"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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

42

Today is Jackie Robinson's birthday.
"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me... All I ask is that you respect me as a human being." -- Jackie Robinson

Henry Aaron on Jackie Robinson...
I told my father when I grew up I was going to be a pilot. You know what he said? He said, "Ain't no colored pilots." So I told him I'd be a ballplayer. And he said, "Ain't no colored ballplayers." There were a lot of things blacks couldn't be back then. There weren't any colored pilots. There weren't any colored ballplayers in the major leagues. So it was hard to have those dreams. Then Jackie came with the Brooklyn Dodgers to Mobile for an exhibition game in 1948. I went to hear him talk to a crowd in front of a drugstore. I skipped school to meet Jackie Robinson. If it were on videotape, you'd probably see me standing there with my mouth wide open. I don't remember what he said. It didn't matter what he said. He was standing there. My father took me to see Jackie play in that exhibition game. After that day, he never told me ever again that I couldn't be a ballplayer. I was allowed to dream after that.
Jackie Robinson's numbers.

Robinson's speech at his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mini biography from Biography.com



Rounding First...


Trailer for "42"

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Stop the Testing Insanity!
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Baseball Interlude: A Thoroughly Decent Human Being

Earlier this month baseball lost one of its best. Stan Musial died at age 92.

Musial was one of those players who transcended team. He played on the Cardinals for all of his 22 years in baseball, but was universally respected. Like Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, and Henry Aaron, Musial was one of the good guys...a great player and a great human being. ABC wrote
No last name necessary.
A slew of batting titles. Corkscrew stance. Humble. A gentleman. All-around good guy.
Stan the Man.
Musial's friend Bob Costas gave the eulogy at his funeral. He said,
"What was the hook with Stan Musial other than the distinctive stance and the role of one of baseball's best hitters?" Costas said. "It seems that all Stan had going for him was more than two decades of sustained excellence as a ballplayer and more than nine decades as a thoroughly decent human being."
Costas went on to tell about the two aspects of Musial's life...his baseball and his decency.

I remember watching Musial play against the Cubs in the 50s and early 60s. I remember my dad (a Cub fan) talking about "Stan the Man" and how good he was: 3630 lifetime hits, a lifetime .331 batting average, 475 home runs, and a .989 fielding average. Musial was a great ballplayer...7 batting titles, 3-time National League MVP and 24 all star games.

The eulogy below is about 20 minutes long and is a great tribute to a great ball player. If that's too long for non-baseball fans among you then skip to the second video below where Costas, a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, tells a story that epitomizes the kind of person Musial was.
Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight." — Quote inscribed on the base of Musial's statue, attributed to former commissioner Ford Frick.



Costas, a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.


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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Not Everything That Counts Can Be Counted

Standardized tests do not and cannot measure everything which is important in school. The practice of using tests to evaluate schools, school districts and teachers is a misuse of testing. In their book Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise authors Sherrel Bergmann and Judith Allen Brough detail six skills which students, especially at risk students, require to be successful:
  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility
  • Relationships
  • Respect
  • Reading
Of the six listed, only Reading is tested. Imagine trying to reduce the personal traits of resilience or respect to a series of multiple choice questions...obviously it can't be done.

Yet these skills are essential if at risk students are to be successful in life. The overuse and misuse of standardized tests squeezes out essential experiences which help children develop these skills. The assumed purpose of the increased focus on testing is to improve the education of children. However, the unintended consequence of our nation's testing obsession is that the damage to our children most at risk for failure is increased, not decreased.

The infographic below lists the skills and tells a bit about them. The overview below is from Eye on Education...

Infographic: Six Skills to Reduce the Risk and Increase the Promise of Your Students
In Reducing the Risk, Increasing the Promise: Strategies for Student Success, Sherrel Bergmann and Judith Allen Brough provide a clear path to follow for helping your at-risk students achieve success in and out of the classroom. Packed with actionable items for school leaders, teachers, and parents, this book provides a basis for effective communication between school and home, and important piece of the puzzle often overlooked.

This infographic outlines six skills students need to be successful in school, and in everyday life.
It's way past time to find a way to educate our children to be more than just reading and math test takers.



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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Test Your Public Ed Savvy

Susan Ohanian and Stephen Krashen have a great quiz for you to take. It includes questions such as,
Who said “Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans. That education system was a disaster.”
and
US international test scores aren’t at the top of the world because...
Click the link below to learn about the Common Core Standards...how poverty and homelessness makes a difference in this short 10 question quiz. When you're done, try the 5 additional questions that I have added, below.

Test Your Public Ed Savvy | The Progressive

Additional Questions...

11. Private schools perform better than public schools.
A) True
B) False
C) They are about the same.

12. Which item below does nothing to improve the education of children in poverty?
A) improved nutrition
B) improved health care
C) improved school libraries
D) improved standards and Tests

13. The NAEP Test shows
A) Average black fourth graders’ math performance in regular public schools has improved so much that it now exceeds average white performance as recently as 1992.
B) The black-white gap has narrowed little because whites have also improved.
C) The improvement has been greatest for the lowest achievers, those in the bottom 10 percent.
D) A, B and C

14. Indiana Governor's plans to improve public education in Indiana include
A) to provide more resources for schools which struggle with student achievement
B) to provide less resources for schools which struggle with student acheivement.
C) to provide more resources for private and parochial schools.
D) A and C
E) B and C

15. The US Secretary of Education is Arne Duncan. Which of the following is true about his experience in public education?
A) Duncan attended public schools as a child.
B) Duncan was a classroom teacher in Chicago Public Schools.
C) Duncan was appointed CEO of Chicago Public Schools
D) Duncan earned a teaching degree.
E) All of the above
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ANSWERS:
11. C
Public Schools Perform Near Private Ones in Study

12. D
Sunday Dialogue: Improving Our Schools

13. D
U.S. Schools Not Failing - data

14. E
Indiana's Education Policy -- Cognitive Dissonance in Action

15. C
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arne_Duncan
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Indiana's Education Policy -- Cognitive Dissonance in Action

Indiana's new governor, Mike Pence is picking up right where Mitch Daniels left off. In his State of the State address Pence described his education plan clearly...continue the privatization and destruction of Indiana's public schools.
  1. He pledged not to restore the bulk of the $300 million that Daniels stripped from public school budgets over the last few years.
  2. He has promised an increase in public money going to private schools in the form of vouchers.
  3. He has offered to increase spending for those schools which are "successful" (read: high income) instead of increasing funding to schools which need it the most.
Teresa Meridith, ISTA Vice President said,
“He wants that funding to go to the highest performing schools and what he considers the best teachers,” said Meredith. “Once again, the programs and the opportunities that need to be there for our most impoverished children and our most challenged schools, he’s not looking at ways to support those schools or those students in any way.”
He's also leading the charge to strip power from newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, who, it ought to be noted, received more votes than he did.

Dan Carpenter of Indystar.com wrote,
Expansion of vouchers whereby tax dollars are diverted from public schools to (predominantly religious) private schools. Could he not wait until the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled on the issue?

Bonuses to the "best-performing" schools and teachers, an unsavory concept that presumes educators work for financial incentives and threatens to make life worse for those who need the most help.

Partnerships between schools and business on the vocational level, an eminently good idea that already is in application and would be more widely so if it weren't for budget cuts necessitated by those do-or-die standardized tests.

Oh, and lest we forget, Pence already had sent a clear message to his colleague [newly elected State Superintendent] Ritz on his first day in office when he signed an executive order shifting from her jurisdiction to his the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board, which oversees what's left of teacher collective bargaining.
The cognitive dissonance which Indiana voters thrust upon themselves continues. Pence and the supermajorities in both houses of the state General Assembly are bent on starving public education while feeding private schools with taxpayer money. The denial of resources to the schools most in need will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. The state is abandoning the children who need the most help...and, once their failure is assured, the "reformers" will use that as an excuse for more privatization.

The basis which the "reformers" publicly use for privatization are wrong...public schools are not failing, standardized test scores are not valid instruments to evaluate schools and/or teachers, vouchers do take money away from the public schools, private schools and charter schools are not better than public schools, and poverty does matter.

Meanwhile Glenda Ritz, by her victory in November, has a mandate from the voters of Indiana to stop the attack on public schools.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Just Let Me Teach

Mrs. H. is a teacher in the elementary school in which I volunteer. A dozen or so years ago we were Reading Recovery colleagues. We attended the same meetings, observed each other teaching and assessed each other's students. Her advice to me during those years was valuable and insightful.

Reading Recovery is all but gone in our school system and we've both moved on...she has gone back to the classroom and I've retired.

I arrived at school yesterday ready to work with my students only to find that Mrs. H was using "my room" to test several of her students.

Focus on Testing

When I was teaching as a reading specialist/Reading Recovery teacher, I was already fighting the overemphasis on testing and the (IMHO) pedagogically poor practice of teaching to the test and obsessing over standards. General education classroom teachers were being forced into the "teach to the test" mode. My classroom had no such restrictions since I was pulling students out to remediate them. I could focus on "good teaching," "best practices" and "authentic learning." During staff meetings, and frankly, any time I had the chance, I argued against the move towards a "testing culture" in our school. Our principal became tired of my complaining and eventually told me to keep it to myself. He was correct only because I was directing my complaints to the wrong people. He had no control over what was coming from the Central Office, the State Department of Education and the Federal Department of Education.

As the years went on, and the "testing culture" grew I brought my argument to the central administration. I was no more successful in changing things, but I did at least, direct my arguments at the people in our system who could make a difference.

Just like in other school systems around the country, there have been significant changes in our local school district since I did my student teaching in one of our schools almost 40 years ago. When I started teaching I learned from other teachers that testing had a purpose...which was the diagnosis of student learning needs and the analysis of the effectiveness of my instruction. The content of a test must be aligned with the content of the curriculum, but I have learned that the written curriculum is only a small, albeit important, part of what goes on in elementary schools. Watching excellent teachers go from educating our children to "teaching the tested standards" has been frustrating, knowing that children are being denied important social and personal skills -- as well as content not found in the singular attention to Literacy and Math instruction.

Eventually, even in my "protected" classroom position, "The Test" became all important. I was charged with coordinating the annual testing (along with our Guidance Counselor), analyzing the data and guiding the curriculum towards the tested standards. The timing worked out well for me. After a few years of having to focus on the tests my job was eliminated. There wasn't enough money to afford the luxury of having support specialists in schools to help struggling students.

Freedom to Teach

When I retired I discovered that volunteering has a freedom I hadn't experienced for a long time. The teachers I volunteer for know me and know that I have the skills to help their students so they allow me to use those skills. They let me teach.

Fast forward (do today's children know what that phrase means?) to yesterday...

When Mrs. H was done with her testing and I moved back into "my room" we talked for a few minutes.

She asked me how "retirement" was and I talked about how nice it was to be able to teach...to focus on the needs of the students with whom I work, rather than the standards...to focus on trying to help children learn to read, instead of how far they need to be in order to pass the test.

She went back to her job...and I went to get my next student.

While I was helping the student -- a first grader -- it occurred to me that I was teaching. I wasn't "working on skills," "prepping for assessment," or "teaching standards." I had no such restrictions...just some time to help a 6 year old understand the reading process and learn to grow intellectually.

When my student went back to her classroom I reached into my bag and pulled out a wristband which I had ordered from a group on Facebook. The wristbands are popping up all over the country...and I bought a number of them to share with other teachers.

They say, simply, Just Let Me Teach.


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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Monday, January 21, 2013

Leading Educators Support Teacher Test Boycott

PRESS RELEASE

Date: January 21, 2013

Contact:
Brian Jones, Teacher and Doctoral Student, bjones2@gc.cuny.edu
Wayne Au, Professor of Education, wayne@rethinkingschools.org

LEADING EDUCATORS SUPPORT TEACHER TEST BOYCOTT

In a public statement released today, more than sixty educators and researchers, including some of the most well-respected figures in the field of education, pledged support for the boycott of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test initiated by the teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, calling the action a “blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests.” Among the signers of the statement are former US Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, author Jonathan Kozol and professor Nancy Carlsson-Paige. While the MAP test is used exclusively for rating teachers, “the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations” the educators wrote.

“We’ve had more than a decade of standardized testing,” Ravitch said, “and now we need to admit that it’s not helping.” She added: “By signing this statement, I hope to amplify the voices of teachers who are saying ‘enough is enough’.”

“On Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate people who are willing to take personal risks to act according to their conscience,” Lewis said. “The teachers at Garfield High School are taking a stand for all of us.”

New York City public school teacher and doctoral student Brian Jones drafted the statement last week and received help with revisions and outreach from University of Washington professor Wayne Au. “I’m overwhelmed by the response to this statement,” Jones said, “I feel like this is the beginning of a real movement to challenge high stakes standardized testing.”

“We contacted leading scholars in the field of education,” Au said, “and nearly every single one said ‘Yes, I’ll sign.’ The emerging consensus among researchers is clear: high stakes standardized tests are highly problematic, to say the least.”

“When I look at this list of names, I see the people whose work helped to make me the teacher I am today,” Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School said. “Their support really means a lot to me, and I know that many teachers at Garfield High School feel the same way.”

STATEMENT:

WE SUPPORT THE TEACHERS AT GARFIELD HIGH SCHOOL
HIGH STAKES STANDARDIZED TESTS ARE OVERUSED AND OVERRATED

THE USE OF STANDARDIZED TESTS IS SPREADING
To fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools in all 50 states administer standardized tests to students, often beginning in third grade, in reading and math. Now, in response to the demands of Race to the Top and the trend toward greater “accountability” in education, states are developing even more tests for more subjects. Standardized tests, once used primarily to assess student learning, have now become the main instrument for the high-stakes evaluation of teachers, administrators, and even entire schools and school systems.

TESTS CONSUME A GREAT DEAL OF TIME AND MONEY
Standardized testing is consuming an ever-growing proportion of education budgets nationwide. The total price tag may be nearly two billion dollars (1). Texas alone spent, last year, $90 million on standardized testing (2). These tests are not a one hour or one day affair, but now can swallow up whole weeks of classroom time (3). In Chicago, some students must complete 13 standardized tests each year (4).

TESTING HURTS STUDENTS
In the name of “raising standards” the growth of high stakes standardized testing has effectively lowered them. As the stakes for standardized tests are raised higher and higher, administrators and teachers have been forced to spend less time on arts, sciences, social studies, and physical education, and more time on tested subjects. The pressure to prepare students for standardized exams forces teachers to narrow instruction to only that material which will be tested (5). With the fate of whole schools and school systems at stake, cheating scandals have flourished, exposing many reform “miracles” in the process (6). Worse, focusing so much energy on testing undermines the intrinsic value of teaching and learning, and makes it more difficult for teachers and students to pursue authentic teaching and learning experiences.

RESEARCH DOES NOT SUPPORT USING TESTS TO EVALUATE TEACHERS
As a means of assessing student learning, standardized tests are limited. No student’s intellectual process can be reduced to a single number. As a means of assessing teachers, these results are even more problematic. Research suggests that much of the variability in standardized test results is attributable to factors OTHER than the teacher (7). So-called “value-added” models for teacher evaluation have a large margin of error, and are not reliable measures of teacher performance (8).

EDUCATORS ARE TAKING A STAND FOR AUTHENTIC TEACHING AND LEARNING
In a nearly unanimous vote, the staff at Garfield High school in Seattle decided to refuse to administer the district’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test. Research has shown that this test has no significant impact on reading scores (9). While serving other low-stakes district purposes in the Seattle Public Schools, it is only used as a high-stakes measure for teachers, even though the test’s developers (the Northwest Evaluation Association) have noted the inappropriateness of using tests for such evaluations. In taking this action, the educators at Garfield High School have struck a blow against the overuse and misuse of standardized tests, and deserve support. We, the undersigned (10), stand with these brave teachers and against the growing standardized testing industrial complex.

Signed,

Jean Anyon
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Wayne Au
University of Washington, Bothell
Rethinking Schools

Bill Ayers
University of Illinois, Chicago

Jeff Bale
Michigan State University
Kenneth Bernstein
Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School

Bill Bigelow
Rethinking Schools

Steve Brier
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Anthony Brown
University of Texas, Austin

Nancy Carlsson-Paige
Lesley University

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Linda Christensen
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Cody
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Antonia Darder
Loyola Marymount University

Noah DeLissovoy
University of Texas, Austin

Michelle Fine
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Nancy Flanagan
Education Week Teacher Magazine

Ofelia Garcia
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alice Ginsburg
Author

Gene Glass
University of Colorado, Boulder

Paul Gorski
George Mason University

Rico Gutstein
University of Illinois, Chicago

Helen Gym
Asian American United
Rethinking Schools

Leonie Haimson
Class Size Matters

Brian Jones
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Stan Karp
Rethinking Schools

Jonathan Kozol
Author

Kevin Kumashiro
University of Illinois, Chicago
National Association for Multicultural Education

Zeus Leonardo
California State University, Long Beach

Karen Lewis
Chicago Teachers Union

Pauline Lipman
University of Illinois, Chicago

Barbara Madeloni
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Nicholas Michelli
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Alex Molnar
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

National Association for Multicultural Education

Sonia Nieto
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Pedro Noguera
New York University

Edward Olivos
University of Oregon

Celia Oyler
Teachers College, Columbia University

Thomas Pedroni
Wayne State University

Emery Petchauer
Oakland University

Bob Peterson
Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association
Rethinking Schools

Anthony Picciano
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Bree Picower
Montclair State University

Thomas S. Poetter
Miami University

Diane Ravitch
New York University

Kristen A. Renn
Michigan State University

Rethinking Schools

John Rogers
University of California, Los Angeles

Kenneth J. Saltman
DePaul University, Chicago

Nancy Schniedewind
State University of New York, New Paltz

Ira Shor
The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Timothy D. Slekar
Penn State University, Altoona

Christine Sleeter
California State University, Monterey Bay

Jody Sokolower
Rethinking Schools

Joel Spring
Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York

David Stovall
University of Illinois, Chicago

Katy Swalwell
George Mason University

Melissa Bollow Tempel
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Paul Thomas
Furman University

Wayne Urban
University of Alabama

Angela Valenzuela
University of Texas, Austin

Stephanie Walters
Rethinking Schools

Kathleen Weiler
Tufts University

Lois Weiner
New Jersey City University

Kevin Welner
University of Colorado, Boulder
National Education Policy Center

Kathy Xiong
Milwaukee Public Schools
Rethinking Schools

Yong Zhao
Author and Scholar

NOTES

1. Chingos, M. M. (2012). Strength in Numbers: State Spending on K-12 Assessment Systems. Brookings Institution.
2. Cargile, E. (May 3, 2012). “Tests’ price tag $90 million this year”. Kxan Investigates, Kxan.com (NBC).
3. Dawer, D. (December 29, 2012) “Standardized Testing is Completely Out of Control”. PolicyMic.com.
4. Vevea, B. (November 26, 2012) “More standardized tests, more Chicago parents looking for ways out”. WBEZ.org.
5. Au, W. (2007). High-stakes testing and curricular control: A qualitative metasynthesis. Educational Researcher, 36(5), 258-267.
6. Pell, M.B. (September 30, 2012). “More cheating scandals inevitable, as states can’t ensure test integrity”. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
7. Baker, E. L., Barton, P. E., Darling-Hammond, L., Haertel, E., Ladd, H. F., Linn, R. L., … & Shepard, L. A. (2010). Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute. See also: DiCarlo, M. (July 14, 2010). “Teachers Matter, But So Do Words”. Shanker Blog, The Voice of the Albert Shanker Institute.
8. Schafer, W. D., Lissitz, R. W., Zhu, X., Zhang, Y., Hou, X., & Li, Y. Evaluating Teachers and Schools Using Student Growth Models. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 17(17), 2.
9. Cordray, D., Pion, G., Brandt, C., Molefe, A., & Toby, M. (2012). The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement. Final Report. NCEE 2013-4000. National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.
10. All signatures represent individual opinions, not institutional endorsements, unless specified. To add your signature to this statement, send an email with your name and affiliation(s) to: GHSstatement@gmail.com.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Friday, January 18, 2013

Indiana - Two Different Directions and Public Schools Lose

In Indiana's last election, Glenda Ritz defeated incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett. Bennett is a nationally known "reformer" who was instrumental in bringing vouchers and corporate charters to Indiana. (After he lost his job in Indiana, Florida hired him to be their Commissioner of Education.)

Ritz, a national board certified teacher, ran on a campaign of more teaching and less testing, more local control for implementing standards, safe and respectful schools, high standards for educators, improved vocational education, and reserving public dollars for public schools.


When the votes were counted Glenda Ritz had received 1.3 million of them and had beaten Bennett.

Unfortunately for the voters of Indiana, Newly elected Superintendent Ritz is being stifled in her desire to implement some of the changes which they, the voters, approved by her election...even before she begins.

One of Bennett's last acts as outgoing superintendent was to lead the State Board of Education in the adoption of REPA 2, a plan which actually lowers requirements and qualifications by which someone becomes a teacher or school administrator in Indiana.

So much for high standards for educators.

In addition, the people who, through their votes, spoke loudly their objection to the Bennett-led education initiatives (apparently) didn't stop to think that the laws weren't made by Bennett...but by the legislative and executive branch of the state government. Not only did Indiana voters elect an anti-public education governor, not only did they return the anti-public education majority to both houses of the legislature, but they increased the number of those legislators who now have a super-majority in both houses. In other words, voters elected Ritz based on education issues, but failed to support those same issues in other election races. In that way, Tony Bennett may have lost in Indiana, but his policies won a clear and powerful victory.

Now that her opponents have a super-majority in the legislature and continued occupation of the governor's office, Superintendent Ritz is feeling the push back directed at her for defeating Bennett.

House majority party members wasted no time in introducing bills which would reduce the strength of the office of Superintendent.
House Bill 1251, which would remove the requirement that at least four members of the State Board of Education be actively employed in Indiana schools and hold a teaching license.

Another bill, HB 1309, looks like a clear effort to marginalize Ritz. Sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning, an Indianapolis florist, it requires the State Board to elect a vice chairman who:

1. Presides over meetings in the absence of the state superintendent of public instruction; and

2. May call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses, and carry out other administrative functions related to the meetings of the state board.

...Handing the authority to call meetings, set and amend agendas, arrange for witnesses and carry out other administrative functions to one of his appointees is clearly an end-run around the Nov. 6 election results.
The Poor Get Poorer

The budget from the governor's office offers an increase in education funding...for those schools which "show improvement." Here, the phrase, "show improvement," means nothing more than increasing test scores. The idea of rewarding schools which improve test scores will increase gaming the system and outright cheating. It denies the fact that outside forces have any impact on the educational achievement of children. It is the exact opposite of what needs to be done...which is to provide more resources to help schools where children are struggling. Instead, the Governor is choosing to punish those schools and children.

Anyone who read Governor Pence's stance on education would have realized that this would be his direction. His campaign web site and information about education clearly implies more reliance on testing ("Improving the math and reading skills of elementary students"), using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools ("increasing rewards for great schools and great teachers"), and more money for corporate charter schools and vouchers ("Support expanded choice"). This was no stealth campaign. His position was clearly to continue the legacy of Tony Bennett.

So much for more teaching and less testing.

Indeed, one of the first things on the legislative majority's agenda was to increase the amount of public money spent on private schools by changing the rules about vouchers. Glenda Ritz may have been elected by voters who wanted to "reserve public dollars for public schools," but those same voters elected a super-majority of legislators who want to fund private and parochial schools with public dollars.

Pence's platform included more "choice" -- the buzz word for giving public money to private corporations through charters and parochial schools through vouchers. So did his party's platform which applauded the previous legislature's success in passing (Bennett's package of) "opportunity scholarships for thousands of Hoosier school children, teacher merit pay and accountability; and the expansion of charter schools." The current platform calls for more of the same.

So much for reserving public money for public schools.

A Pyrrhic Victory

One the one hand, Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz to end the Bennett program of privatization and testing, but on the other hand, they elected Mike Pence and a super-majority of legislators to continue the Bennett program of privatization and testing.

Superintendent Ritz can't change the laws. She can't fight the governor and the legislature alone. She can't fulfill her campaign promises which the voters approved, when those same voters slammed the door in her face through their choices for legislators and executives.

Which way does Indiana want to go? We won't know until the next election. In the meantime, Bennett's policies are alive and well in Indiana.

!! Attention Ritz Supporters !!

If you live in Indiana follow what the legislature is doing on education issues and contact your legislator regularly. Let them know that you want
  • more teaching and less testing
  • more local control for implementing standards
  • safe and respectful schools
  • high standards for educators
  • improved vocational education
  • and public dollars for public schools.

[UPDATE: See If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention at the blog of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana.]

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Indiana Legislators

The webmaster of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (me!) just posted three important resources on the NEIFPE web site.

Use these when it's time to write to Indiana Representatives and Senators.

Indiana House Members

Indiana Senate Members

Indiana Legislative Education Committees

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Keeping a Beginner's Mind

Someone commenting on another blog wrote:
...younger teachers have a tendency to be more creative than more seasoned teachers.
It is possible, but it's not necessarily true. Being a younger or beginning teacher is no guarantee of creativity any more than is experience. It seems that many "reformers" believe it to be fact that beginners are somehow cheaper "better" than experienced teachers. That's why Indiana "reformers" were so anxious to adopt REPA 2 and "reformers" nationwide are sold on Teach For America and other quick, alternate routes to teaching. That's why "reformers" nationwide are so anxious to break unions, do away with tenure and support so-called "merit pay plans." None of those things improve education. Their goal is not to get better teachers into America's classrooms, the goal is only to lower costs.

It's true that some younger teachers don't have preconceived notions about what to try...and many are very creative in the activities they plan. However, the same can be said of experienced teachers. It's also true that an activity may sound great, but sometimes things don't work as planned. The experienced teacher may not "try something new" because they have already tried it or they can see it's flaws...or they know their teaching style and their students learning styles and can predict that it wouldn't fit.

I support effective innovation, but trying something just for the sake of being creative is not always the best way to meet a child's needs. The secret to a long career is to understand what it means to be a student - whether the school provides inservice or not. It's our job as teachers to get as much experience as we can so that when it comes time to problem solve how to help a child we can choose among options.

I returned to teaching kindergarten at the age of 58...after a 30 year gap (during which I taught grades 1 through 6). The young teacher across the hall from me (who was in her mid to late 20s) had a lot more energy at the end of the day. I learned a lot from watching her teach...but perhaps she learned some things from me along the way as well. We each had something unique to share with our students. For example, I didn't have the energy to do everything she did...so I didn't try. On the other hand, when one of my students was struggling with reading skills I had 30 years of classroom experience, including Reading Recovery training, at my disposal. I had decades of experience at working with students on differing achievement levels, helping children cooperate and get along in a group and using classroom technology. I had experience teaching students with learning difficulties and students who were working at gifted levels. I knew how to relate to children, knew what books to read to them, and knew how to guide them in learning. I had been doing those things for 30 years.

I'm still teaching...volunteering. My background gives me the knowledge I need to help students with a variety of needs...from a high ability math student in third grade, to a first grader struggling to make sense of the printed word. I'm working with 3 teachers who have, respectively, a little over 10, a little less than 20 and and a little more than 30 years experience. All three of them have something unique and valuable to give to their students.

Schools need young teachers...and they need veteran teachers as well. The fact that the average years of experience of America's teachers is dropping is not necessarily good. Good schools need a mixture of beginner's energy and experienced caution. Young teachers need mentors to help them through the difficult times. Experienced teachers need fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

In Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki wrote, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." A beginner is willing to try new things...learn from others...and learn on their own. This doesn't mean that an experienced teacher doesn't have any value. What it does mean is that all teachers, new and experienced, must continue to understand what it means to be a learner. All teachers must continue to grow personally and professionally.

The trick to being a good teacher throughout your entire career is to keep a beginner's mind -- be open to new possibilities, be a lifelong learner...for however many years you teach.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, January 13, 2013

2013 Medley #2

Equity in Public Education, Testing,
Evaluations, Data, Those Who Can...Teach.

EQUITABLE PUBLIC EDUCATION FOR EVERYONE

Katie Osgood: Choice or Equity -- You Can't Have Both

Katie Osgood asks the questions and gives the answers which must be given for education to become equitable in the US. The "reformers" aren't interested in equitable education. They want the private sector to take it over...for money...on principle...for whatever reason. We can't allow them to succeed in privatizing public education.

[reformated from original to highlight questions and answers]
  • [I]s it possible to fight for a system that leaves no children behind, which promotes equity and equal opportunity for ALL?
  • Can we commit to spending the MOST resources on the neediest children to address safety and learning issues?
  • Can we commit to addressing the underlying poverty which creates so many of the behavior, learning, and safety issues in schools?
  • Can we commit to ensuring that no matter where you live, you will have a well-kept, EQUITABLY-resourced (more resources for needier schools), properly staffed school, complete with access to libraries and librarians, up-to-date technology, social workers, counselors, and foreign language, arts, and music?
...This vision of schooling is what the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike to create. It is indeed possible to achieve this seemingly utopian model of education. The CTU has discovered numerous ways to create the schools all children deserve.
  • We can increase funding.
  • We can fight to ensure the funding we currently have is directed towards the neediest children, NOT wasted on testing, data systems, complicated, flawed, and unnecessary new evaluation systems, and the agendas of the politically connected.
  • We can fight poverty.
  • We can call attention to the very real effects of poverty on our students' lives.
But it will not happen without a struggle.

TESTING

Systemic issues prevent teaching success, not individual teachers

Teachers are singled out as being responsible for school "failure." Pundits, politicians and policy makers need to accept responsibility for the conditions which lead to student failure.
The publicity given to the latest Gates Foundation report on teacher evaluation [“Gates: Test scores not enough for teacher reviews,” seattletimes.com, Jan. 9] adds strength to the common view that there is something very wrong with American teachers. There is, for example, no pressing concern about how we should evaluate nurses, carpenters, doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, plumbers, butchers, newspaper reporters, etc.

Every profession has some inferior practitioners, but the available evidence says that American teachers as a group are excellent. When we control for the effects of poverty, our international test scores are very good, ranking at or near the top of world.

The Great Stuff In Public Schools That Tests Can't Measure

Honesty, pride in accomplishment, desire to improve -- "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." This is a must read...
Do you reformy types still want to try to convince me that our public education system is a failure? A system that produces outstanding, upright, decent young people like this?

Do you really think any stupid bubble test put out by some corporate education provider can capture the true learning that happened that day in New Jersey? That some stupid question about pineapples and rabbits is more important than the character these beautiful young people and their teachers showed this day?

I'll say it until the day I die: I am proud to be an American public school teacher. I am proud of the great kids of this country. I am proud to be a part of a system that produces such fine young men and women.

You people who constantly bemoan and mock the "achievement" of our children need to step aside in shame. These kids - and their teachers - are far better people than you will ever be.
[emphasis in original]


Time for Michelle Rhee to probe test tampering

Michelle Rhee needs to be held accountable for the cheating which went on in the DC Public Schools under her so-called leadership.
Last week, she released a statement concluding there was “no evidence of widespread cheating” on D.C. tests from 2008 to 2010. Her proof? A series of superficial investigations, the parameters controlled by D.C. school brass, that never called on the expertise of psychometricians, never dug into the data, and lacked any reasonable explanations of how such erasures could have been made by anyone but adults.

A Standardized Testing Revolt
Over the past year, there's been a steady and ongoing revolt in Texas. Not about secession or guns or the many other fringe topics that the state is usually associated with. This battle has been waged primarily by parents and teachers, and the demand is relatively simple—cut back on testing our kids. There's been similar sentiments simmering in states across the country, but in Texas a new set of tests, put in place last year, sparked the outcry. Now, the push that began in school board and PTA meetings has finally reached the halls of power...

...Texas’ shift on testing could well have national repercussions. After all, it did more than any other state to bring the country into an era of Number 2 pencils and filling in bubbles. It might also be the state that leads us out.

Seattle Public Schools: Support Garfield High School teachers refusing to administer the MAP!

Teachers in one Seattle high school have said enough is enough. High stakes tests do not improve achievement.
• Seattle Public School staff has notified us that the test is not a valid test at the high school level. For these students, the margin of error is greater than the expected gain. We object to spending time, money, and staffing on an assessment even SPS agrees is not valid...

• We are not allowed to see the contents of the test, but an analysis of the alignment between the Common Core and MAP shows little overlap. We object to our students being tested on content we are not expected to teach...

• Even the NWEA itself, the parent company to MAP, has advised districts to carefully restrict the use of the test and its results. NWEA also cautions to ensure 100% random selection of students enrolled in any course if the test is used for evaluation and to take into consideration statistical error in designing evaluation policies. NWEA says that problems become “particularly profound at the high school level.” None of these or other criteria urged by NWEA has been met. We object to being evaluated by a test whose author suggests extreme caution in its use and warns against valid legal action if the test is used in personnel decisions...
Related: The Impact of the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Program on Student Reading Achievement
The results of the study indicate that the MAP program was implemented with moderate fidelity but that MAP teachers were not more likely than control group teachers to have applied differentiated instructional practices in their classes. Overall, the MAP program did not have a statistically significant impact on students’ reading achievement in either grade 4 or grade 5.

EVALUATIONS

Kasich Pulls a Fast One

Governor John Kasich of Ohio is in the same class as Wisconsin's, Florida's, Michigan's, and other governor's throughout the country. Their goal is to privatize the public sector. Kasich and Ohio has joined the growing list of states using invalid and unreliable methods to evaluate teachers.
HB 555 radically changes the method of calculating evaluations for about 1/3 of Ohio’s teachers. If a teacher’s schedule is comprised only of courses or subjects for which the value-added progress dimension is applicable – then only their value-add score can now be used as part of the 50% of an evaluation based on student growth. Gone is the ability to use multiple measures of student growth...the rules of the game [have] changed at the 11th hour...the growing list of research that demonstrates the very real and serious problems with heavy reliance on value-add, and the need to offset these problems by using multiple measures of student growth.

AIR: VAM Not Ready for Prime Time

John Kasich et al, should read this report from the American Institutes for Research. You'll find the entire report HERE.
"We cannot at this time encourage anyone to use VAM in a high stakes endeavor. If one has to use VAM, then we suggest a two-step process to initially use statistical models to identify outliers (e.g., low-performing teachers) and then to verify these results with additional data. Using independent information that can confirm or disconfirm is helpful in many contexts. The value of this use of evaluative change results could be explored in further research efforts….”

DATA OBSESSION

Datapalooza at the U. S. Department of Education

Check out the list of speakers at the "Datapalooza" --  not one practicing teacher among them. Duncan's blog said, "...imagine an easy-to-read virtual dashboard for parents to track the academic performance of their children." Academic performance is, of course, standardized test scores.
It turns out this U. S. Department of Education was following in the footsteps of a White House-sponsored Health Datapalooza and Energy Datapalooza. I'm waiting for the White House extravagant party where a plethora of concerned citizens talk about the dangers of the overweening government worship of data.


THOSE WHO CAN...TEACH

Our Nation's Goofy Education Debate

Teachers know more about teaching than pundits, politicians and policy makers. Yet the laws and rules of public education are being made in board rooms and business offices.


You mean we shouldn't just accept everything that comes from the Gates Foundation?
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, January 11, 2013

Kruse Wants to Speed Up Privatization

More Privatization

Privatization isn't going fast enough for Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn). He wants to get help in privatizing Indiana's public schools from parents, teachers and school boards. State Impact (NPR) reported...
The legislation he filed Tuesday empowers [parents, teachers, or local school boards] to petition to either close a struggling school, transfer its students to schools with higher test scores or reorganize it as a charter school.
What is a "parent trigger?" In What Really Happens When Parents Pull the "Parent Trigger?", Will Dooling at PRWatch.org wrote,
Parent Trigger laws allow parents at any persistently failing school to gather a majority and either fire the principal, fire half of the teachers, or turn it into a private charter school. The laws -- which have been proposed in dozens of states and become law in California, Texas, and Connecticut -- have been embraced by some Democrats and groups that claim to support progressive values, despite claims by some that the laws have the impact of privatizing education.
Diane Ravitch has strong opinions regarding them. Writing in Bridging Differences in 2011, she wrote
To me, a public school is a public trust. It doesn't belong to the students who are currently enrolled in it or their parents or to the teachers who currently teach in it. All of them are part of the school community, and that community needs to collaborate to make the school better for everyone. Together, they should be able to redesign or create or discontinue programs and services. But collaboration is not the same as ownership. The school belongs to the public, to the commonwealth. It belongs to everyone who ever attended it (and their parents) and to future generations. It is part of the public patrimony, not an asset that can be closed or privatized by its current constituents.
Should we privatize a public park because 51% of the people who sit in it want to? Should we privatize the public library because 51% of the patrons choose to? The fire department? The police department? The National Guard?

[My fear is that, to these and most other questions about privatizing public sector arenas, Senator Kruse and his privatizing friends would answer yes...because they believe that nothing the government does is as good as what the private sector can do (I don't supposed they'll want to mention the "burst" housing bubble or the bank bail-out).]

Public Schools Belong to Everyone - Not Just 51% of the Current Parents

The parent trigger bills don't give parents more control. They give parents less control. They allow 51% of current school parents to give away the public school to a charter operator. What happens in two years if 51% of the parents want to take the school back for the public schools? Does Kruse's bill allow for that? Don't count on it. Once the schools have been converted they're stuck with what they get. No parental rights. No public oversight.

What about other tax payers? Public Schools don't belong to just those who attend. I'm still paying for the public schools in my district even though my children have graduated.

Does a school board have the right to give up their control of one (or more) of their schools to a private contractor? What happens if they want it back next year? What happens if they don't like the way it's being run? Can they change their minds? What if next year's school board decides that it was a mistake?

Public schools are public entities. They should be run with public money, by publicly elected school boards. The public must be accountable...not some board of directors of a private corporation.

When are we going to start holding legislatures and politicians accountable? Instead of wasting time with useless, pro-corporate, ALEC inspired, parent trigger bills and the like, Senator Kruse ought to propose legislation which might actually help children attending the so-called failing schools. Why aren't he and his fellow legislators being held accountable for state conditions which contribute to low achievement? Why aren't they proposing bills to
  • reduce the rate of low birth weight children among African Americans,
  • reduce drug and alcohol abuse,
  • reduce pollutants in our cites and move people away from toxic sites,
  • provide universal and free medical care for all citizens,
  • insure that no one suffers from food insecurity,
  • reduce the rates of family violence in low-income households,
  • improve mental health services among the poor,
  • more equitably distribute low-income housing throughout communities,
  • reduce both the mobility and absenteeism rates of children,
  • provide high-quality preschools for all children, and
  • provide summer programs for the poor to reduce summer losses in their academic achievement.
It's time to pull the "voter trigger."


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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

ADHD: Not Bad Parenting

As a classroom teacher, Reading Recovery teacher, reading specialist and volunteer, I have spent time with a wide variety of students in 5 different suburban and rural public schools in northeast Indiana, and during my time in public education I studied various issues affecting students...one of which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

When I was growing up the umbrella term Minimal Brain Dysfunction referred to a group of behavioral and cognitive problems experienced by children...one of which was ADHD (the hyperactive child syndrome).

I always knew I had some learning problems while I was a child in school and learning about ADHD convinced me that I had what's currently called ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type. I came across the term Minimal Brain Dysfunction while I was studying about ADHD which triggered a memory. I asked my mother what the diagnosis of my problem was when I was in Elementary School and she replied with Minimal Brain Dysfunction. I have since been officially diagnosed with ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type...

In an article titled ADHD medication no substitute for effective parenting, Rama Cousik, an assistant professor of special education at IPFW, wrote
Having grown up in a world without ADHD, I struggle with the idea that many young children are increasingly being considered at risk for ADHD. I also struggle with the fact that medication is a part of the treatment package for many preschool children.

Like all drugs, methylphenidate has many side effects...nervousness, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pain, diarrhea, heartburn, dry mouth, headache, muscle tightness, uncontrollable movement of a part of the body, restlessness, numbness, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet…”

While I am grateful that drug manufacturers are required by law to publish the side effects of all drugs in the market, one thing bothers me. How does one expect a preschooler to even begin to comprehend what symptoms she is experiencing, let alone communicate them to parents?

...Two statements at the end of the PubMed webpage were foreboding: “Methylphenidate may cause sudden death in children … (and) may slow children’s growth or weight gain.”

Naturally, the UNESCO study found that medication had adverse effects and hardly improved children’s behavior, whereas parent training programs improved children’s behavior and, most importantly, had no harmful effects.
"How does one expect a preschooler..."

The diagnosis of ADHD is contingent on it's deleterious effect on ones functioning in his or her life. If the symptoms of ADHD do not interfere with a person's academic, social or occupational functioning, then it's not considered ADHD. Further, every other explanation for the symptoms must be eliminated before a diagnosis of ADHD can be given.

The new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is in the development stage as this is being written, might include the suggestion that the "age of onset" for ADHD be increased.
On the table for discussion is to alter the age of onset from "on or before age 7" to "on or before age 12." The rationale? “Retrospective studies show that age of onset can occur or be first noticed or recalled between the ages of 7 and 12,” according to a proposal on DSM-V’s website. The complexity of the condition – and its concurrence with other disorders – makes it difficult to recognize in earlier years.
Dr. Cousik's statement about the medication of preschoolers, then, would be removed, pending good diagnosis by a doctor.

"Naturally, the UNESCO study found that medication had adverse effects and hardly improved children’s behavior,"

Dr. Cousik provides no link for the study she quotes. My guess is that the study states that use of medication provides no long-term improvement in behavior. Once a person goes off the medication the behaviors reappear. This has been found to be the case in more than one study. However, what Dr. Cousik doesn't say is that ADHD symptoms are improved while the child or adult is taking the medication. It is then that behavior modification can take place which does provide for long term, positive, behavioral change. If the behaviors aren't controlled by use of medication, then the chances for behavioral modification to have any lasting benefit are greatly reduced. "Good parenting" cannot always overcome the symptoms of ADHD.

The decision to place a child or one's self on medication for ADHD is not easy. It must be done after weighing the very real risks against the years of research showing the benefits.
Current medications do not cure ADHD. Rather, they control the symptoms for as long as they are taken. ..Adding behavioral therapy, counseling, and practical support can help children with ADHD and their families to better cope with everyday problems. Research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has shown that medication works best when treatment is regularly monitored by the prescribing doctor and the dose is adjusted based on the child's needs.
It's Not Bad Parenting

The decision is not often easy, either. A response Dr. Cousik's article stated
Parents of ADHD kids face misconceptions

It’s easy for Cousik to lecture parents on the potential side effects of medication, when clearly she has not been in the position most ADHD parents are in. We did not “force” medication on our son – we made a heartbreaking decision after years of trying behavioral interventions. We entered the decision with a clear understanding of the risks. I am secure enough in my parenting skills to know bad parenting did not cause his ADHD, but Cousik’s article, I am sure, made many parents feel they are to blame for their child’s ADHD. They are not.
ADHD has been blamed on "bad parenting" for years. This may not have been Dr. Cousik's purpose in her article, however the result is the same. ADHD is a real, debilitating, neurological condition which, if not treated can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening problems.

For more information see

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: ADHD Research

National Institute of Mental Health: ADHD

Science Daily: ADD and ADHD News

ADHD: Current Research and Teaching Strategies for Reading and Writing

What Parents Need to Know About Medication for ADHD

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 Medley #1

Victories for Public Education, Testing, Charters, 
Privatization, Evaluations, Teaching Careers, Poverty.


The Best of 2012

Diane Ravitch has a list of pro-public education victories for the year 2012 including:

Rejected:
  • Tony Bennett in Indiana
  • Luna Laws in Idaho
  • Vouchers in Florida
  • Mayoral Control in Bridgeport Connecticut
  • Parent Trigger in Florida
  • "Won't Back Down"
  • Louisiana Judge strikes down Voucher plan
Approved:
  • Anna Song for school board in Santa Clara County, California
  • More than 80% of School Boards in Texas sign resolutions against high-stakes testing
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg, NC Superintendent Morrison Calls for a Moratorium on Testing
  • Perrin-Whitt, TX Superintendent John Kuhn continues to speak out
...and more. Read about them.
2012 was a year in which supporters of public education–parents, educators and concerned citizens–won some huge victories against the privatization movement.

TESTING

National Opt Out Day January 7

Here's a good idea for everyone who works with children. Make it a point to end the depersonalization of children through test scores and "data points."
Teachers, as you plan how to resist corporate education reform and rebuild public schools on National Opt Out Day (Jan.7th) - or any day for that matter - here is one way to do it - do not allow others to refer to children based on their test scores. Children cannot be called "UnSats" or "Partials" or any other label attached to a number.


CHARTERS* and PRIVATIZATION

The Hoover Institute's Amazing Discoveries

Corporate charters continue to show that the problem with education in the US is poverty.
“Charter School Performance in New Jersey,” includes a repudiation of everything that the Hoover Institute has advocated. It compares outcomes for 77% of their study's charter school students with those of their peers in traditional public schools (TPS). It finds that in four of the five major cities with the most charters (Camden, Trenton, Jersey City, and Paterson) that charter students learn significantly less than their (TPS) peers in reading, and there are no differences in learning gains in math. CREDO’s charter school advocates acknowledge that, “much of the motivation for developing charter schools aims at improving education outcomes for students in poverty," as they report that low income charter students received no significant benefits in reading.

The Selling Out of Newark's Schools: Part II

Children as widgets...
What do Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Skype CFO Jonathan Chadwick, Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings have in common, besides the filthy rich tech rockstar thing?

They’re among a dozen or so Silicon Valley personalities who’ve put money into Rocketship Education this year. Rocketship is a network of “hybrid” charter schools that put kids in front of computers for a large amount of the school day. Many in the education industry hope Rocketship’s model will prove Silicon Valley can disrupt (and make money in) the k-12 school system.

Corporate Charters are Private Schools Using Public Funds

Here are two responses to the decision that, for labor relations purposes, Charters are private entities. The sham that corporate charters are public schools has been blown apart. They are simply private companies who divert taxpayer money from real public schools.

Charter school ruled private entity for labor relations
Now we have a decision by the board, made last month and just publicized, involving efforts by teachers at the Chicago Math and Science Academy to form a union. Teachers organized under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, which regulates labor relations between public schools and their employees, with two-thirds of the teachers voting in favor, according to WBEZ.org. The private managers of the academy, however, wanted the process to be held under federal law and appealed to the NLRB, which handles labor relations in the private sector.

There is variation in how different states deal with labor issues regarding charter schools, WBEZ said. Some don’t allow charter school teachers to unionize, while others mandate that charter teachers belong to the same union as teachers in traditional public schools.

The evidence that public education is being privatized keeps mounting.

It's Official: Charters are NOT Public Schools
Sorry, but it's not gray in the slightest. Charters are not subject to the same oversight, accountability, and legislation as public schools. They don't have to take every student who shows up at their door at any time of year. They don't have to serve the same population of students as their neighboring public schools: often, they don't.

And now we know charter school teachers are subject to different laws - laws governing private companies - than public school teachers.

The next time some reformy charter cheerleader tries to tell you that charters are public schools, tell them the federal government already settled the issue:

Charters are not public schools.

The debate is over.

ADDING: Oh, my...

Boy, that privatization is working out so awesome, ain't it?

Privatization or Public Education?

It's worth your time to follow Privatization Watch. Privatization is not just happening to public education. Other public sector services are under attack -- toll roads, lotteries, prisons, parking meters, airports, welfare benefits, vehicle driver licensing. Tax money is given to private contractors. This has always happened, of course, but when a private company owns the toll roads, for example, where is the public oversight for handing out bids for maintenance and repair? The assumption that "private is always better than government" isn't always true as we witnessed in 2008.
“[Privatization] severs the connection between public schools and the civic purposes for which they were established and that justify the use of taxpayer dollars to fund them. Implicit in this vision is the notion that the benefits of education accrue first and foremost to individuals and that public benefits are simply the sum of private ones.

“Second, it rejects the notion of an education system. Those who view education primarily as a collection of independent schools serving private interests have few incentives to assure that multiple stakeholders — students, teachers, administrators, policy makers, the business community and others — work together through democratic institutions in pursuit of common goals.

“Third, the private education vision leaves little room for principles of social justice and the commitment to equal educational opportunity for all children. By emphasizing privatization and competition rather than community and cooperation, it trivializes the whole notion of “public” education. Nor does it take responsibility for addressing the special challenges that disadvantaged children bring with them when they walk through the schoolhouse door.

EVALUATIONS

The fundamental flaws of ‘value added’ teacher evaluation

Departments of education, state legislatures, governor's offices, and other so-called "reformers" continue to push for value added models for teacher evaluations.
  1. Value-added models of teacher effectiveness are highly unstable. Teachers’ ratings differ substantially from class to class and from year to year, as well as from one test to another.
  2. Teachers’ value-added ratings are significantly affected by differences in the students who are assigned to them, even when models try to control for prior achievement and student demographic variables. In particular, teachers with large numbers of new English learners and others with special needs have been found to show lower gains than the same teachers who are teaching other students.
  3. Value-added ratings cannot disentangle the many influences on student progress. These include home, school and student factors that influence student learning gains and that matter more than the individual teacher in explaining changes in test scores.

TEACHING

Why schools used to be better

Marion Brady offers some insight into how the so-called "reform" movement has damaged education in America.
Up until this generation of kids — before business leaders and politicians took control of schooling, before No Child Left Behind, before Race to the Top, before high-stakes testing, before the drive to super-standardize, before the not-enough-rigor hysteria — a usefully descriptive word for America’s system of education was “loose.”

In that earlier era, I taught in four high schools. They differed — rural, urban, rich, poor, big, small — but on certain measures, they were alike.

...my professional judgment was respected. I was free to capitalize on what educators call “teachable moments,” free to make use of local issues, free to appropriately pace instruction, free to experiment with alternative approaches, free to adapt to a class’s distinctive “personality.” And probably most importantly, I was free from mandates directing me to try to standardize kids

...all the schools offered more elective classes than are now available

...no test-based, stress-creating fog of fear permeated the four schools

POVERTY

Two articles by Stephen Krashen focusing on the true villain in American education...a child poverty rate nearing 25%.

The "real hurdle" in educational reform: Poverty
We are investing billions in new standards and tests, and there is no research indicating that this will help children. Instead, we should be investing in improved nutrition programs, improved health care, and a greater investment in libraries and librarians, a move that is well-supported by research.

We need to invest in feeding the animal, not just weighing it.
Fiction/nonfiction debate a diversion from the big question: Should we have common core standards?
The rational for the 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. Our unspectacular scores are because US has such a high percentage of child poverty, 23.1%, the second-highest percentage among 34 economically advanced countries. High-scoring Finland has less than 5.3% child poverty.



*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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