"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, September 27, 2013

2013 Medley #20

Looming Teacher Shortage, NBC Education Nation, Classroom Relationships, Testing,
Walton Foundation, Cyber Charters

WHO WILL WANT TO TEACH?

Fewer students are entering teacher preparation programs. This report from California is being played out across the country.

With the national obsession with testing, public school and public school teacher bashing, and privatization, where will tomorrow's teachers come from...and is it at all surprising that fewer students are choosing to enter the profession? I've asked that question before...HERE, HERE, and HERE, for example.

Is it paranoid to think that the privatizers and "reformers" who are hoping to benefit economically from the privatization of American education's $500 billion price tag, don't want life-long professional educators? Temps are cheaper and provide privately run schools with a lower overhead. Could it be that making "educator" a less-than-desireable profession has been the plan all along through the process of the demoralization and demonization of the profession? The preponderance of ALEC inspired anti-teacher legislation, blaming teachers and their unions for "failing schools", blaming public sector unions for the financial crisis, closing schools and laying off teachers - then rehiring TFA novices at a lower rate -- are these just coincidental or are the Rupert Murdochs, Arne Duncans and Michelle Rhees of the world positioning themselves to become wealthy(er) when the final collapse of America's public school system is complete?

Will it still be paranoid when we wake up to find out that most or all of the teachers in our schools are two-year temps?

Enrollment in teacher preparation programs plummets
...over the past five years, the teaching profession in California has been devastated by layoffs

...In addition, working conditions for teachers continue to deteriorate. The latest national survey by MetLife found that teacher satisfaction levels have plummeted, perhaps not coincidentally at about the same rate as enrollments in teacher education programs...

Another possible cause has to do with the regimen of reforms that have put unprecedented pressures on teachers as a result of the negative sanctions of the No Child Left Behind law, along with the state’s Standardized Testing and Reporting program. As described in a report by the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd, teachers in California faced what it called “a new normal of rising expectations and reduced support.”
Some thoughts from the comments section of this article...
...I know several college and high schools kids who were thinking of going into education who changed their minds after seeing the chaos and disrespect (not to mention the harsh pay cuts in some places) that have been directed at their teachers. If you think you can abuse people and have more sign up for abuse, you are in need of mental healthcare.
...When she announced her intention to make a career teaching special ed, she reports, many of her peers and professors reacted with horror: why on earth would she want to waste her education in… um, education...if our brighter and more talented students are being advised that public-school teaching is (except for TFA) beneath their dignity, should we be surprised when they decide to do something else for a living, or when they prove all too ready to assume something between inferiority and utter incompetence of the teachers of other people’s children?


NBC: TOEING THE CORPORATE LINE

Next week (October 7 and 8) NBC News presents its Education Nation programming, and like last year, the only education it's promoting is "reformist" education: charters, closing schools, bashing public school teachers and their schools (aka "failing schools"), testing, and vouchers.

NBC will be hosting panel discussions using corporate apologists. No serious critics of Education Nation and corporate "reform" will be on the stage. Few, if any, traditional public school educators will be on panels. The message will be that of the corporate propagandists and it will come from people like Joel Klein, Jeb Bush, and Arne Duncan. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten, president of AFT will be there as well, though they, themselves, voice support for the much of the corporate line.

Marginalizing the Teaching Profession: Merrow, Ravitch and Education Nation
The annual Education Nation extravaganza is just over a week away. As has been widely noted, the list of presenters includes almost nobody with any actual experience working with children. No teachers. No prominent parent advocates. What is more, there is hardly even anyone we would recognize as being expert in education. No Linda Darling-Hammond, and certainly no Diane Ravitch. But there is, of course, the usual parade of celebrities and financiers -- Goldie Hawn, M. Night Shymalan, and Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein. Educators have been completely silenced at a summit focused on our profession.

Can you imagine a summit on healthcare that included not a single prominent doctor? [emphasis added]
Where are Educators?: Non-Education Nation is a Phony
Note, the vast majority [of] panelist[s] have no experience as K-12 educators...Do you find this strange and/or typical? Who exactly is going to help us form a collective snapshot? How about panelist Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs, more than 15 politicians, and a gob of Hollywood panelists without educator experience.
Click here for a list of confirmed panelists, presenters and interviewees for the 2013 Education Nation Summit.

Click here to contact NBC News and express your opinion.



RELATIONSHIPS MATTER

A couple of months ago, in a post titled Make a Positive Impact on Students, I wrote...
Teachers touch the future by relating to their students. Our students will learn from us and remember us for the kind of people we are, not for the homework we assign, the lectures we give, or the standardized tests we administer. Content knowledge, pedagogy and assessment are important, of course, but in order to make a positive impact on students' lives, which is after all the main reason we are in this profession, teachers must build positive relationships with them.
Personal relationships are essential for student learning.

Writing on Valerie Strauss' The Answer Sheet, Jack Schneider (a former high school teacher and the founder of University Paideia, a pre-college program for under-served students in the San Francisco Bay Area) agreed. He wrote What’s missing from education policy debate...
But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.

GOING PUBLIC: SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

...from GoingPublic.ORG

7 Things You Need to Know About Your Local Public School
  1. Most parents really, really like their neighborhood schools.
  2. Parents are the single most important key to student success.
  3. Your school has lost a tremendous amount of state and federal funding and has little ability to replace it.
  4. Too many minutes each week will be spent "teaching to the test."
  5. Your neighborhood is as important as the school it supports.
  6. If fewer than 10 percent of the children in your local public school are on free or reduced meals, congratulations!
  7. If your school believes that the purpose of public education is to prepare students to be well educated in order to take part in our democratic society, go to the head of the class!
Click here to visit the Going Public Web Site.


TESTING

...from Stephen Krashen.

Why SAT scores have declined.
...the massive invasion of high-stakes tests that began with No Child Left Behind has not worked.

...poverty...students coming from wealthier families achieve higher SAT scores. As we all know, poverty has been increasing in the US.



WALTON FOUNDATION

The Walton Family Foundation is no friend of public education.

Walton Foundation hires New York charter school leader
Performance doesn't count so much to the Waltons when the word "charter" is in your name, of course. A Walton-financed lobby is pushing to hire a Texas-based charter school operator, Responsive Education Solutions, singled out by a Stanford University study for mediocre performance to run a white-flight middle school the Walton lobby is pushing to establish in West Little Rock. If it says charter and it hurts the Little Rock School District, that's all the Walton moneybags need to know. Sternberg is a fitting addition, based on the New York experience. Build charters; harm existing schools; have an alibi ready if the scores don't match the hype. And, throw cocktail parties on news of public school closures.

CYBER SCHOOLS TAKE TAX MONEY

They say "students often come to their schools far behind..." Whatever happened to "no excuses"...or is that only required of traditional public schools?

Cyber schools flunk, but tax money keeps flowing
The schools, many managed by for-profit companies, are great at driving up enrollment with catchy advertising. They excel at lobbying. They have a knack for making generous campaign donations.

But as new state report cards coming out now make clear, there’s one thing they’re not so good at: educating kids.

In state after state, online school after online school posts dismal scores on math, writing and science tests and mediocre scores on reading. Administrators have long explained their poor results by saying students often come to their schools far behind and make excellent progress online, even if they fall short of passing state tests.

But lately, more states have begun measuring how much students actually learn during the school year — and a POLITICO review of the data shows many cyber schools are flunking that test.
~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Least Among Us

KOZOL

I just finished reading Jonathan Kozol's book Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America.

It was an emotional book as is most of Kozol's writing. Some critics of Kozol think that's a bad thing. I happen to think that it's important for us to feel the emotion borne of empathy for those children Kozol champions.

"Reformers" claim that he uses poverty as "an excuse" and that "poverty is not destiny." In Fire in the Ashes Kozol tells stories of high-poverty children who have overcome the obstacles...as well as those who have succumbed to them. However, anecdotal evidence isn't research, and the sad truth is that, in our current inequitable society, poverty is, most often, destiny. For the most part, those who are born in poverty, stay in poverty.

Poverty, income figures stay persistently unchanged in Census report
"In the biggest cities, it's almost impossible to get out of poverty," he added. "If we got one of our young men into a $15-an-hour job, that would be a windfall for him. But in Washington, you can't rent an apartment or take care of your kid on $15 an hour. In Kansas City, (with) a $10-an-hour job you can rent an apartment. There's more mobility."
Kozol's focus throughout his career has been on children in poverty and their families. Fire in the Ashes continues that focus. He also continues stories begun in previous books...telling what happened to some of the children he had written about over his half-century career.

Jonathan Kozol: Fire in the Ashes and the Children of the South Bronx
...teachers invited me to visit their schools and I got to know the children - I would see them at school, at their afterschool program, at their church. The children would invite me to meet their moms and their dads, their grandmothers, and we became deep friends. I wrote three books about them over the next ten years. A few years passed, and people started asking me, "What happened to those kids? Did you keep in touch with them? How many survived and how many didn't?" So, I thought it was time to write Fire in the Ashes in order to keep faith with those kids.

THE WAY OUT OF POVERTY

"Reformers" suggest (some more strongly than others) that a good education is the way out of poverty. In What Does Obama Really Believe In? Secretary of education Arne Duncan is quoted:
“What I fundamentally believe — and what the president believes,” Duncan told me, “is that the only way to end poverty is through education.”
I won't take the time to try to argue against that. Matt Bruenig has done a good job of that in Education and poverty, again -- you can read it there.

My belief, however, is that the combination of education, social safety nets, available jobs, and a focus on economic equity in the nation would reduce poverty. That is a simplistic response, I know, but it seems to work for other nations around the world -- nations with low child poverty rates, high achieving students and social safety nets. Surely, the world's strongest nation could make it work here.

Instead we have news like this...

Poverty in the United States remains high, median income stagnant
The Census report also found children continue to be the age group most affected by poverty in America, and the younger a child is, the more likely he or she is to be living in poverty. The percentage of children under 18 living in poverty remained near 2011 levels at 21.8 percent, with more than one in four children under age 5 living in poverty. While children are only 23.7 percent of the total population, they make up 34.6 percent of the people in poverty.

"If you look at the data for programs that help low-income people in general, the biggest people of category served is children," Tibbitts said. "Families with children disproportionately fall below poverty line. Children are expensive, and it takes a real commitment to raise kids."
The relationship between achievement and family income is well documented and we, as a nation, don't have the commitment to equity needed to help all our children. We're doing the best we can through our national selfishness to prevent poor children from getting a good education.



The Latest Act of Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Last week, the House of Representatives voted to cut almost $4 billion, or 5 percent, from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as the food stamps program.

In order to cut back, the bill tightens eligibility rules and ends a state waiver that allows able-bodied workers to continue to receive assistance if they are unemployed for more than 3 months.

Members in favor of cutting spending argue that the economy is improving so we need to target aid to the neediest people and not allow Americans to use it as a “social safety net”.

Those against cutting spending say that because 1 in 7 Americans use the program, there is evidence that it is working at a time of high unemployment and great need.

47 million Americans currently qualify for food stamps, and according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, nearly 72 percent of SNAP recipients are families with children.
With one in five children living in poverty, House votes to cut SNAP food stamps
Today, (September 19,2013) the House voted on and passed the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 (HR 3102). The legislation would cut nearly $40 billion in the next decade from federal food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The cuts come at a time when 21 million children rely on SNAP for food, and more than one in five children currently live in poverty.

SELFISHNESS ON A NATIONAL SCALE

Education alone can't solve America's huge child poverty dilemma and anyone who says that it can is misinformed, disingenuous, or flat-out lying. This is especially true when schools in high poverty neighborhoods are subject to less equitable funding, higher class sizes, rotting infrastructure, less experienced teachers and administrators, and fewer materials for teaching and learning.

The video below is directed at teaching non-English speakers, but it is appropriate to our discussion of poverty as well.

Dylan Garity - "Rigged Game" (NPS 2013)



"...after all, if these parents can't take care of their own children, why should we?"

Politicians and policy makers are eager to place the blame on public schools and public school teachers in order to avoid being held accountable for the problems they have been unable to solve.

We know that poverty contributes to lower achievement, yet we have allowed nearly a quarter of our children to live in poverty. We are a selfish people who don't understand that we are all diminished by the poverty and inequity in our midst. We should be ashamed of ourselves.



  • "...the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members." ~ Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973), My Several Worlds [1954].
  • "The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization." ~ Samuel Johnson, Boswell: Life of Johnson
  • "...the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped." ~ Hubert H. Humphrey
  • "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." ~ Mahatma Ghandi
  • "Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest." ~ Cardinal Roger Mahony, In a 1998 letter, Creating a Culture of Life
  • "The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens." ~ James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.
~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

CCSS: Where Were the Child Development Experts?

I knew that most the writers of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) weren't educators. Then I read A tough critique of Common Core on early childhood education and learned that Edward Miller and Nancy Carlsson-Paige...
...reviewed the makeup of the committees that wrote and reviewed the Common Core Standards. In all, there were 135 people on those panels. Not a single one of them was a K-3 classroom teacher or early childhood professional.
In the Joint Statement of Early Childhood Health and Education Professionals on the Common Core Standards Initiative we're told that...
  • ...standards will lead to long hours of instruction in literacy and math. Young children learn best in active, hands-on ways and in the context of meaningful real-life experiences...the current proposal goes well beyond most existing state standards in requiring, for example, that every kindergartner be able to write “all upper- and lowercase letters” and “read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • They will lead to inappropriate standardized testing. Current state standards for young children have led to the heavy use of standardized tests in kindergarten and the lower grades, despite their unreliability for assessing children under age eight. The proposed core standards will intensify inappropriate testing...
  • Didactic instruction and testing will crowd out other important areas of learning. Young children’s learning must go beyond literacy and math. They need to learn about families and communities, to take on challenges, and to develop social, emotional, problem-solving, self- regulation, and perspective-taking skills. Overuse of didactic instruction and testing cuts off children’s initiative, curiosity, and imagination, limiting their later engagement in school and the workplace, not to mention responsible citizenship. And it interferes with the growth of healthy bodies and essential sensory and motor skills—all best developed through playful and active hands-on learning. 
  • There is little evidence that such standards for young children lead to later success. While an introduction to books in early childhood is vital, research on the links between the intensive teaching of discrete reading skills in kindergarten and later success is inconclusive at best. Many of the countries with top-performing high-school students do not begin formal schooling until age six or seven. We must test these ideas more thoroughly before establishing nationwide policies and practices.

LISTENING TO PIAGET


In the following video, child psychologist, Dr. Megan Koschnick, discusses specifically how the CCSS are developmentally inappropriate. One example...the CCSS frequently call for abstract thinking. We know from Piaget that children in the pre-operational stage of development (under 7 years old) are generally incapable of abstract thinking. This will lead to the failure of most 5 and 6 year olds to meet the standards -- causing frustration for children who are not developmentally ready for abstract thinking as well as frustration for their teachers who can't change human brain development.


Common Core and Developmentally Appropriate Instruction



"Why do we care if [Common Core standards] are age inappropriate? Well, you can answer that with one word – stress...Instead of thinking about what’s developmentally appropriate for kindergarteners, [those who wrote the standards] are thinking [college] is where we want this kindergartener to end up, so let’s back track down to kindergarten and have kindergarteners work on these skills from an early age...This can cause major stress for the child because they are not prepared for this level of education."
All this, according to Stephen Krashen, for only a few billion dollars...

The cost of the new standards
The estimate of $1.19 billion to implement the Common Core Standards is a tiny percentage of the real cost ("Common Core Standards To Change State's Education Landscape," Sept. 21).

The new tests must be administered online. Many districts lack enough up-to-date or even working computers, and even if computers are in place, there will be continual upgrades and replacements as well as major changes as new technology is developed.

Taxpayers will have to pay for all of them. Because no evidence has been provided showing that online testing will benefit students in any way, this adventure is a boondoggle.

Whether or not the tests help students, computer and testing companies will make a lot of money taking no risk. If student achievement declines, we will be told that we need even higher-tech tests, and we will be presented with National Test 2.0.
The authors of the standards should have included early childhood and child development experts before they accepted the task of writing early childhood standards. This is another example of people who aren't trained thinking that "anyone" can make decisions about schools, students and educational policy. Just like No Child Left Behind, the Common Core Standards are setting students up to fail.

See also:
The disturbing shift underway in early childhood classrooms
More on Early Childhood Education...

~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Retention: Punishing Children

From the Polls

Polls (here and here) show that parents like the public schools their children attend, like charter schools, but don't like vouchers. The latter is not surprising. When voucher programs have been on the ballot and citizens have the chance to choose one way or another voucher plans have been defeated. The voucher programs currently in existence have been set in place by legislatures.

Another very disturbing fact to come out of the polls is the public's support of retention in grade (aka "being held back" or "flunking") as a means to remediate children. We know that retention doesn't work...over 100 years of research has shown that retention doesn't work as a remediation technique and often has a negative effect on children -- emotionally and academically.

The public likes retention because it has a certain common-sense feel about it. If a child didn't do well in a grade give him another year to "catch up." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way in practice.

Teachers might use retention because they are pressured to or just don't want to "socially promote" children. They often don't know what else to do or have no other alternative because of lack of funding. Some teachers claim that retention works because they have seen a retained student do well the following year. The research shows, however, that by the second or third year after retention, students who were retained have lost any gains they made.
Initial academic improvements may occur during the year the student is retained. However, many research studies show that achievement gains decline within 2–3 years of retention. This means that over time, children who were retained either do not show higher achievement, or sometimes show lower achievement than similar groups of children who were not retained. Without specific interventions, most retained students do not catch up. [emphasis added]
Polls show mixed report card for education reforms
The Education Next poll specifically asked whether state tests should carry high stakes. The answer was a resounding yes, with nearly 8 in 10 respondents supporting requirements that third graders pass a reading test before advancing to fourth grade and that high school students pass exit exams before earning a diploma.
What we know about schools — but choose to ignore
What we know now about grade retention: Grade retention is growing in popularity across the U.S., represented by accountability policies in Florida. But grade retention has been shown by four decades of research not to achieve the goals advocates claim, and to cause harm.
Just because the public says we should retain children doesn't mean we should, but in order to prevent children from being punished by retention it's up to us, as educators, to make sure that the choice to retain is made as infrequently as possible.

Alternatives to Retention: A False Dichotomy

Teachers, Parents, Administrators, and policy makers all denounce social promotion. Many will claim that retention is the only option left when students can't or won't perform. Are those the only two options? In today's world of low budget schools, large classes, overtested students and overworked teachers it's unrealistic to believe that an average school system would have the money to choose a different path. However, that's what it would take if we were serious about student achievement.

Students who are retained are most often males, low-income, and minorities. The main deficit for students who are retained is reading. Reading is the one skill which needs to be nurtured before a child begins school. That's why good preschool programs are so important for low-income children. Good preschool programs cost money.

The fact is that as a nation, we don't really care about student achievement. We care about test scores. If we really cared about student achievement we wouldn't be closing schools whose students are struggling. We wouldn't be evaluating teachers using test scores and punishing those teachers who work with the most difficult to educate students. We wouldn't be rewarding "successful" schools with more funding, and we wouldn't be replacing experienced educators with trainees.

We would be investing more in the education of students who need the most help. We would be providing incentives for our most gifted educators to teach in the most difficult situations. We would be focused on the root causes of lower achievement -- poverty and societal neglect.

While we as educators have no control over what we should be doing, there are some things that we can do. Retention and social promotion are not the only choices. Instead of retention or social promotion the following alternatives to retention are worth exploring and investing in...
  • Promotion or retention with additional instruction is more effective than either policy alone.
  • The issue is not what to adapt but how to provide appropriate instruction given student diversity.
  • Future research should denote attention to locating, developing, and evaluating effective organizational responses to differences in student abilities and competencies.
  • Utilizing the concept of "schools within a school," have teams of teachers, who hold students to high educational standards and communicate the belief that all can succeed, while engaging all students in challenging, meaningful activities that range from authentic problems to explore real-world issues. Also, relating classroom activities to students’ culture, knowledge and experience are recommended as viable, instructional alternatives to retention.
  • Tutorial (i.e., peer, cross-age, and adult), extended "basic skills," cooperative learning, extended year programs, multi-grade groupings, and individualized instruction through technology are additional alternative approaches recommended from the research.
  • Remedial help, before-and after-school programs, summer school, instructional aides to work with target children in regular classrooms, and individualized education plans can provide the support for students being promoted but still needing to improve academically.
  • Recruiting parents, university students, and community volunteers to work with students having difficulties is still an important source of support. Parent involvement continues to be needed for the success of all students.
  • Base eligibility for promotion on multiple measures rather than on a single test; develop measures of achievement that measure what is actually taught in class.
  • Avoid the tendency to teach only "the basic," instead, provide a varied and challenging curriculum.
  • Include the average child while attempting to raise the level of the low achiever so that higher promotional standards mean higher achievement for all students.
  • Support a curriculum philosophy that is designed to meet the needs of the child.
  • Alternative placement programs should be considered for the over-aged middle school students to provide an instructional program and a support system based on acceleration rather than remediation.
  • Teachers and administrators should consistently resist parental and societal pressures to increase the academic demand of the curriculum to developmentally inappropriate levels, and resist enrollment, retention, and placement practices that are based on a single developmental or screening measure.
  • Implement pre-service and in-service training programs for teachers and administrators, emphasizing strategies that provide students additional time and individualized attention.
  • Consider adopting or adapting one of the model programs proven to help at-risk students on the basis of identified needs and a collective vision...
  • [emphasis added]
Early and intense intervention works better than retention or social promotion.


See also
~~~

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

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Making a Difference - Blogoversary 2013

Today, September 14, 2013, marks this blog's seventh "blogoversary"...

Last year, on the sixth blogoversary I chose quotes from some of my blog entries. Most of the quotes were bits and pieces of angry tirades against privatization and against the damage being done to public education by so-called "reformers."

This year I have some questions to answer...

WHY DO TEACHERS LEAVE EDUCATION?

Nearly 50% of teachers never make it beyond their fifth year. In addition, in recent years, many veteran teachers -- like me -- retire early because of the constant barrage of insults coming from the "reformers" and their friends in the media, and among policy makers.

Insults like...
  • forcing teachers to teach to "the test"
  • judging children on the basis of one test or alternatively, forcing teachers to give more tests than are appropriate
  • evaluating and paying teachers based on student test scores
  • firing veteran educators and replacing them with novice teachers who have virtually no training
  • closing schools and replacing them with charter or voucher supported private schools
  • the inequality of funding at schools with high levels of student poverty
  • giving preferential treatment to charter and private schools
  • blaming teachers and/or their unions instead of out-of-school-factors for low student achievement caused by poverty
and so on...

I sometimes despair over the "reformers'" progress in their quest to privatize and otherwise destroy America's public education system, but the video below is hopeful. In it teachers respond to "Why I stay in education." I have a similar question "Why do I still teach even after I've retired?"

When I decided in March 2010 that I was going to retire the following June, I wrote a blog entry titled, I'm ready. I had been debating whether to stay in teaching...or to leave and I was reflecting on what I was about to do.
I still have a lot to offer my students. I understand, through first hand experience, the difficulties of learning to read, ADHD, and the related emotional baggage that accompanies those problems...
I believed...and still believe...that teachers were important and that teaching was a worthwhile contribution to the community.
I can't imagine a job other than teaching, in which you get to know so many people, so well. I can't imagine another job in which you can influence another human being the way you can as a teacher. The responsibility is awesome...as is the satisfaction.
WHY I STAY, EVEN AFTER RETIREMENT

Eventually, I decided in favor of retirement, but the very next year, I realized that I missed working with children. So I contacted a former colleague and asked if she wanted some help in her classroom. I started working with children who were having difficulty...the same types of students I worked with when I was being paid to teach. I was essentially doing the same work as a volunteer that I did as a reading specialist/Reading Recovery teacher. I was still teaching...and it felt good.


Why do I want to keep teaching even though I'm retired...even though I don't get paid...even though I only work with a few students?

Because...
  • I can still help students who struggle with reading and I still enjoy the challenge of teaching struggling readers.
  • I feel an obligation to help students who are having trouble in their classes...just like I did in elementary school. I want to help them understand that their difficulty with school is not a lifelong brand. I want them to know that someone understands how they feel.
  • I believe that I can still make a difference, one student at a time.
In the video below teachers from all over the country tell why they stay in education despite the frustrations caused by privatization and "reforms." (You might need to press the pause button to read some of the answers.)

Why I Stay in Education



Why do you stay in education?

Use Your Outside Voice: Because Teachers Deserve to be Heard.

~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - September, 2013

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

Why We Teach

All of the below...



The Cost of Education

Stapler Not Included

The 2013-2014 school year is only a few days/weeks old. How much have you already spent?
...I explained that there was not a supply room and that she could use a requisition form to order $50 worth of supplies, her eyes grew wide. When she realized that she was further limited by being required to place this order from an overpriced catalog, her shock increased. I quickly explained to her that when her $50 was exhausted that she should look for deals at “Back to School” sales...I welcomed her to the world of an underfunded, public education.


Schools Without Libraries -- Not for the Rich.

Would any "reformer" send their child to a school without a school library?


Testing...ad nauseum...




"F" Schools or "F" Society?

What is an "A" school? What is an "F" school? Are letter grades for schools really reflective of the ability of the school to educate children, or are they an indication of the average socio-economic level of the students or the school neighborhood?

Phyllis Bush, co-founder of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education wrote in The A-F Grading System,
Since buildings are not people, I wonder how a building can receive a grade, unless of course, it comes from a building inspector. I also wonder how it must feel to students and teachers who go to a C school in a nearby neighborhood? I also wonder how it must feel to be a valedictorian at a school which receives a C, D, or F rating? Does that mean that all of the work that that student has done to excel academically is for naught? I also wonder if my neighborhood school receives a lower grade, what does that rating mean to my property value? What does it mean to my community?
Is there really such a thing as a failing school, or are there simply schools and neighborhoods which we, as a nation, have failed? This isn't to say that there aren't schools or teachers which need improvement, just that, in general, lower test scores (that from which school grades are figured) mean lower incomes. When will policy makers be held accountable for their part in the lower achievement of poor children? When will policy makers be held accountable for nearly 25% of America's children living in poverty?

Unfortunately, private and privately run schools are using the public's lack of understanding to denounce neighborhood schools for the purpose of increasing their bottom line.

What does it mean when public schools are forced to spend money which should be used to educate our children, on advertising?





Back to School




For Sale: Legislators.

Do you know who owns your state or federal legislator? The Gates Foundation? Broad Foundation? Walton Family Foundation? ALEC?



~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Monday, September 9, 2013

Play is More Important Than Tests

Sometimes I feel like everything I put on this blog could be titled, "Coming Soon to a Public School Near You." Once again people who don't "get it" are making decisions about children and education...based solely on test scores. This time it's folks who ought to know better...

Elementary schools phasing out recess
"If you have a 15-minute recess scheduled you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom," said Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction for the district. "You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It's become a luxury we can't afford."
Recess is equivalent to "...blowing 30 minutes of...instructional time?" Since when is children's play a "luxury?" Oh, right...since the "test and punish culture" made school all about test scores.

I remember when the "abuse of testing craze" started a couple of decades ago...that was when we were required to use "research-based instruction." A group of us got together and found a research basis for everything we did. Every teacher in our school system needed to be ready to justify what they did based on research.

Later, (2002) the US Department of Education started the What Works Clearinghouse so teachers could find teaching techniques and methods which were (supposedly) supported by research.

But now the truth has come out...when research goes against what the "reformers" want it's ignored...or denied.

The overuse and misuse of testing has resulted in children being denied time to play even though research shows that play is vitally important to a child's social, emotional, physical and yes, even academic growth.

Here's a video from the UK that addresses the value of play (listen carefully...some strong Scottish dialect in this video!).



Let the Children Play, It's Good for Them!
...pretend play is not only important for kids; it’s a crucial part of what makes all humans so smart.


More about the positive value of play...

~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sore Losers Punish Winner

What do you do when your candidate for state education chief loses an election? If you're on the Indiana State Board of Education, or sitting in the Indiana Governor's chair, you do everything you can to make his opponent's job more difficult and you do it while acting as rude and unpleasant as you can.

Glenda Ritz, who garnered 1.3 million votes in the last election on her way to soundly defeating former state superintendent, Tony Bennett (also formerly Florida's state school chief) is being treated in exactly that way by Indiana's governor, Mike Pence and members of the Indiana State Board of Education.

Last Month Governor Mike Pence...
...established the Center for Education and Career Innovation (CECI), a new state agency that among other duties will give the State Board of Education funding and staff separate from the Indiana Department of Education.
At this month's State Board of Education meeting, Daniel Elsener proposed a strategic planning process chaired by him, of course.
Under the plan, Ritz will be permitted to participate in strategic planning discussions, but the process of setting the state's future education goals will be directed by Elsener and the board.
How generous of the appointed members of the State Board of Education to allow the only elected member (and the chair of the Board) permission to participate in the discussions. It's interesting that the only elected official with any teaching experience in state government has effectively been stripped of her power over the public schools in Indiana.

That's not all, though. The Indiana State Teachers Association notes
The first resolution offered by member Dan Elsener called for him to chair a new committee that is tasked with setting the goals for Indiana's education system-something that has always been within the purview of the State Superintendent's office-who also happens to be the lawful chairperson for the State Board of Education. The publicly-funded "Elsener Committee" will contract out with outside consultants, spending additional taxpayer dollars along the way to do the Department of Education's work. Elsener did not give Glenda Ritz, as chairperson, the courtesy of prior notice of his resolution and then called for action on the resolution even though it was not part of the meeting's agenda. Ritz suggested Open Door Law issues with this and then abstained from voting.
Neither Pence nor Elsener had the courage to inform Superintendent Ritz before any of these "plans" were introduced. They sprang their power-grabbing plans on her without warning in a cowardly attempt to silence 1.3 million Indiana voters.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana posted a summary of yesterday's State BOE meeting from one of their members today. In a post titled Does Democracy Not Count When Your Candidate Loses? Jenny Robinson wrote,
The arrogance and contempt that the appointed members of the State Board of Education are showing toward the elected state superintendent are well on their way to becoming a political liability. In the meeting on September 4, board of education member Dan Elsener sprang a proposal on Ritz in the board comment period--a proposal to give a committee headed by himself the power to do strategic planning for the Department of Education. He presented it in an aristocratic mumble, without making eye contact, as if he couldn't be bother to enunciate clearly. He nested it inside generic accolades for Indiana's academic achievements and couched it in terms of giving the state superintendent the support she deserves. Right. That's support like a dagger in the back. Should we give Elsener some credit for not pretending too hard, or was the thinly veiled insolence part of his strategy? He brushed away Ritz's objection that the rushed motion violated protocol. Board members promptly passed it.

...How did he get the authority to set the agenda for public K-12 education in the state of Indiana, instead of the superintendent of public instruction elected by 1.3 million Hoosiers? He's committed to all the reforms that Ritz ran against--the A-F system, IREAD3, the sanctity of ISTEP and testing regimens in general. Republicans need to think about how to explain this to their constituents, because it doesn't look good. What it looks like, frankly, is spitting in voter's faces.
Be sure to read the whole post...

Why are Pence and Elsener so anxious to deny Superintendent Ritz the power to do her job? She won the job fair and square from Bennett. She is a National Board Certified teacher with decades of actual experience in education.

Maybe it's because Pence, Elsener and their friends are sore losers and want to do as much damage to Ritz as they can out of spite. She beat their boy, Tony and now she's gonna pay...

Maybe it's because they are selfish, spiteful men who aren't interested in the education of children at all, only in the privatization and profit-ization of public education in Indiana.

Pence needs to be voted out of office at the earliest possible opportunity. Elsener should be fired.


~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2013 Medley #19

Charters, Teachers Unions, Privatization
"Reformers", Read-Aloud, Poverty

CHARTERS

Bennett is gone, but charter school problem persists

"An $80 million gift to charter school sponsors." This looks like payback for political services rendered. Why isn't the apparent favoritism in this situation obvious to everyone?
So, with Dr. Bennett gone, is the special treatment for charter schools over? Hardly. Not known to most Hoosiers is the fact that the 2013 Indiana Legislature, with the governor’s signature, enacted into law the HB 1001 budget bill, including a provision added in the Senate that forgave all Common School Fund debts owed by charter schools in Indiana.

Based upon a printout dated Jan. 2, 2013, that provision forgave charter schools $81,828,253.30. Some reports have placed the value at $93 million. With the passage of this legislation, the forgiven debt and the assets purchased by the borrowed funds became the assets of the individuals and/or corporations that sponsor the charter schools -- an $80 million gift to charter school sponsors.

Public school districts with low assessed valuation borrow from the Common Schools Fund, which assists them by providing low-interest loans for capital expenditures, such as facilities and equipment. A report on Jan. 2, 2013, shows $85,508,760.18 is owed by Indiana public school districts. Their debt was not forgiven.

Indiana forgives charter school loans

State Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) said,
traditional public schools just want more money.
Well...yes! Isn't that what we pay taxes for? Why are privately owned public schools treated differently than traditional (publicly owned) public schools?
Many local educators and politicians are calling outrageous a recent law forgiving $91.2 million in loans to charter schools, in light of tight finances faced by public schools across the region and districts that have had to raise taxes to maintain programs and quality teachers. Moreover, they say, they must pay back any loans provided by the state's Common School Fund.

Indiana's General Assembly approved a provision in last session's budget bill calling for the state to forgive the Common School Fund loans made to charter schools, erasing nearly $92 million of their debt to the state.

UNIONS

Evidence Says That Students Do Better In Schools With Strong Teachers’ Unions

Union bashing is a tried and true political tool. Especially now, when unemployment and a low minimum wage are making it harder and harder for the average person to keep up with expenses. Rich politicians will blame unions for negotiating a livable wage and benefits package for their members. In Illinois, for example, politicians are currently blaming the public employee pension funds instead of the hedge fund managers, millionaires/billionaires and their corporate cronies, friends, and investors -- many of whom don't pay their fair share of taxes.

The fact is that unions are not the cause of poor school achievement. Poverty and its accompanying out of school factors are the main problem facing America's public school students. More than one fifth of our children live in poverty. Shouldn't shame and embarrassment be the appropriate response to that particular statistic instead of blaming their teachers?
Unions such as the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have been blamed by politicians, think tanks, and the public for everything from low student achievement to blocking proposed education reforms.

However, despite claims from some quarters that unions are a large part of the problem with American public education, there is ample evidence that teachers’ unions are a vital piece of the education puzzle, and that students benefit from their existence.

"nea hearts arne" or "WTF? are you crazy!!!"

The NEA has sold out for a "seat at the table." NEA now supports the Common Core...and has refused to publicly denounce the damage that the Democrats in Washington are doing to public education. Could this be because they want to keep the Gates Foundation money flowing? (Full Disclosure: I'm an NEA Life Member, and have been a member since August, 1976)

If Dennis Van Roekel and the NEA leadership had any courage they would be organizing a nation-wide strike against No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the misuse and overuse of testing, closing traditional neighborhood schools and opening charters, vouchers (by any name), the use of untrained novices in classrooms needing the most experienced teachers, and the general privatization of public education. Instead they're writing blogs supporting the Common Core.
New Business Item 36 called for the removal of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education. Despite several well-informed speeches in support of this NBI, it was defeated. It is a mystery to me how a room full of educators, all of us victims of Duncan's horrific education policies, could continue to support Arne Duncan. His policies are harming our nation's non-elite children and the majority vote seems to send a message that that's OK with the majority of teachers. WTF? Either there's not much critical thinking going on among the delegation, or people are just plain stupid.

PRIVATIZATION

Privatization Watch tracks the selling of America's public sector...

August 27, 2013
OH: New state report card proves Ohio’s charter school experiment has failed. After 15 years of charter school expansion, the new Ohio school report cards provide the strongest evidence yet that this method of using charter schools to supposedly reform education in our state is a complete failure. The latest results from the state make it clear that the large urban districts are not dramatically improving and the charter schools that are supposed to be transforming educational practices while being given every advantage (including a greater amount of state funding) are doing no better. Plunderbund

August 30, 2013
PA: Charter operator owed its schools millions, but no one’s checking its books. The Philadelphia School District will spend a projected $729 million on charter schools in the coming fiscal year. But, if the past year at one charter operator is any indication, not all of those funds will actually go toward serving students. Philadelphia City Paper


"REFORMER" POLITICS

"Education Summits" Without Teachers

Would anyone ever hold a medical conference without inviting medical professionals to attend? Who would hold a Hardware convention without having hardware manufacturers, jobbers and retailers in attendance? Would the Southern Baptist Convention hold it's annual meeting and not include any ministers?

Yet, time after time we read about conferences on education which are held in the absence of any practicing public school educators.

Words and phrases like "insulting," "slap in the face," and "disrespectful" aren't adequate any longer. This is insane.
...When Barack Obama held an education summit several years ago, no teachers were invited so it is not surprising that Florida Governor Rick Scott is taking the same approach in his state by organizing his summit during school hours. The result is the nightmare we are all living with- K-12 testing and teacher evaluation based on those tests, with added pressures imposed by the full court press for the imposition of Common Core Standards...

In Our Shoes

Those politicians, policy makers, and "reformers" who hold those conferences spoken of above are afraid to invite real teachers. They might hear this...
Come walk in our shoes. See what you’ve left us with, and let’s see if YOU can ensure that every third grader can read, that every student graduates high school college and career ready. Because we can’t. And we aren’t a group people that often admit there’s something we can’t do. We can cause light bulbs to turn on inside little minds. We can inspire a love of historical facts. We can make any math concept relevant to real life. We can love a child who doesn’t know what that feels like, and we can show them that they can learn. But to do all of this without sufficient funds, sufficient staff, and, most of all, sufficient appreciation and respect, is simply becoming too tall of an order. So you give it a try. Then let’s talk.

READ ALOUD

Babies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb

Read aloud to your baby in utero...
Be careful what you say around a pregnant woman. As a fetus grows inside a mother's belly, it can hear sounds from the outside world—and can understand them well enough to retain memories of them after birth, according to new research.

POVERTY

How Poverty Taxes the Brain

"Reformers" claim that even mentioning poverty is making excuses. That's because they, and the politicians they have purchased, don't care to do anything about it. Poverty may not matter to millionaires like Rahm Emanuel, billionaires like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg or Eli Broad, "reformers" like Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, Politicians like George W. Bush and Barack Obama...but it matters to the child who comes to school hungry.
Researchers publishing some groundbreaking findings today in the journal Science have concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty – like go to night school, or search for a new job, or even remember to pay bills on time...

...“When your bandwidth is loaded, in the case of the poor,” Shafir says, “you’re just more likely to not notice things, you’re more likely to not resist things you ought to resist, you’re more likely to forget things, you’re going to have less patience, less attention to devote to your children when they come back from school.”
~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Share the Responsibility

Read this article...then come back and take the quiz.

Charter schools’ failed promise

QUIZ

1. The Ohio charter school law was established by
A. district superintendents
B. educators
C. legislators
D. students
2. The article didn't list, but implied who the responsible parties are for improving the "Big 8" urban school districts performance. They are:
A. legislators
B. students
C. educators
D. parents
E. all of the above
3. On the whole, how are the charter schools in this article performing?
A. Better than public schools.
B. Worse than public schools.
C. Approximately the same as public schools.
If you answered C to all three questions give yourself a perfect score for comprehension.

It's simple, really. Legislators, most or all of whom haven't worked in a public school since they were students (assuming they actually went to and worked at public schools), decided that charter schools were the answer to the low achievement of the "Big 8" Ohio urban districts. Educators were given sole responsibility for improving schools. This is the status quo pattern in American public education today: The "reformers" -- legislators, millionaires and billionaires, edupreneurs, and their underlings and mouthpieces -- are responsible for making the rules about public education. Educators are responsible for student performance based on those rules.
Fed up with persistently poor student results in Ohio’s eight largest urban school districts, Republican state legislators enacted a law in 1997 allowing charter schools to locate exclusively within the boundaries of the “Big 8” systems.

Sixteen years later, charters statewide performed almost exactly the same on most measures of student achievement as the urban schools they were meant to reform, results released under a revamped Ohio report-card system show. And when it comes to graduating seniors after four years of high school, the Big 8 performed better.

...But what started as an experiment in fixing urban education through free-market innovation is now a large part of the problem. Almost 84,000 Ohio students — 87 percent of the state’s charter-school students — attend a charter ranking D or F in meeting state performance standards.
I'm going to take a chance and make a wild assumption that those schools which performed the lowest also had the highest levels of poverty among their students, which means that schools are, once again, charged with the responsibility of single-handedly raising test scores and overcoming the effects of poverty on students and their families.

Has the entire country swallowed a vat-full of stupid? This series of events has been repeated across the country over and over again and no one seems to notice that it doesn't work.

Let me spell it out for you, America...

1. Charter schools (or other privately run schools) won't solve all the problems facing public education.
2. Holding educators solely responsible for student achievement is, at this point, insane. School districts, schools and educators can't do it alone. Public policy must reflect a commitment to ending poverty, unemployment, and lack of health care.
3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

I want to say that one again...louder.

3. The private sector is not always better than the public sector. Privatization, while beneficial in some instances, is not the answer to everything.

You can't make children learn just by raising or changing "standards," increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.

Here are some ideas for legislators -- Ohio and elsewhere...

1. Spend as much time on solving the issues surrounding poverty (homelessness, mental health problems, health care, unemployment, etc.) as you do campaigning or listening to lobbyists.
2. Make sure that every child in your state has adequate food, health care, housing and safety.
3. Fully fund classrooms, and not just your state's test and punish program.
4. Let teachers teach.

And here's another idea to guarantee that no child would be left behind...
Legislators, other politicians, and policy makers who are responsible for public education policy must send their children to the lowest performing traditional public school in their home district.
If they did that, I would bet my retirement that America's public school system would become the envy of the world.

~~~

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

~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


~~~