"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Friday, April 26, 2013

Our Children: A Low National Priority

Flight delays are a problem due to the sequester. Travelers have been angry and vocal in their objections. In response, the Senate has approved a fix to allow the FAA to juggle their funds in order to ease some of the delays.

The Maddow Blog commented,
When the sequester started kicking children out of pre-K, Congress did nothing. When this stupid policy denied low-income seniors the benefits of Meals on Wheels, Congress barely noticed. When sequestration cuts put new burdens on cancer patients and cut housing aid to struggling families, most of Congress shrugged its shoulders.

But when business travelers ran into flight delays on Monday, a unanimous Senate approved a fix without breaking a sweat on Thursday.
On this morning's Morning Edition on NPR one reporter said,
Kids in Head Start programs are not going to have the same effect on Congress as angry business travelers.
I'm all in favor of fixing the delays for travelers, but the weakest, most at-risk children in our nation are being ignored. Quite literally, the future adult citizens of our country are being punished for the economic failings of the current adult citizens.

Our nation's children need to be a higher priority.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

With Liberty and Justice for Some?

Jon Stewart discusses which constitutional amendments we should "delete" with some help from Fox News.

Maybe it's time for some education about the constitution. The bill of rights, as I understand it, is meant for all of us. The government -- police, military, executive, legislative, judicial -- is not allowed to pick and choose who gets certain rights among us.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unqualified - Unbelievable

This greeted me when I opened my email this morning...

HB 1357

Vic's Statehouse Notes #136
Sadly I must report that today the [Indiana] House passed the bill saying that neither a teacher license nor a superintendent license are needed to be a superintendent in Indiana, House Bill 1357. The final vote was 55-40. Since the House concurred with the Senate version, the bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

The Senate added the requirement that to be a superintendent, the candidate must hold a Masters degree in any subject. The House had passed the first version of the bill 58-40 allowing anyone to be a superintendent, even those with no college degree.

The deconstruction of the education profession in Indiana continues. Principals can now brace for evaluations by superintendents who have never been a principal. University programs set up to train high quality superintendents are likely to die on the vine. Look for excellent superintendents to leave the state to find a climate which respects the special training needed to be a successful superintendent.
So according to this soon-to-be-law a Superintendent of a public school system in Indiana needn't know anything about education.

HB 1002

On their web site, the Indiana House Republicans boast about the new law creating the Indiana Career Council (ICC). The law was passed with bipartisan support because the "skills gap" needed to be addressed.
The purpose of the ICC is to coordinate participants in the state’s educational, job skills and career training systems to address the “skills gap.”
JOB TRAINING

That makes sense. It's important that people are trained for their jobs. It's important that people acquire the skills needed to do a job. Plumbers need to be trained as plumbers...police officers need to be trained as police officers...x-ray technicians need to be trained as x-ray technicians...

The same logic, according to the 55 Indiana legislators who voted for HB 1357, doesn't seem to hold true for school superintendents. Let's take a look at what superintendents need to be able to do...and see if there are any qualifications needed other than a Master's Degree -- in anything.

JOB DESCRIPTION: SUPERINTENDENT

Stand for Children, a pro-privatization group bent on destroying teachers unions and de-professionalizing teachers, has, on their Washington affiliate's web site a page devoted to a school superintendent's job description. What Does a School Superintendent Do? lists the qualities which make for a great Superintendent [emphasis in original].
  • A great superintendent has a clear vision for the district. He or she works with the school board to set the vision, goals and objectives for the district, and then sees to it that the goals are achieved.
  • A great superintendent is an instructional leader. He or she knows that the most important job of the school district is to make sure students are learning and achieving at high levels. He or she is knowledgeable of the best practices for maximizing student achievement and is supportive of teachers in the district.
  • A great superintendent is an effective communicator. He or she must make a concerted effort to communicate the needs and accomplishments of the district in a variety of formats: through written reports, communication with the media, public meetings and attendance at school events.
  • A great superintendent is a good manager. He or she directs the administrators to accomplish the goals of the district, monitors their progress and evaluates their performance.
  • A great superintendent is a good listener. He or she must listen and take into account differing viewpoints of various constituencies, and then make the best decision.
  • A great superintendent is not afraid to take risks or make a commitment. An average superintendent might set goals that are vague or easily achieved, but a great superintendent would set bold goals that take effort and committment, such as "The majority of third graders will be able to read by the end of the school year," and then put the programs and resources in place to achieve those goals.
  • A great superintendent is flexible. He or she needs to be able to manage the politics of the job - to adapt to new board members, changes in state funding and changes in the school community while not sacrificing the district's vision. A great superintendent takes a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach.
It's a list of all the qualities of a great leader -- vision, communication skills, risk taking, and flexibility. I think we can all agree that good leaders needs these things. Take another look, however, at bullet point number 2...
  • A great superintendent is an instructional leader. He or she knows that the most important job of the school district is to make sure students are learning and achieving at high levels. He or she is knowledgeable of the best practices for maximizing student achievement and is supportive of teachers in the district.
It's clear that a quality superintendent needs to be knowledgeable about instructional practices. Doesn't this imply that superintendents ought to be trained educators? Knowledge of instructional practices...best practices...are not inherited. They are learned through years of actual teaching experience, personal analysis and self-reflection, professional development and personal and professional study.

HB 1357 sponsors P. Eric Turner and Todd Huston, neither of whom has a master's degree, don't agree with that apparently. Turner is the CEO of T-3 Investment Corporation. Presumably he is qualified to hold that post. I also would guess that the people he hires to work for him have the qualifications to do the job he requires of them. The same may not be true for Huston...He has a bachelors degree in Political Science and is a professional politician. No qualifications required.

The point is almost laughably simple for anyone except these 55 legislators. People need to have adequate training in order to do a job well. That includes school superintendents.

Next they'll let anyone with a college degree -- no matter what the subject -- teach in the classroom -- even people with no teaching training...oh, wait...



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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, April 21, 2013

2013 Medley #8

Teachers, "Reform", Testing, Poverty


THE ROLE OF TEACHERS

A Warning to Young People: Don't Become a Teacher

A career in education is getting harder and harder to pursue. The forces of privatization are changing the educator's job description to that of a part time worker, untrained, and in transition to a higher paying career in the private sector. The public bashing of teachers continues...and fewer college students are going into education. I wonder why?
Classroom teachers, especially those who are just out of college and entering the profession, are more stressed and less valued than at any previous time in our history.

They have to listen to a long list of politicians who belittle their ability, blame them for every student whose grades do not reach arbitrary standards, and want to take away every fringe benefit they have -- everything from the possibility of achieving tenure to receiving a decent pension.

How Do We Retain Excellent Teachers?

Do we, as a nation, really want to retain excellent teachers? Do the "reformers" want professional educators? In Indiana, the legislature and the Board of Education have been lowering the qualifications for educators at all levels. Is that how to improve teaching and learning?

It's hard to look at what's happening to public education and not come to the conclusion that we are doing everything we can to make the difficult job of teaching even more difficult. The profession of teaching, from which all other professions emerge, is being systematically dismantled. Teachers are being punished for their career choice.

Fewer benefits, less job security, lower (or no) pensions...all the benefits that used to make up for the long hours and relatively low salary (compared to others with similar training and investment)...are disappearing. The 50% of teachers who leave before their 5th year will increase until the field of education is just a part time job with a revolving door.

Are we serious about improving education? It certainly doesn't appear so.
If we really want to retain teachers, we need to recruit motivated and intelligent people, support them in becoming excellent teachers, provide them with opportunities to direct school programs and curricula, and finally ask their help in supporting a new wave of incoming teachers.

This is far easier said than done. We are currently directing most of our money and energy getting on board with common core and finding quick gimmicks for improving data that matters to administrators and districts, but does not always translate into real learning and growth, and often harms it.

One of the Dumbest NY Times’ Opinion Pieces Ever

It escapes me how we can improve education by lowering standards for educators, increasing class size, demoralizing teachers and closing schools.
Wouldn’t you think that a Harvard professor would see some relationship between the scandalously high rate of child poverty in the United States–about 23%–and low scores on international tests?

The rest of the article is an effort to shift the blame to teachers for what he claims is mediocrity. If only we could get “the best and the brightest!”

If only the professor would explain how the teaching profession will improve when state after state is demoralizing teachers with unproven evaluations based on test scores, stripping away protection for academic freedom, cutting benefits, and lowering standards for new teachers.

Wall Street Journal to Teachers: Stop Standing Up For Yourselves!

I'm retired. I paid for my "pension" with 3% of my salary every year I taught. Put another way...if I had taken 3% of my salary every year and invested it we would call that a "retirement account." When the state of Indiana does that for me it's called a "pension." It's the same money...payment to me for services rendered...that is saved and invested.
Let's get this straight once and for all: public employee pensions are deferred compensation. The pensions are not "financed by the taxpayers"; they are financed by public employees who defer pay in a deal that is good for the taxpayer.

WHEN "REFORM" MEETS REALITY

Reformers Singing Diane Ravitch’s Tune

People who have been pushing testing as the be-all and end-all of education are now backpedaling in the wake of the cheating scandal(s) in Atlanta (and Washington D.C.). EdGator (aka John Kuhn) explains the turnaround.
There was a time when most prominent education reformers were in lockstep agreement about the unimpeachable utility of using student test scores to judge teacher quality, but that was before the dogged pursuit of improved test scores went so horribly awry in Atlanta. Recent days have seen some very interesting moves, as several major education reform proponents have suddenly decided they basically agree with Diane Ravitch regarding the negative consequences arising from the inappropriate use of student performance data.

Bill Gates wrote an op-ed in which he expressed shock and dismay that people around the country are using student test scores improperly in evaluating teachers. As Anthony Cody notes, however, Gates was as responsible as anyone for today’s almost religious commitment to wielding student test scores as a significant factor in evaluating teachers...

Who will be held responsible when state officials are factually wrong? On Statistics & Teacher Evaluation

Here's another example of the damage done by people who have no clue about education messing about with education.
New Jersey has recently released its new regulations for implementing teacher evaluation policies, with heavy reliance on student growth percentile scores, ultimately aggregated to the teacher level as median growth percentiles. When challenged about whether those growth percentile scores will accurately represent teacher effectiveness, specifically for teachers serving kids from different backgrounds, NJ Commissioner Christopher Cerf explains:
“You are looking at the progress students make and that fully takes into account socio-economic status,” Cerf said. “By focusing on the starting point, it equalizes for things like special education and poverty and so on.” (emphasis added)
...Here’s the thing about that statement. Well, two things. First, the comparisons of individual students don’t actually explain what happens when a group of students is aggregated to their teacher and the teacher is assigned the median student’s growth score to represent his/her effectiveness, where teacher’s don’t all have an evenly distributed mix of kids who started at similar points (to other teachers). So, in one sense, this statement doesn’t even address the issue.



Editorial - Legislators’ ‘fixes’ for public education may inflict irreparable damage

Destroy public education in order to improve it.
In their world, better public schools can be had only by siphoning off students and money into charter and private schools, and by eliminating the cap on class sizes in the lower grades, a factor that has been shown to improve academic achievement. At the same time, the same group of lawmakers is working to put tight caps on preschool education, another success story in education.

No, the way the Honorables in the General Assembly are going, the result can only be weaker public schools left with fewer resources to teach the very students the so-called educational improvements were designed to help. Is that their actual intent?

When it’s not his children’s school

Mayor Emanuel wouldn't send his children to a public school with 30 plus students in a class. He sends his children to a private school (Arne Duncan's Alma Mater) where the class sizes are in the low 20s.
It’s a formula, for example, that will peg a school’s utilization as “efficient” (rather than “overcrowded”) if that school has 36 students in each of its “allotted homerooms.”

Using that same formula, a CPS elementary school with just 23 kids in each of its “allotted homerooms” would find itself on the district’s “underutilized” list, which, in 2013, is the first step on the road to being shut down.

At the mayor’s kids’ school, however, elementary classes are considered “full” if there are 23 students in the classroom.

But rest assured the mayor is not going to add The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools to his school-closings hit list. Nor is he urging Lab management to renegotiate the class-size provisions of its current labor agreement with the AFT Local 2063 teachers who educate his kids.

Smart Options: Investing the Recovery Funds for Student Success

What's the Broad Foundation's solution to schools where students are not performing well? Simple. Close the bad ones and replace them with good ones.
Aggressively close poor-performing schools and replace them with new high-performing schools. States must be much more proactive in this area by refusing to allow chronically underperforming schools to continue operating indefinitely. They should identify, close, and replace at least 10 schools in Program Improvement 5 status each year. Depending on the state, implementation may require coordination among the governor, state chief, and/or state board.
Close the "underperforming" public school (read: high poverty) and replace it with a charter* with a new staff of lower paid, under-trained, overworked teachers, replace the administration with under-trained entrepreneurs, raise class sizes, and "counsel out" or otherwise remove students who score low on tests and voilĂ , a "good school." Why didn't anyone think of that before?


TESTING

‘Test-and-punish’ sabotages quality of children’s education

Would any "reformers" send their children to a school with no school library? What would they say if their school was underfunded? Linda Darling-Hammond focuses on what really matters in education.
Policymakers have tied more and more decisions to test scores. They factor into whether students will be promoted or graduated, how much teachers will be paid, and whether they will remain employed, whether schools will receive rewards or sanctions–including, with recent policies, whether their staffs will be fired or whether they will be closed entirely. Recent cheating scandals, like those in Atlanta and Washington DC, are one result of this pressure. But cheating is rare, and there are far more wide-reaching negative consequences of this obsession...

...focusing on test-based accountability deflects attention from critical problems that need to be solved: higher rates of childhood poverty–nearly one in four children–and homelessness than any in the industrialized world; state funding systems that often spend more than twice as much on affluent schools as on poor ones; crumbling schools in many poor communities that lack textbooks, libraries, computers, and safe facilities. These disparities account for much more of the achievement gap than the effects of individual teachers, but they are tougher to confront.

Don’t Teach to the Test
From September until Christmas vacation, [Brookside] was like any school you would imagine. Then, once they got back from Christmas break, for the next nine weeks until testing began, it was a different animal. What they did was drop their curriculum, drop their texts, and instead study exclusively from a standardized-test prep book. Kids weren't getting a liberal arts education, but prepping to a very narrowly drawn standardized test in primarily language arts and math. Because they were interested in passing the test more than anything else, for that 22 percent of the school year, they taught primarily to the broad middle section of kids that were going to pass. Plus, the school went and reached out to those kids who they thought were on the cusp of possibly passing. So who gets left out? The kids at the bottom and the kids at the top.

POVERTY

Bill Moyers: We Are Living in the United States of Inequality
The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable....Bill Moyers shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless — who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years — are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps.

“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Moyers, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”

Map: How 35 countries compare on child poverty (the U.S. is ranked 34th)

The "United States of Inequality" is the major cause of the "achievement gap" in education.
UNICEF’s data is important for measuring the share of children who are substantively poorer than their national average, which has important implications for the cost of food, housing, health care and other essentials. Its research shows that children are more likely to fall below this relative poverty line in the United States than in almost any other developed country.

But the picture looks even worse when you examine just how far below the relative poverty line these children tend to fall. The UNICEF report looks at something it calls the “child poverty gap,” which measures how far the average poor child falls below the relative poverty line. It does this by measuring the gap between the relative poverty line and the average income of poor families.

Alarmingly, the United States also scores second-to-last on this measurement, with the average poor child living in a home that makes 36 percent less than the relative poverty line. Only Italy has a wider gap.

*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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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Disrespecting Educators

I just don't get it.

Can someone explain to me why education is the one area where "anyone" and "everyone" can be an expert no matter what their training?

This is the same kind of thinking that has the Indiana legislature remove all career education requirements for superintendents, or the Indiana School board not require pedagogical training for teachers.

It's the same thinking that allows the President of the United States to appoint a Sociology major/professional basketball player to the office of Secretary of Education. It's the same sort of thinking which gives people like Bill Gates power over education policy when his only qualification is money.

David Catania, the chair of Washington D.C. Council’s Education Committee, has decided that the "reform" of the city's schools isn't working well enough so he wants to hire...

...get ready for this...

Lawyers!
...an outside law firm to help him craft a package of school-related legislation that would aim to lift student achievement and address points of friction between the city’s traditional and charter schools.
Catania hires law firm to help craft D.C. school legislation
Major targets for Catania include streamlining enrollment lotteries for parents, adjusting how schools are funded and allocating more dollars for poor children, setting performance targets for schools and consequences when they consistently fall short, and outlining a way to decide the fate of vacant school buildings...

“What I’m looking at is how we have reforms cascade into classrooms,” said Catania, who has been critical of the pace of school improvement under Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D).
Yes. You read that right. In order to expand the "reforms" so they actually effect children in classrooms...he's asking for help from a team of lawyers.

He wants to set performance targets -- read: test scores -- for schools. He wants to set consequences for schools -- read: punishment -- when the students can't reach the required scores. Do the "consequences" include any professional development? Do they include any social safety nets or wraparound services for students? Or are the consequences the "reformer's" "status quo" options of blaming the administrators, teachers and students?

How many of the lawyers on the team have any experience teaching kindergarten, special education or middle school? Have any of them ever sat on a curriculum committee or a report card committee? How many have ordered books for a school library? How many times in the past 10 years have any of those lawyers had to have a parent conference to discuss a child's academic and social progress? How many nights have they stayed up till 1 AM grading English themes, or carried a stack of math papers with them in the obligatory teacher's tote bag so they could grade them while standing in line at the license branch, in the airport, or while waiting for dinner at Applebee's?

A team of lawyers?

The lawyers are from an...
international firm with wide areas of practice in government and industry, including K-12 and higher education.
Who is he going to get when the school system is sued for malpractice -- a team of architects?

He has support on the council for this, too.
Council member David Grosso (I-At Large), a member of the Education Committee, said he will push for strong community engagement but supports Catania’s approach.

“I’m really supportive of getting experts involved, making sure that we’re really digging in and understanding all of our options,” said Grosso, who plans to send one of his staff members to sit in on regular meetings with the lawyers. [emphasis added]
Say what?

Experts?

I should be used to this by now, yet once again I'm astonished by the sheer stupidity...the gall...the slap in the face directed at professional educators everywhere.

Why do we stand for this?

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Musical Interlude

Here's a commercial for a cell phone from Japan...much more than advertising or music...

What kind of education should we provide for our children to foster this sort of creativity? Would the Common Core encourage this sort of experimentation? How about testing? Did the musicians/woodworkers/engineers who performed this piece understand the concepts of physics and mathematics?

What would J. S. Bach think?


Here's a short video showing how the commercial was made...



Here's a beautiful, more traditional version...


Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring is the most common English title of the 10th and last movement of the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147 composed by J. S. Bach in 1716 and 1723. It was written during his first year in Leipzig, Germany.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Update to Poisoned Children and "Reform"

Earlier this week I posted some information about the damage done by Lead Poisoning. A former Lead Educator with the Indiana Department of Health - Ellen - commented...
Lead can have devastating effects on school performance. . . A child who is lead poisoned as a toddler can continue to have problems in school all the way through adolescence, even if the lead hazard was found and removed.
Indiana is fortunate that our Maternal and Child Health Division at the State Department of Health was able to take over the funding for Lead and Healthy Homes when the funding at the national level dried up. I don't know if other states were as lucky. Any legislator that claims to care about education must acknowledge the importance of a healthy home and school environment.
The Arizona School Boards Association has published a report (available in pdf) titled, A Strange Ignorance The role of lead poisoning in failing schools.. The executive summary contains the following.
Not all children can learn, not when they have been poisoned. If environmental lead, instead of calcium, is incorporated into a child's rapidly developing brain tissue "between birth and age three," those tissues will not function correctly. Ever. By the time children reach the public schools, the damage has been done, and it is irreversible.

Lead is an incredibly potent neurotoxin prevalent in older neighborhoods. It takes a surprisingly small amount of lead to damage developing brains, a few sand-grain sized paint chips will do it. Those children, in turn, will sustain brain damage that ensures both educational and social problems for the rest of their life. This early lead poisoning has been linked to:
  1. an inability to learn because brain tissues constructed of lead do not bind properly to form the neural learning connections,
  2. to attention deficit disorders because lead damaged brain tissues have a tendency to misfire and disrupt normal concentration,
  3. to violence because the careful balance of brain structures in the prefrontal cortex that inhibits impulsivity and violence is disrupted, and
  4. to drug use because untreated sufferers find illegal drugs help to medicate the agitation caused by lead damaged brain cells.
What is it that prevents school "reformers" and their legislative pals from dealing with the effects of poverty on nearly a quarter of our children? What is it to deny those effects and blame teachers, their unions and public schools for the failure of our nation to provide an adequate environment for children to grow. Is it ignorance? Neglect? Greed?

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Poisoned Children and "Reform"

Poverty and Potential

In yesterday's post about the achievement gap and the failure of "reforms" in New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. to increase achievement I mentioned David Berliner's study of Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Berliner writes...
(1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school-factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
There are some things we can do to counteract those factors...
Also discussed is a seventh OSF, extended learning opportunities, such as pre- school, after school, and summer school programs that can help to mitigate some of the harm caused by the first six factors.
Environmental Pollutants

One of the more serious environmental issues affecting children's learning is lead poisoning. We've stopped using lead in gasoline and paint, and the incidence of lead poisoning has dropped significantly because of that, however, there are still millions of children affected by lead...

Detroit - February 25, 2013
High lead poisoning linked to lower test scores in DPS
The greater the lead poisoning in a Detroit Public Schools student's blood, the higher the likelihood he or she will do poorly on achievement tests -- even after accounting for contributing factors such as poverty. That's the finding of a collaborative study that provides one of the most detailed assessments yet of the impact of lead poisoning on students' learning ability.
Milwaukee - January 8, 2013
UW-Madison study links lead exposure to lower test scores
The study included students in Milwaukee Public Schools, and was coordinated by researchers at UW-Madison and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The study found that environmental lead exposure poses a significant challenge to schools striving to meet WKCE standards.
Connecticut - May 18, 2011
Study Links Lead Exposure To Low Student Test Scores
A new [Duke University] study says many Connecticut students who have been exposed to lead in paint, soil and elsewhere are performing poorly on standardized tests compared to their peers.
Chicago - January 21, 2013
Chicago Study Links Lead Poisoning to Lower Test Scores
A recent study from the University of Illinois at Chicago by Anne Evens examined the blood lead levels of third-graders between 2003 and 2006. Evens uncovered that at 75 percent of Chicago’s 464 elementary schools; the students’ average blood level was high enough to be considered poisoned, according to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Reforms"

The so-called "reforms" which are being carried out across the country focus on firing teachers and administrators, closing public schools, increasing testing, providing vouchers, increasing charter schools, and evaluating and paying teachers based on test scores.

For the most part, the "reforms" don't work. One reason for that might be that the children who are struggling are most often children who are affected by poverty, but there are things we can do to alleviate poverty's impact on children's lives. Take a look at this study from Massachusetts...

Massachusetts - October 8, 2013
Study: Getting rid of lead does wonders for school performance
Reyes took a look at what happened in Massachusetts during the 1990s, when the state took aggressive steps to strip old paint from homes with children under the age of six — and closely monitored students for lead levels. By scrutinizing state standardized test scores before and after the policies were enacted, Reyes found suggestive evidence that lead abatement had a major impact on school performance
Instead of wasting time, money and children's educational opportunities on unproven "reforms," states should concentrate on reducing the effects of poverty on their citizens. Lead poisoning is still a real and serious issue affecting students' health and achievement.

You might also be interested in...

Lead Poisoning: The Ignored Scandal
Issue Brief: Childhood Lead Exposure and Educational Outcomes
No Excuses

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?

It seems to work for wealthy children.

Read on...
Reformers assert that test-based teacher evaluation, increased access to charter schools, and the closure of “failing” and under-enrolled schools will boost at-risk students’ achievement and narrow longstanding race- and income-based achievement gaps. [A] new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education examines these assertions by comparing the impacts of these reforms in three large urban school districts – Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago – with student and school outcomes over the same period in other large, high-poverty urban districts. The report finds that the reforms deliver few benefits, often harm the students they purport to help, and divert attention from a set of other, less visible policies with more promise to weaken the link between poverty and low educational attainment. (Emphasis added)
So says a new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education. The complete report, Market-Oriented Reforms' Rhetoric Trumps Reality, won't be available until April 18. However, the Executive Summary is available now and has quite a bit of information.

Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.

"Reform" hasn't worked in New York, D.C., and Chicago. The "reform" strategy of closing failing schools, opening charters, and shuffling students from one place to another has resulted in stagnating achievement test scores for minority students. Meanwhile, in other urban areas, the achievement gap narrowed and more progress was made.

The goal of the "reformers" is apparently not improved achievement. The real goal, privatization, has increased dramatically. Chicago Mayor Emanuel is poised to close 54 neighborhood schools in his quest to destroy the nation's third largest school system. The Renaissance 2010 plan, Arne Duncan's plan (under Mayor Daley) to improve the schools, didn't work since it consisted of closing "poor performing" schools and opening charters.
Six years after Mayor Richard Daley launched a bold initiative to close down and remake failing schools, Renaissance 2010 has done little to improve the educational performance of the city's school system, according to a Tribune analysis of 2009 state test data.

Scores from the elementary schools created under Renaissance 2010 are nearly identical to the city average, and scores at the remade high schools are below the already abysmal city average, the analysis found.
Race to the Top, however, which is Renaissance 2010 for the rest of the nation, continues unabated.

Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.

The huge gains reported for targeted students turned out to be false as a closer examination revealed that the numbers had been manipulated.
"There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics." - Variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Alfred Marshall, Mark Twain and many other dead people
The "reformers" apparently used lies and statistics. The report said...
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg claimed to halve the white/Asian to black/Latino achievement gap in city schools from 2003 to 2011, but scores on state-administered tests, averaged across fourth and eighth grades in reading and math, show that the achievement gap had stagnated; it was 26.2 percentage points in 2003, versus 25.8 percentage points in 2011 (a 0.01 standard deviation change). Columbia University professor Aaron Pallas, who calculated the 1 percent reduction, noted, “The mayor has thus overstated the cut in the achievement gap by a factor of 50.”
Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.
District of Columbia Public Schools’ IMPACT system, which bases teacher evaluations (and dismissals) heavily on test scores, is associated with higher teacher turnover. The share of DCPS teachers leaving after one year increased from 15.3 percent in 2001–2007 (before IMPACT began in 2009) to 19.3 percent in 2008–2012; the share leaving after two years increased from 27.8 percent to 33.2 percent; the share leaving after three years increased from 37.5 percent to 42.7 percent; and after four years fully half (52.1 percent) of teachers left the system, up from 45.3 percent.10 Few teachers reach “experienced” status, generally considered at least five years and, by some experts, seven years or more.
It appears that the "reformers" evaluation plan had the desired effect of saving the district money. Older, more experienced, more expensive teachers left in large numbers.

School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

The only students who had improved achievement in Chicago were the 6% who were moved from "underperforming" schools to schools with greater resources. I look forward to the complete report to find out what those "resources" were. Why weren't all schools receiving those resources? Instead of closing schools, would supplying the missing resources have helped the schools improve? Who was "underperforming," the school or the district administration?

Meanwhile the majority of the disrupted students moved from one "underperforming" school to another...presumably another with inadequate resources.
Although Arne Duncan closed Chicago public schools deemed “underperforming” in order to move students to better schools, the closings had almost no effect on student achievement because almost all displaced elementary school students transferred from one low-performing school to another, according to a study of 18 schools closed between 2001 and 2006. Only the 6 percent who moved to better schools with greater resources had improved outcomes.
Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

Closing neighborhood schools and replacing them with charters* doesn't help. Charters in general don't have any more success than regular public schools. In NY, the charters were able to skim students and get higher per-pupil spending but then the "reformers" will tell you that money doesn't matter...
It is clear, however, that New York City charters benefit from more funding per student and better facilities in co-located spaces. While they serve more minority and low-income students, they serve fewer students who are special needs, very poor, or English language learners (ELL), and these high-needs students are costlier to serve. Comparing charters with nearby public schools illustrates stark differences. At Samuel Stern public school, where 86 percent of students qualify for free lunch and 19 percent are ELL, per-pupil spending is $12,476. At nearby Harlem Day charter school, 62 percent of students qualify for free lunch, and there are no ELL students, but per-pupil spending is $19,632.
Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.

It almost seems like the "reformers" want to avoid that which really works.
Michelle Rhee expanded DCPS’s full-day voluntary prekindergarten program to serve 3- and 4-year-olds at all income levels, and the district adopted a holistic curriculum designed to nurture all domains of children’s development. Though third-graders who had participated had higher test scores than their nonparticipating peers, pre-K is not even a component of the agenda on which Rhee’s advocacy group, StudentsFirst, grades every state’s education system.
The full day preschool worked for Michelle Rhee when she ran D.C.'s public schools. Apparently that was a good enough reason to leave it out of her new "reform" agenda.

The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

The "reformers" habit of ignoring poverty is getting old.

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success
Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the [out-of-school-factors] that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.
Should we spend more money to help students in poverty? Jonathan Kozol has an answer to that...
"People agree with everything I say," Kozol continued. "They say, 'Yes, it is unfair they don't get as much per pupil as our children.' Then they say, 'Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?' And I say, 'You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'"

*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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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Indiana's Privatization Plan Rolls Along

Yesterday the Indiana Senate passed a voucher expansion bill making Indiana's voucher plan even more destructive than it already was.

The senate also passed a bill which allows anyone with a master's degree (in any area) to become a school superintendent. No education experience necessary.

Vouchers

When Indiana's voucher law was passed in 2011 the supporters said that it was so children of low income, who couldn't afford private schools, would have the same choice as middle class and wealthy students. This is no longer the case...and, it's clear now that giving poor children "choice" was never the reason. The voucher proponents were simply trying to get vouchers on the books so that eventually (meaning this year) they could expand it in order to 1) reimburse parents who already sent their children to private schools and 2) give more monetary support to private and parochial schools at the expense of public schools.
  • This year's bill allows vouchers for parents whose children already attend private schools. These parents already can afford to send their children to private schools. They already made the choice and found ways to pay for it.
“For a student who enters the Lake Central system in seventh grade, we would receive $4,700 per year. If that student enrolls in a private or parochial school, that school receives $5,500,” [Superintendent] Veracco said.
  • The three senators I talked to in March, who eventually voted for the bill -- and bluntly told us that they believed in "choice" -- all home schooled their children or sent their children to private schools. By their votes they have shown us that their words of support for public schools are empty.
  • This year's bill includes an increase in the tax deduction for private school and home school "expenses" from $1000 to $5000. Meanwhile public school parents pay higher fees, and public schools are in financial stress because their budgets were cut by $300 million during the Great Recession which has never been replaced.
Sen. Pat Miller has authored Amendment 13 which would expand the tax deduction for home school and private school expenses from $1000 to $5000. The current $1000 deducation, authored by Sen. Miller in 2011, equates to a savings of $34 dollars on each tax return. LSA has reported that this cost Indiana $2.7 million dollars last year. Now Sen. Miller wants to multiply this benefit by five, which means it would cost taxpayers $13 million...
The voucher bill which now goes back to the house -- which is also filled with voucher supporting politicians -- for passage and then to the governor for his signature. It's not law yet, but it will be. There's no doubt.

Superintendents
HB 1357...removes the requirement that superintendents have a teacher’s license or a superintendent’s license. Sen. Pete Miller presented the bill as a change to let the local school board decide who should be their superintendent without requiring a licensed superintendent. He said the bill is “not saying an educator’s license is not important, but rather that it is not essential.”

...Senator Rogers then rose to speak, holding up the four-inch thick book of school laws and administrative code that superintendents must master, saying that experienced administrators are needed in schools. She said local boards can be pressured to appoint people not well trained and “flexible means yielding to influence.”

Then came the vote. The reds and greens appeared balanced on the board...A tie vote.

...the presiding officer of the Senate, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann casts the deciding vote. She quickly voted yes, and the bill passed 26-25.
This legislature disrespects public schools, public school teachers and the more than 1,000,000 public school students in the state. Current rules allow anyone to be a teacher if they have a college degree -- in any area. Teaching is, apparently, so easy that anyone can do it. Similar rules exist for principals...and this bill provides the final piece of the puzzle...virtually anyone can be a school superintendent. They believe that children are so unimportant than they don't deserve trained professionals to educate them.

I'm reminded of an irate parent who shouted at me during a parent/teacher conference. His child was not making progress and was having difficulty with reading. The parent, not wishing to admit that his child had a problem learning, shouted, "Why don't you just tell him what he needs to know?" This is the level of pedagogical understanding present in our legislature. You don't need any special training to be an educator in this state. Just "tell them" and they will magically become educated.

Democracy


The Indiana legislature is doing its job well -- that of moving public funds into private and parochial bank accounts. The fact that the Superintendent of Public Instruction was elected on a platform which included "no public funds for private schools" doesn't matter. The voters gave the pro-voucher and privatization politicians a supermajority in both houses of the legislature as well as the governor's office. The people have spoken.

Indiana voters elected people like Long and Behning who are determined to give public tax money to private and parochial schools.

Democracy allows people to vote against their best interest and we, the voters of Indiana, have done just that. The democratically elected legislature and governor in Indiana are hell-bent on privatizing education and letting public schools flounder with inadequate resources. They don't respect public education. They don't respect the vast majority of children who attend our public schools.

"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

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 Medley #7

Teachers, Charters, Parent Trigger, 
Cheating, Vouchers

THE ROLE OF TEACHERS

Gerald Gerald Conti’s retirement letter and here.

Veteran teachers are leaving the profession in high numbers. The average years of experience of the American teacher has dropped precipitously in the last few years. One of the stated goals of the "reform" movement is to do away with seniority. Driving out veteran teachers by making the profession unpalatable is a way to make that goal a reality.
My profession is being demeaned by a pervasive atmosphere of distrust, dictating that teachers cannot be permitted to develop and administer their own quizzes and tests (now titled as generic “assessments”) or grade their own students’ examinations. The development of plans, choice of lessons and the materials to be employed are increasingly expected to be common to all teachers in a given subject. This approach not only strangles creativity, it smothers the development of critical thinking in our students and assumes a one-size-fits-all mentality more appropriate to the assembly line than to the classroom.




Yet Another Education Reform Scam

Silent teachers...
And one of the most remarkable things is that the campaign for education "reform" — which must needs include the ongoing political and social villainization of public school teachers, without which the "reform" movement cannot succeed — has managed to bully teachers into silence about obvious ethical catastrophes like the one that allegedly occurred in Atlanta. The "reformers," and the avaricious politicians who have their own reasons for breaking the political power of the public school unions, have convinced the world that any criticisms of their methods is merely the caterwauling of overpaid featherbedders in the Music departments.
Cheating

Standardized Exam Cheating In 37 States And D.C.; New Report Shows Widespread Test Score Corruption

When the test becomes the goal then cheating is the result.
The solution to the school test cheating problem is not simply stepped up enforcement. Instead, testing misuses must end because they cheat the public out of accurate data about public school quality at the same time they cheat many students out of a high-quality education.

The cheating explosion is one of the many reasons resistance to high-stakes testing is sweeping the nation...

VOUCHERS

Dear Indiana Politician

One of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education has written a personal and heart-felt letter in support of public funds for public schools and against using tax money for vouchers. Will the Indiana General Assembly listen or have they already made up their minds?
...the educational reform (and all that it encompasses) rages across our country out of control without many, if any, educational experts weighing in. Those educational experts valued by teachers are dismissed by those making legislation in favor of individuals with business savvy and big bucks but no expertise—no experience—in the classroom. Why would educators be left out of the decision-making process?

FWCS Resolution Against Voucher Expansion

Kudos to the Fort Wayne Community Schools School Board for passing this resolution against the state's voucher expansion plans.
  • students can receive vouchers upon leaving schools with high achievement
  • current system diverts funds necessary to support the public schools
  • expanded to include students who have never been in the public schools
  • increases taxpayer funding for parochial and private schools by an estimated $21 million while FWCS continues to suffer the effects from a $10 million cut

Fighting school voucher program

Another Indiana school board resolves that vouchers would hurt the students of the state...
“For a student who enters the Lake Central system in seventh grade, we would receive $4,700 per year. If that student enrolls in a private or parochial school, that school receives $5,500,” [Superintendent] Veracco said.

The School Board's resolution cites...a $21 million economic impact in the area. It asks the Indiana General Assembly to put HB 1003 on hold and to establish a study committee to evaluate the impact before any further changes are made to the voucher program.

Wait, Vouchers Can Fund Muslim Schools?

In some places legislators are having trouble with their own voucher plans since they can't pick and choose which religious organization's schools get the vouchers.
Notice that there was no complaint at all from these same legislators over diverting money to private Christian schools. They’re perfectly find [sic] with tax money going to support Christian schools. But Muslim schools? That’s an outrage! Who could possibly support such a thing? More importantly, how can they pass a law that prevents that from happening while ensuring the flow of funds to Christian schools? They can’t. And you know what prevents it? That damn constitution they claim so loudly to revere.

PARENT TRIGGER

Public Schools, Private Agendas: Parent Revolution

The parent trigger laws do not give parents more choice. The group Parent Revolution is not a broad based parent support or advocacy group. It was founded by a charter school operator in order to improve his business.
“My kids are not going to go there,” she says. “They’re taking away all the teachers my kids have been around for years. They took over our school, and I don’t think it’s fair. They’re not for the kids.”

CHARTERS*

Ohio

Charters Don't Deserve State Windfall
For two decades, the money has been following Ohio’s children out of the doors of our public schoolhouses and through the doors of charter schools. Despite losing over $6 billion to charters during the past 15 years, traditional public schools continue to vastly outperform their charter-school counterparts.

ECOT Charter School continues siphoning money from Ohio’s top-rated school districts
Charters like ECOT (Ohio’s largest by a mile) are not the saving grace of education in Ohio — they are siphoning students and money away from the best school districts in the state, causing unnecessary strife and lowering statewide student achievement.

California

Charter school operators guilty of misusing funds
"You can't spend the charter school funds for anything you want. It has to be money spent on the kids and the schools."

PUBLIC EDUCATION

School Segregation Leads To More Violent Crime, Study Finds

The privatization movement is leading to a re-segregating of America's schools. In 2007 the Supreme Court essentially took down the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
In a 5-4 decision authored by Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday, the Supreme Court told local school districts that they cannot take even modest steps to overcome residential segregation and ensure that schools within their diverse cities themselves remain racially mixed unless they can prove that such classifications are narrowly tailored to achieve specific educational benefits.
With the re-segregation of schools comes this report...
Modern inner-city schools are often underfunded, while dropout rates are high and violence is common. Police officers routinely intervene to discipline students for minor infractions, exposing minority kids early to the criminal justice system. Greater allocation of resources may not be enough to halt the cycle of racially-skewed poverty and crime as long as racial and class segregation continues, according to an analysis by Columbia Business School professor Ray Fisman.

The Public Purpose of Public Education
As the U.S. Department of Education has introduced competitive grant programs, it has frozen formula programs from the civil rights era that awarded funds according to the specific needs of the children to be served. Title I is an important example of a formula program frozen in recent federal budgets and being slowly transformed into competitive programs. Title I was created in 1965 in the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide federal aid for schools serving children in poverty. Although the Title I formula program is small relative to state and local funding, it has been one of the federal government’s primary tools for equalizing educational opportunity as a civil right for every child. “There are those who would make the case for a Race to the Top for those who can run,” declares the Rev. Jesse Jackson. “Instead ‘lift from the bottom’ is the moral imperative because it includes everybody. We should be fighting for one set of rules—a common foundation beneath which no child falls.”

The Service of Democratic Education

Not much has changed since Linda Darling-Hammond wrote this in 2011. We're still blaming the teachers and the schools, closing schools instead of supporting them, ignoring poverty, and shuffling poor children around so the privatizers can take our tax money as profits.
And the new scientific managers cleverly construct systems that solve the problem of the poor by blaming the teachers and schools that seek to serve them, calling the deepening levels of severe poverty an “excuse,” rewarding schools that keep out and push out the highest-need students, and threatening those who work with new immigrant students still learning English and the growing number of those who are homeless, without healthcare or food security. Are there lower scores in under-resourced schools with high-need students? Fire the teachers and the principals. Close the schools. Don’t look for supports for their families and communities, equitable funding for public schools or investments in professional learning. Don’t worry about the fact that the next schools are—as researchers have documented—likely to do no better. This is the equivalent of deciding that if the banks are failing, we should fire the tellers. (And whatever you do, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.)

PRIORITIES

The U.S. Collects Less In Taxes Than All But Two Industrialized Countries

We're a selfish lot. We, as a nation, don't really care about each other or our children very much...other than the lip service we pay during elections. The "common wisdom" is that we're over-taxed. Unfortunately that's just a lie. We're among the least taxed people on earth...and we have the lack of social safety nets to show it. Poor medical care and our incredibly high child poverty rate lead to a crisis in learning for our most vulnerable children...and we, as a nation, are unwilling to pay more. The "community" of America doesn't exist. The attitude has become "what's mine is mine and you can't have it."
The premise of the argument from Republicans is that Americans already face an extraordinarily heavy tax burden. Citizens for Tax Justice, however, compared levels of taxation in 2010 in the other industrialized countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and found that the U.S. not only collects far less in tax revenues than the average OECD country, but that it also collects less in taxes as a share of its economy than all but two other OECD nations...

Lead poisoning toll revised to 1 in 38 young kids
An estimated 535,000 young children in the United States have harmful levels of lead in their bodies, putting them at risk of lost intelligence, attention disorders and other life-long health problems, according to a new estimate released Thursday by federal health officials.

The new number shows lead poisoning affects 1 in 38 children ages 1 to 5, according to the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"To the extent that Americans think this is a problem of the past, clearly this is evidence there is still a problem," said Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, a non-profit lead-poisoning-prevention advocacy group.

The warping of public education

The well-being of our young people is just not a high priority in the United States. The social safety-net is inadequate, poverty is rampant, economic segregation via private and so-called "choice" is growing.
We have to undo the damage that has turned public education into a crisis. That means dumping the pretend science of high-stakes testing and valuing rather than criminalizing students of color; it also means moving from punishment- to healing-based systems of maintaining order, taking police and armed security guards out of the hallways and learning to value and respect young people more than we value metal detectors and surveillance cameras.

*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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Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Apr.2013

Here are some pictures, graphic images and cartoons from around the net -- plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

How to Organize a Grass Roots Group

One way to defeat the forces of privatization is with grass roots efforts. Attend this webinar sponsored by The Network for Public Education on April 13, 2013. Click the picture below to register.



April is School Library Month

School libraries are the only source of reading material for some students. Support school libraries in all public schools.



Not Failing, Abandoned

Schools don't fail. Children don't fail. They have failure thrust upon them by a society which ignores their needs. Fix our public schools. Don't privatize.




One Size Does Not Fit All

For more than 2 decades Alfie Kohn has been speaking out against standardized tests. They are, as he says,
...like a creature in one of those old horror movies, [which] now threatens to swallow our schools whole. (Of course, on "The Late, Late Show," no one ever insists that the monster is really doing us a favor by making its victims more "accountable.")
It's not just the tests, though...it's the standards themselves. In Beware of the Standards, Not Just the Tests (2001) he writes,
...and then there are standards presented as mandates ("Teach this or else"). Virtually all the states have chosen the latter course. The effect has been not only to control teachers, but to usurp the long-established power of local school districts to chart their own course. If there has ever been a more profoundly undemocratic school reform movement in U.S. educational history than what is currently taking place in the name of standards, I haven't heard of it.


A Way to Increase the Scores

The 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education in, A Nation At Risk, blamed schools for the national economic problems (Did anyone giving schools the credit for the economic boom of the 90s?). The "tougher standards" movement was born, along with the emphasis on standardized tests and ranking schools. We've moved on to ranking teachers, privatization and the so-called "reform" movement. Has anything changed? Children from poverty still achieve at lower levels than their wealthier peers. Maybe it's not a problem with public education at all.



Baseball is like life

...and education. My favorite, of the Nine Principles of Baseball and Life, is number...
8. The Best Players are the Best Learners.

Players who are coachable are always trying to learn more about being successful ballplayers and people. They listen and apply what their coaches and teachers suggest. Are you coachable? If you are, you are a winner. If you are not, you are a loser, regardless of what the scoreboard says.




"I touch the future. I teach"

Occasionally, during the last four decades of my life, I've made contact with a former student who has acknowledged my influence on their life. Things like...

"You're the one who read us all those books."
"I've been reading [enter novel title here] to my [students, own children]...the same book you read to us when I was in your class."

I received a letter from a former student who was in prison. He specifically remembered the day we made Father's Day Cards at the end of the year when he was in third grade in my classroom. He told me that his father had recently passed away. The memory of the Father's Day card came back to him as he thought about his father's death. He always remembered that card because it was the very last time in his life he had any contact with his father.

Most recently I received a message from a student who was in my third grade class in 1976. He said,
I think back about how you shaped me as a person. You were the first teacher to promote what I look at as free thought.
I'm glad he remembered that I helped him learn to think...rather than multiply, read, spell, or fill in bubbles on a test.



"...and then we'll go back to learning?"

"Testing is not teaching."
"A child is more than a test score."
"One size does not fit all."
"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."



No Child Left...

"Poverty is not an excuse. It's a diagnosis." -- John Kuhn

"Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty." -- Gerald Bracey



For the Children...

How much do the politicians, policy makers and pundits know about how children learn? Why do we accept professional basketball players (and more), attorneys, business magnates, techno-geek billionaires, florists, or professional politicians as experts on public education? Why are the real child learning experts -- active and experienced teachers -- locked out of education policy making?

When will we start holding politicians accountable for the nearly 25% of our nation's children who live in poverty?



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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Friday, April 5, 2013

Instead of Vouchers

Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA, on PBS News Hour...
Instead [of vouchers], we ought to do what we know works. Take schools and invest in early childhood. Increase parental involvement, small class size, especially in high-poverty schools at the lower grades. Make sure that we have a well-trained, qualified and certified work force that is stable.

When we do that, children succeed. But we do not believe it is a solution to take a few out and leave the rest behind.
[UPDATE: Check out this letter to the editor...
Instead of trying to place children randomly into private school at the taxpayers’ expense, why not start at the core of the problem and help support our public schools – the schools that have been there since the beginning offering education, nutrition and support to every child no matter their gender, race, spoken language or family income level?

STACEY PATALITA Fort Wayne]
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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