the past 48 hours thinking about what he or she would do if faced with a deadly attack on his or her students.

The story of Vicki Leigh Soto whether 100% accurate or not, is an indication that she, along with many of her colleagues at Sandy Hook, did whatever was humanly possible to protect the young lives under their care.

The loss of so many young lives is just the latest in a series of similar stories. Our reactions are predictable...anger, sadness, disbelief...and fear. It's a reality in our nation that those who are entrusted with the education of young children are -- and have always been -- entrusted with their safety as well....from the air raid drills I remember growing up with in Chicago during the Cold War, to storm and fire drills...to the current need for lockdowns and "red alerts."

Pundits, politicians, and the usual teacher-bashers are praising the acts of the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How long will it be, however, before teachers are again accused of being failures, of only being in it for the money, of only caring about their pocketbooks, of teaching only because "those who can't, teach?"

How long will it be before more contract rights are taken away from teachers, more public schools are closed because of the nation's failure to deal with poverty (and violence), and more public money is transferred to private schools or corporate charters?

At first...immediately after the attack on children, words failed. Now the words are starting to come out. The words of anger and of anguish. Here are just a few voices...

Let the Nurturers Nurture
In another room in that building, fellow first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig locked her little ones in a bathroom and pulled a bookshelf in front of the door. She told the children to be perfectly quiet. She told the children there were bad guys out there right then and that they needed to wait for the good guys.

“As their teacher, I’m their protector,” the teacher told Diane Sawyer.

“I told the kids I love them,” she said, “and I was so happy they were my students…I said anyone who believed in the power of prayer, we need to pray.” And she didn’t leave out the children who didn’t believe in prayer. She told them to think happy thoughts. Even in a time of extreme stress, her thoughts were on the individual needs of those children.

She said she wanted “I love you” to be one of the last things they heard, because she was sure they were all going to die.

As this teacher contemplated her own death, she didn’t think about what she needed. She thought about what those little ones needed.

Thank you, teachers

This is from a science blog. The authors generally focus on the conflict some people have between science and religion...and evolution topics. Speaking about teachers...
And for this they get to be one of the most denigrated groups of professionals in the United States, targeted every single [expletive deleted] year for one “reform” after another, vouchers from the fundies and charter schools from the liberals, forced by law to take every spark of individuality and interest out of their curricula and then blamed when their students lose interest, resented their pensions and their health care by people who then blame them when their kids turn out to be apathetic.

Once the media horror dies down about Soto and her co-workers’ sacrifices, I guarantee you this: public school grade school teachers will go right back to being the despised class. “Union thugs.” “With three-month vacations.” “Teaching kids their ABCs.” All the idiotic, ill-informed, right wing anti-intellectual myths will rev up again as if nothing had happened. And in the meantime the people the Fox pundits despise will go on teaching kids to read and do math and treat each other with respect.

In other words, it’s not really that much of a jump to imagine all the teachers I know instinctively taking a bullet to protect their kids. To a first approximation, every single one of them does the same thing every waking moment, giving up their lives by increment to give their students a chance at a better life.

Proud To Teach

Jerzy Jazzman reminds us that teachers put their lives on the line...not just in a wealthy Connecticut town, but across the country in many difficult situations. We all walk into our classrooms thinking about how to reach our students, not how to protect them from evil. But, in an emergency, the first thought of most teachers would be for the safety of their students.
Let me, instead, remind all of you a terrible truth:

The last adult who tried to protect the twenty (dear God, twenty...) beautiful children who died yesterday was their teacher.

Twenty sets of parents - maybe single parents, maybe couples, maybe step parents - twenty sets of parents literally put the lives of their children into the hands of a teacher. Those wonderful teachers literally died because they were will willing to take on the awesome responsibility of caring for and protecting twenty wonderful, precious, innocent lives during the time they were in school.

Michelle Rhee Never Misses an Opportunity To Exploit a Tragedy

How does saving a child's life fit in the VAM evaluation process?
Both these teachers are heroes in their own way. Both these teachers did something extraordinary that cannot be measured with a test, with a piece of paper, with an observation. They did something that none of us put in their situation have no idea what we would do.

If their acts (and I am not omitting any other acts of bravery yesterday, just only know of these two thus far), are the ultimate acts, the very definition of effective teachers, what then would have become of them if they were subject to VAM as whether or not they are effective.

Now, I do not know what the new evaluation system in Connecticut consists of. I can only speak for what is coming or might come in NYC. But what these teachers showed is what happens in schools all over the country in one way or another every day. Intangibles that are so subjective there is no way to measure.

For Rhee and her sycophants to call these teachers in Newtown colleagues is not only laughable, but it is worse. It is vulgar. One of the worst vulgarities I have ever seen. These teachers are career teachers, went into teaching to have a career, a lifetime of education children. Rhee and her ilk stand for everything that is opposite of these two teachers belief systems.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

This article came out after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado -- July 23, 2012. It's an interesting read. Will we ever reach the point where a dozen shooting deaths in a year is too many for the entire country?
America's gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world's 23 "rich" countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America's ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America's.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world's least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Almost no one in Japan owns a gun. Most kinds are illegal, with onerous restrictions on buying and maintaining the few that are allowed. Even the country's infamous, mafia-like Yakuza tend to forgo guns; the few exceptions tend to become big national news stories.

Guns Don't Kill People--Crazy People with Guns Kill People

Read this for an idea of how powerful the gun lobby is in America. We have restrictions for toys and ladders, but not for guns.
Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.

So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.

American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has five pages of regulations about ladders, while federal authorities shrug at serious curbs on firearms. Ladders kill around 300 Americans a year, and guns 30,000.

We even regulate toy guns, by requiring orange tips — but lawmakers don’t have the gumption to stand up to National Rifle Association extremists and regulate real guns as carefully as we do toys. What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?

As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Fischer Explains God’s Inaction

It was only a matter of time before someone said that God didn't protect those children because we "took God out of schools in 1962." One question in response, why did 4 little girls die in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963? Did someone "take God" out of the church?

Those people who use religion in this way are the lowest of the low...stupid, hateful, ignorant people.
And I’m so tired of this “God isn’t allowed in schools” nonsense. Kids pray in school every day and no one stops them. They pray individually and in groups. They gather around the flagpole and pray. There are literally thousands of Christian student groups at public schools all over the nation. They meet for Bible study and prayer sessions before and after school in classrooms and elsewhere on public school campuses. The only thing that can’t be done is the government cannot force a student to pray or read the Bible or be forced to listen to someone else pray.

Snopes: Newtown Rumors
As is typically the case in the wake of tragedy, many rumors began to swirl after the 14 December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 victims dead at that school. We'll try to keep up with some of the more widely-circulated ones...

Thank you Fred.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." -- Fred Rogers
~~~

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Help in a Crisis


Here are some resources for parents, school personnel and community members to access in times of crisis.
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." -- Fred Rogers
The Best Resources On Talking With Children About Tragedies
More Advice On Dealing With Tragedies
Two lists of resources from Larry Ferlazzo.
National Association of School Psychologists
Information to help everyone cope. Helping Children Cope, Helping Children with Special Needs Cope
Click the image below to download the NEA Health Information Network School Crisis Guide.

Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Medley #24

Tony Bennett, "Bad" Schools, International Tests, Poverty,
Why Teachers Quit, Privatization.


TONY BENNETT: Sha-na-na-na, Good-bye.

Much has been written about the State of Florida picking up the contract of Indiana's rejected education leader.

School chief Bennett is chosen for Florida post

Of course...Bennett can't accept that the voters decided he wasn't doing what they wanted him to do. Instead of looking at reality he again credits 58,000 Indiana teachers, only some of whom are members of the Indiana State Teachers Association and Indiana Federation of teachers, for garnering 1.3 million votes against him.
“Many people would say that the Indiana teachers unions are probably part of the reason I wasn’t elected because of much of the same blowback,” Bennett said then.
Who are the "many people" who would say that? Right...Tony and Mitch. Good-bye and good riddance to both of you.


Bennett to Florida: Sure, why not?
Personally I wish Bennett well. One hopes he learned from the election that, if you want to build a consensus for reform, you shouldn’t start by bashing teachers and going out of your way to undermine support for public schools.

But it will be interesting to see how he fares politically in a state that’s bigger and more diverse than Indiana. As the Indiana schools chief, Bennett was the front man, but he was implementing an agenda that was strongly supported by Gov. Mitch Daniels. After the 2010 elections, Republicans dominated the House and Senate and were willing to do whatever Daniels and Bennett wanted.

Florida is under Republican control, too. But Gov. Rick Scott has been quoted as saying the state’s emphasis on test-based accountability may have gone too far, an idea that would be anathema to Bennett and his national supporters. Scott’s statement welcoming Bennett’s appointment focused not on Bennett but on his own education agenda, which centers on college and career readiness.
Tony Bennett Lands on his Feet in Florida
Bennett is the hero to the rightwing “reform” sector, a champion of privatization, vouchers, charters, online for-profit schools, and the Common Core. His last action in Indiana was to lower standards for new trackers and principals, so that no preparation was needed to become a teacher and anyone could become a principal with only two years of experience as a teacher, even in higher education.
A trip south for Tony Bennett
His appointment won't please a number of education groups, whose leaders submitted a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking him to reject Bennett and the two other finalists for the job.

"We will not be silent as our state Board of Education, who serves at your pleasure, considers candidates who are a comfortable fit for them, but a poor choice for the 2.74 million public school children who will bear the brunt of this decision," states the letter. "We strongly urge you to convince the Board of Education to reject these last-minute political applicants, who are not the product of a thoughtful search independent of ideology."

The letter is signed by the president of the Florida PTA and representatives of eight other education groups, including Parents Across America.

IF IT AIN'T BROKE...

Poll: Majority happy with public schools

The changes to Indiana's public education system -- decreased teacher rights, merit pay, increased testing, increased charters, vouchers -- were all done because of the so-called failure of our public schools.
Most of us are satisfied with the quality of public school education in Indiana.

That's one of the conclusions of the new, WISH-TV / Ball State University Hoosier Survey.

Considering some of what we heard around Election Day, that may be a little surprising. Part of the election's education argument hinged on school vouchers, using public money to send kids to private or parochial schools.

Our poll found 28% of the people surveyed support expanding the voucher program. That's down six points from last year.
It's interesting that the cry of "failing schools" and "bad teachers" is shouted even though most parents give their local schools and teachers high grades.

Where are all the "bad" schools?
Where are all the Bad Teachers?



INTERNATIONAL TESTS

The latest TIMSS and PIRLS test results have been published and the hand-wringing has begun. Here are a couple of rational responses...

The Test Ranking Obsession
The results from the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study showed our fourth- and eighth-grade students continuing to lag behind their counterparts in several East Asian and some European countries. The results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed our fourth-graders coming in sixth....

...too little emphasis is given to the role that poverty plays in test results. The U.S. has the highest rate of childhood poverty of any country in the industrialized world...Research has shown time and again the correlation between poverty and performance. For example, middle-class students in suburban schools score near the top on tests of international competition. If poverty is an excuse, as critics assert, then how do they explain this finding? I've never heard a convincing answer.
Exclusive! Pasi Sahlberg on TIMSS and PIRLS
One may also conclude that these international standardized tests are becoming global curriculum standards. Indeed, OECD has observed that its PISA test is already playing an important role in national policy making and education reforms in many countries. Schools, teachers and students are now prepared in advance to take these tests. Learning materials are adjusted to fit to the style of these assessments. Life in many schools around the world is becoming split into important academic study that these tests measure, and other not-so-important study that these measurements don’t cover. Kind of a GERM in grand scale.

POVERTY

Today's Assignment

This is phrased incorrectly. There is no secret. The proponents of the status quo of testing, closing schools and privatization simply ignore the fact of poverty.
The dirty little secret of education reform is that one of the greatest predictors of academic success is household income. Even the standardized tests used for college admissions, like the S.A.T.s, are essentially proxies for income: students from better-off backgrounds get higher scores. The educational system is supposed to be an engine of opportunity and social readjustment, but in some ways it operates as a perpetuator of the status quo.

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

RI Teacher Says"I Quit!"

Teachers are frustrated by being forced to run their classrooms in ways which they know are detrimental to student learning. How many good teachers are quitting to get away from the mind-numbing insanity of more tests, school closings and teacher bashing?
“I would rather leave my secure $70,000 a year job, with benefits and tutor in Connecticut for free than be part of a system that is diamterically opposed to everything I believe education should be.”






PRIVATIZATION and CHARTERS*

School privatization reduces choice – public schools ensure community ownership, innovation and local control

Privatizing public education...taking the decision making away from the community and giving it to corporate interests...limits choices.
Each of the following rights or choices under current law would be notably absent if public funds were used to support private schools:
  1. Your choice of which trustees to vote for and elect to represent the community and oversee how the school district spends taxpayer funds.
  2. Your choice of whether to support requests for funding and other voted matters required to be placed before the voters by public schools.
  3. Your right to observe, participate in and challenge the deliberations and decisions of public schools through open meeting laws.
  4. Your right to know and assess how well the schools you are supporting with your taxes are performing on various standardized measures of student performance. Private schools are exempt assessing and disclosing their performance to the public.
  5. Your right to enroll your child in a school. Unlike public schools, which are required to serve all resident school-aged children, private schools have the right to deny admission for a variety of reasons that would be unlawful if used as a basis for denial of admission in a public school.
 Charter Schools Under-Enroll Students With Special Needs, New Review Finds

The results of a charter study in New York. Do charters, as a whole, push out (or not accept to begin with) difficult to education students? You bet they do.
...the results are very much consistent. It confirms that charter schools are systematically under-enrolling students with special needs.

The report, New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis, by Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, and Patrick Denice, was reviewed for the Think Twice think tank review project by professor Bruce Baker of Rutgers University. The review is published by the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education.

“While the report does show that under-enrollment patterns vary by grade level and to some extent by location, it downplays the fact that the largest subset of charter schools in its sample—elementary and K-8 schools, most of which are in New York City—do systematically under-enroll such children,” Baker writes.

Baker offers praise for some elements of the study but also points out that the authors skewed the selection of schools they examined in ways that stacked the deck in favor of finding less of an imbalance. But the report still found that district schools enrolled proportionally more disabled children than charters – albeit not to the degree that an unskewed comparison of schools would likely have found.

*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.

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Landfill Harmonic

Watch the first minute...after that you won't stop watching. This is great!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Non-Sense

Recent experiences have led me to hypothesize that participation in politics -- at any level -- damages what we all know as "common sense."

Take for example, yesterday's Indiana State School Board meeting where the new licensing requirements for becoming an educator in Indiana were considered.

The board includes five educators, if you count the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett. All of the educators have degrees in education. Some have masters degrees and specialty degrees.

[UPDATE: When I wrote this posting I had been unable to find Tony Bennett's credentials on the Educator License Lookup page of the Department of Education web site. Dr. Bennett goes by his middle name, Anthony, and his credentials are listed under his given name, Charles. I have since found his information and have confirmed that he is, indeed, licensed to teach (and be an administrator) in Indiana. I have edited this blog entry to reflect that information. Thanks to a reader for the correction.]

Three of the educators are currently teachers (two elementary and one middle school) and a fourth is a school superintendent.

Yet, two of those educators, both of the elementary teachers, don't seem to think that the degrees they earned are necessary for future teachers.

Brian Watts (aka "BJ"), who has a bachelors degree and almost 10 years of experience, and Sarah O'Brien, who has a masters degree and a bit over 5 years experience, both voted to accept the new REPA II rules for licensing in Indiana. The new rules call for allowing people who are not trained in education to be given the right to teach in the public schools simply by passing a test. They do need a college degree in the content area in which they teach at least...but training in child development, classroom management, and other apparently unimportant pedagogical topics is not really necessary despite dozens of pleas from all over the state, including one from the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect, Glenda Ritz.

The new rules also reduce the teaching experience needed for a person to get a principal's license from 5 years to 2. I don't suppose that Mr. Watts or Mrs. O'Brien would mind having a boss with just a fraction of their experience giving them orders as to how to set up a grading system, or design a classroom management plan.

The SBOE now has the authority for approving teacher education programs instead of the Department of Education. They are also responsible for approving the new licensure assessments which will give the not-qualified-but-ready-to-take-the-test people their "adjunct" licenses. Looking at the rest of the list of SBOE members, I wonder why they think they're qualified for that task.

The other members of the SBOE aren't educators, but perhaps they don't need to be. After all, they all went to school, so that, of course, makes them education experts (see also, Arne Duncan). I wonder though...

...would David N. Shane, CEO of LDI, Ltd in Indianapolis be willing to hire someone without an MBA or CPA to do some of the tasks assigned to those people in his firm? How about a department head who had only worked in the field for two years?

...How about Daniel Elsner, president of Marian University, a Catholic University in Indianapolis. Would he be willing to hire someone with no experience or training to work at his University? I noticed that every member of the permanent faculty in Marian University's School of Education has letters after their names signifying not just college work in their chosen field, but advanced degrees. I wonder how the dean of the School of Education, Dr. Lindan Hill, would feel if he was told to hire someone who had never actually taught.

...Then there's Tony Walker whose Walker Law Group specializes in Church Law, Real Estate Law, Business Planning, Music Law, and Government Relations. I assume he went to law school...and would only hire trained lawyers to work in his practice. Right?

...would Neil Pickett, director of Health Policy Research with Clarian Heath Partners, be fine with untrained people giving health advice or treatment?

It was a lot harder to find information about the other two members of the non-educator faction of the SBOE.

Jim Edwards of Edwards and Associates got a nice write-up from the Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce. He, too, seems to have a degree which matches his line of work.

Jo Blacketor of Blacketor Consulting in South Bend made it a point to be heard at yesterday's meeting. Doug Martin had some interesting things to say about her and her professional activities.

Would any of these people allow a person untrained and unqualified in their respective fields to work for them? Would any of them actually allow someone who was untrained and unqualified to teach their own children?

Not if they had any common sense.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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