"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, July 8, 2013

2013 Medley #14

Testing, Politics, Public Education
Books, Common Core


TESTING

High-stakes tests: bad for students, teachers, and education in general.

The great advantage of public education is also it's great disadvantage...the public is (or should be) in control. Like democracy itself, public education should be run by the people. This means that it is subject to the errors and foibles of ordinary citizens and their choices. People deserve the government they choose -- assuming they have the right to choose -- and sometimes that government doesn't work for their best interests.

School boards, elected by the people, can institute unpopular changes. In the long run, however, public schools can reflect the will of the people who reelect board members or throw them out of office.

Mayoral appointed school boards or school boards installed in some other manner are not answerable to the public. Private and corporate run pubic schools are often not answerable to the people either. Students, parents and teachers, and the school program in general, is often determined by the whims of those in charge...whether it's "the Mayor" or the corporate CEO.

Current "reformers" want to privatize schools and take the control out of the hands of the voters. The voters are sometimes misinformed or easily swayed, but public education needs to remain public.

The following article from teacherbiz focuses on standardized testing and shows how the lack of public oversight can ultimately harm public education -- in this case, for the entire nation.
It’s unfortunate that reformers and profiteering corporations have such damaging influence in public schools.


POLITICS

Senate Education Bill Fails To Reverse "No Child Left Behind" Damage, Ignores Constituents

No Child Left Behind was a disaster from day one. Gerald Bracey published his first anti-no-child-left-behind article on January 28, 2001, before the law was signed by President Bush. Even then he could see that "NCLB would funnel large sums of public funds into the private sector..." He was right.

The bill, finally, is up for review. Fairtest has some fears about what's going to happen.
  • This bill maintains NCLB’s testing requirements, which have failed to fulfill the law’s fundamental promises of higher overall achievement and smaller gaps between racial groups.
  • Even more testing will be required because states seeking Title II funds will have to include student test scores in teacher evaluation.
  • Focusing sanctions on the lowest-scoring schools will lift the worst punishments from most suburban communities while leaving low-income, minority neighborhoods at continued risk.
...[Monty] Neill concluded, “Instead of pursuing ‘more of the same’ failed policies, policy-makers need to listen to their constituents. It is time to replace high-stakes testing schemes with assessment systems that help improve educational quality and equity.”


PUBLIC EDUCATION

Nine Myths About Public Schools

Speaking of Gerald Bracey...here's an article he wrote in 2009. Not much has changed, has it?
Money doesn't matter. Tell this to wealthy districts. Money clearly affects changes in achievement although levels of achievement are more influenced by the variables just mentioned. Most studies are short term and look only at test scores, a very foolish mistake. Economists David Card and Alan Krueger also found investments in school show a payoff in terms of long-term earnings of graduates.

The Public Purpose of Public Education

...from earlier this year, Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education and Witness of the United Church of Christ, makes a strong case for supporting public education.
The politics of public education have turned so ugly that one wakes in the night with anxious questions. In a year when the platform of one Texas political party would ban the teaching of “higher order thinking skills” and “critical thinking,” have we turned against education itself? A decade after the death of Fred Rogers, have we stopped treasuring our children and wanting them to enjoy childhood while they grow? Have our political leaders, many of them one-percenters, so little experience with the public schools that are the quintessential institution of the 99 percent—both the children and their teachers—that our leaders fail to understand the schools’ complex needs?


BOOKS: WHAT I'M READING NOW

Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America

Critics claim that Kozol is inflammatory...that he's too emotional, but I have yet to see any of them spend their lives working among the children and families of the poor like he's done for nearly 50 years. Fire in the Ashes is a series of short stories about real people who live in unhealthy and horrible circumstances in one of the world's wealthiest nations.

I've asked before...how can we allow nearly 25% of our children to live in poverty? Kozol tries to be the conscience of the nation...if anyone will listen.

From the publisher's blurb...
...tells the stories of young men and women who have come of age in one of the most destitute communities of the United States. Some of them never do recover from the battering they undergo in their early years, but many more battle back with fierce and, often, jubilant determination to overcome the formidable obstacles they face. As we watch these glorious children grow into the fullness of a healthy and contributive maturity, they ignite a flame of hope, not only for themselves, but for our society.
From the book...
...I had never seen destitution like this in America before. Twenty years earlier, I had taught young children in the black community of Boston and had organized slum tenants there and lived within their neighborhood and had been in many homes where rats cohabited with children in their bedrooms. But sickness, squalor, and immiseration on the scale I was observing now were virtually unknown to me.

Almost every child that I came to know that winter in the Martinique was hungry. On repeated evenings when I went to interview a family I gave up asking questions when a boy or girl would eye the denim shoulder bag I used to carry, in which I often had an apple or some cookies or a box of raisins, and would give them what I had.

The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America

And, as long as we're on the sujbect of Kozol, this is his best book, in my opinion. It blows the cover off the argument that "you can't throw money" at education and get results. It covers our lack of commitment to Brown vs. Board of Education, as well as the obvious fact that America doesn't really care about its children. The low priority given to the nation's future, especially poor children of color, is a travesty.

From the publisher's blurb...
...pays tribute to those undefeated educators who persist against the odds, but directly challenges the chilling practices now being forced upon our urban systems. In their place, Kozol offers a humane, dramatic challenge to our nation to fulfill at last the promise made some fifty years ago to all our youngest citizens.
From the book...
By the end of the 1980s, the high hopes that I had briefly sensed a decade earlier were hard to find. Many of the schools I visited during this period seemed every bit as grim as those I'd seen in Boston in the 1960s, sometimes a good deal worse. I visited a high school in East St. Louis, Illinois, where the lab stations in the science rooms had empty holes where pipes were attached. A history teacher who befriended me told me of rooms that were so cold in winter that the students had to wear their coats to class while kids in other classes sweltered in a suffocating heat that could not be turned down. A foul odor filled much of the building because of an overflow of sewage that had forced the city to shut down the school the year before.


COMMON CORE

Van Roekel asks "What do you want instead (of the common core)?" My response.

Stephen Krashen responds to Dennis van Roekal, current president of the nation's largest teachers union, and the latter's collaborations with the corporate enemies.

PREDICTION: You read it here first. When van Roekel finishes his term as NEA President and retires he will go to work for someone like Arne Duncan. The NEA needs to dump him ASAP, before he drags us all down into the mire of corporate education.

Instead of the CCSS, Krashen says,
The question assumes that something is seriously wrong with American schools and that schools need to be fixed. We are always working to improve teaching, but there is no crisis in teaching. The real crisis is poverty.

What I want instead is: (1) dump the CC$$ (for a quick summary of arguments, please see: http://skrashen.blogspot.com/2013/06/common-cores-claims-are-false.html (2) protect children from the impact of poverty by investing more in food programs, health care, and libraries. (3) pay for (2) by reducing testing. A lot.

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All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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