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

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

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

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Medley #38

Testing, The NYT and Corporate "Reform," Gaslighting, Education is not Business

My last post of 2015.

TESTING, TESTING, TESTING

The Counterfeit High School Diploma

The New York Times printed this editorial today. It's all the teachers unions' fault.
Teachers unions and other critics of federally required standardized tests have behaved in recent years as though killing the testing mandate would magically remedy everything that ails education in the United States. In reality, getting rid of the testing requirement in the early grades would make it impossible for the country to know what if anything children were learning from year to year.
This makes sense only if you believe, as the NYT editorial board apparently does, that yearly standardized testing is the only way to know if our students are learning.

"Teachers unions and other critics" don't claim that reduced testing would magically remedy everything that ails education. I'm a member of a teachers union as well as a critic of yearly standardized testing and I, for one, have never claimed that no-testing would solve everything. Neither have I heard anyone else suggest that, from the bloggers who write against so-called "education reform" to the leaders of America's largest teachers unions. Most, like me, blame a great deal of our education struggles on the high levels of child poverty in the U.S. Testing isn't the enemy, but it's being misused and overused. Most standardized testing tells us what we already know...that students who live in poverty achieve at lower levels than students who don't.

"Getting rid of the testing requirement in the early grades" isn't necessary because, federally required testing doesn't begin until third grade, the oldest of the grades traditionally considered "the early grades." Should we get rid of testing in third grade? The Finns don't test third graders and their students seem to do ok. However, simply getting rid of testing is not going to solve all the education problems in America.

Maybe, instead, we ought to fully fund our public schools, provide wraparound services for children who need them, and work to alleviate the effects of childhood poverty. The Chicago Teachers Union, a real union of professionals, not the imaginary "Teachers unions" that the NYT refers to, published ways to actually improve the lives of children. You can learn about the ways to help children by reading a summary of The Schools Chicago's Children Deserve. If you wish, you can read the entire document, HERE. The suggestions work for all children...not just those in my home town of Chicago.

Peter Greene has done his usual masterful job in his own response to the NYT editorial. He lets us know that the editorial tells us just what the Gates Foundation and Achieve (with a Board of Directors filled with a Who's Who of Corporate and Political America) want us to hear.

He writes...

NYT Spots the Problem
...There are other big chunks of wrong, well-worn and repeatedly gnawed on by commenters, like the old baloney that the teacher unions Common Core (they didn't-- they supported it and continue to do so) and the connected testing because they "did not want to be evaluated based on how much students learned," a statement which ignores the question of whether the Big Standardized Tests actually measure any such thing, and which also ignores the rich and detailed arguments about these points that are all over the interwebs.

So here's the big question? How did the New York Times editorial board get so very much wrong? Does the NYT not have Google? I mean-- here's my New York Times story. One of my oldest friends from here in our small NW PA town now lives in Manhattan, and when he got married years ago, his wedding announcement ran in the NYT. A fact-checker called to verify the name of the business that his mother runs here in our population 7000 town hundreds of miles away. That's the level of commitment to accuracy that I associate with the the NYT.

What's the problem? I think we can find it in these two sentences:

A recent study from Achieve, a nonpartisan organization that works with the states to raise academic standards....

An alarming study by the Education Trust, a nonpartisan foundation...

These are the sources that the NYT relied on? Seriously?

I suppose they are "bi-partisan" in the same way that The Tobacco Institute and most lobbying groups are "bi-partisan." In that sense, the NYT board just stopped short of flat out lying by saying that these two groups are impartial or unbiased. But the Education Trust is a Gates-funded advocacy group from the earliest days of the Core. And Achieve is the organization that "helped" the CCSSO and NGA write the Common Core to begin with-- no organization is more highly invested in the continued support and push of the Core Standards and the tests that are welded to them. And they earlier this month released a report that says-- well, it says pretty much exactly what this editorial says...


School Testing 2016: Same Tests, Different Stakes

Here, NPR, like the NYT, gets it wrong.

In the following text from a story about the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, NPR shows the depth of their misunderstanding.
The arguments for annual student testing come down to accountability and equity. If we have accurate data on the academic progress of each and every student, testing advocates say, we'll be able to compare results and highlight gaps, whether between rich and poor kids or across states. That information, presumably, can spur effective, targeted action to improve.
Note my highlighting in that paragraph...Standardized testing doesn't offer "accurate data on the academic progress of each and every student." Everything which follows based on that assumption is wrong.

Standardized tests tell us which children come from homes with enough money and which children don't. The information based on the results of standardized tests isn't helpful enough to subject students to the annual overuse and abuse of testing. And it won't "spur effective, targeted action to improve" unless that action includes attention to reducing the level of childhood poverty in the U.S.
It has been a high-stakes year for high-stakes standardized tests.

The debate over renewing the big federal education law turned, in part, on whether annual testing would remain a federal mandate. Republicans initially said no, Democrats said yes. Ultimately the overhaul passed with tests still in place.

On the other hand, this fall President Obama addressed parents on Facebook and released a "Testing Action Plan." He wanted states to cut down "unnecessary testing" that consumes "too much instructional time," creating "undue stress for educators and students."

Meanwhile some parents, notably in New York state, opted out of the tests and made a lot of noise about it. The use of test scores in teacher evaluations was a big bone of contention. And many states dropped out of PARCC and Smarter Balanced, the two Common Core test consortia, in favor of giving their own state tests.

The arguments for annual student testing come down to accountability and equity. If we have accurate data on the academic progress of each and every student, testing advocates say, we'll be able to compare results and highlight gaps, whether between rich and poor kids or across states. That information, presumably, can spur effective, targeted action to improve.



GASLIGHTING AS "REFORM"

The term Gaslighting comes from the 1944 classic movie Gaslight, staring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer which is billed as a "psychological thriller" (If you've never seen it, I recommend it). Gaslighting, which is what Boyer's character did to Bergman's character, is described in Wikipedia as,
...a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.[1][2] Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
Gaslighting and Turnaround Schools

In this article Peg with Pen relates Gaslighting to school "reform." It's a disturbing, but accurate story. [my emphasis]
I am currently working in a turnaround school. A turnaround school is a public school that has been deemed "failing" by policy makers. The policy makers inflict draconian, fascist measures on such schools in an effort to turn them around - aka - increase test scores. If they don't increase test scores they bring the hammer down harder by firing teachers, handing the school over to a charter, or closing the school, and so on.

Turnaround schools are not failing. Rather, the truth is that the policies are the failures. The racist, classist, sexist policies are based on lies and false realities meant to create compliant worker bees who do as they are told to increase test scores, while ultimately allowing the corporate reformers to push forward other measures which increase profit, increase the privatization of our public schools, and finally, increase the power of the privileged. That's it in a nutshell.

However, the factual process of turnaround in no way reveals to the public how this brutal takeover goes down. How to articulate the process has been at the forefront of my mind for the last five months as I found myself thrown head first into this madness. And indeed, it is a madness like no other - a combination of insane asylum and prison. As I tried to articulate it to a dear friend of mine, she said, "Peggy, you are being gaslighted." I had never heard the term gaslighting. I immediately began to read about it. I owe much gratitude to this friend who has given me a framework I can use to explain this process.


ANTI-UNION IN INDIANA

IN: Let's Try Solo Bargaining

Indiana State Senator Pete Miller, like many legislators and "reformers," doesn't understand that the "free-market" doesn't work with K-12 education. Education is not a business. Students are not products. Teachers are not the same as "corporate providers" or "sales staff."

Miller maintains that teachers in hard to fill positions ought to be paid more than teachers in positions where staffing isn't a problem because that's what the "market" would dictate.

However, paying teachers different amounts of money based on the relative scarcity of their positions would damage the collegiality needed for a close, collaborative staff. The "highest performing" teachers would want to save their best teaching ideas for themselves in order to be able to bargain higher paying contracts. The truth is, though, that good education comes when teachers collaborate, not compete, with each other.
[Indiana State Senator Pete] Miller's idea is that he wants the invisible hand of the market to control teacher pay, but Indiana, like most states with so-called teacher shortages, already has the invisible hand of the market shoved right in their face-- they have a shortage because they are ignoring what the hand is telling them, which is "Make a better offer!" Miller is involved in some negotiating of his own, telling the invisible hand, "Well, what if we just a make a better offer for only a few of them? What's the absolute minimum the market will let us get away with?"


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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Videos: 2015

Teaching, Testing, and Acountability: Poverty and Charters

Every now and then I'll embed a video in my blog. Here I have chosen six – informative and inspiring – from 2015, comprising about 2 hours of video. I've added emphasis with boldface and italics.

February 1

What would happen if state and federal legislators actually listened to educators? Notice how many of the legislators in this video talk about "accountability." The assumption is that before "reformist" type accountability (aka standardized tests used to rank students, teachers, and schools) we never knew how our children were doing in school.
So long as public education policy continues to be shaped by the interests of corporate profiteering and not the interests of our public school children we will resist these unjust testing laws.
Jia Lee...the only woman at the hearings, from a female dominated profession...tries to teach legislators about the damage done by runaway testing.

Watch her testimony in the video below and read more about the hearings in...Teachers Rally Against Standardized Testing At No Child Left Behind Hearing.

The sad thing is that, despite the fact that NCLB has been replaced, annual, high-stakes testing is still with us.
Jia Lee, a New York special education teacher, said the tests "can only measure right or wrong," not complex questions. "I will refuse to administer a test that reduces my students to a single metric. … Teachers, students and parents find themselves in a position of whether or not to push back or leave."


Jia Lee - Senate Hearings Reauthorization of NCLB Jan 2015 from nLightn Media on Vimeo.

February 22

In February several hundred pro-public education supporters went to Indianapolis to "Rally for Ritz"...a rally in support of Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz. Superintendent Ritz was continually at odds with the appointed members of the pro-charter, pro-voucher, "reformist," school board.

Bloomington mom, and chair of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education--Monroe County and South Central Indiana, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer's speech to the assembled crowd was memorable, calling for, and defining legislative accountability, not just school accountability. Click here for the complete text of the speech.
My child is not “college and career ready” because HE IS A CHILD

...Accountability is representing your constituents, not your donors

...Accountability is research driven education policy. Standards don't educate kids, teachers do.

Accountability is seeing to it that every child has a school that has enough nurses, social workers, guidance counselors, gym, art, and music teachers, librarians, small class sizes, electives, hands-on projects, science experiments, theater, and band. Every. Single. Indiana. Child.

...no six year old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity
Legislators and "reformers" are all for accountability...for others.



May 4

John Oliver shows us just how inane and stupid our obsessive focus on standardized testing really is – test-pep rallies, school cheers – trying to convince children that high-stakes tests are "fun."

Yet, we all know that high-stakes tests are inappropriate for our most vulnerable students...and they make the pain of the also inappropriate test-prep-standards-based education even more painful.
Official instructions for test administrators specify what to do if a student vomits on his or her test booklet...and something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit. Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills...
[NOTE: NSFW Some images and language might be offensive...just like Pearson's tests.]


October 24

JOHN MERROW vs. EVA MOSKOWITZ

Success Academy procedures hurt children. They are used by charter school chains to get rid of "undesirables" (aka, students who are difficult and/or expensive to educate or whose test scores don't measure up) despite what Moskowitz says in this report.

The fact that the two schools highlighted at the beginning of this report – one public, one charter – share the same building, is part of the problem. "Dual occupancy" – two or more schools sharing one building – is a problem. Public schools and their buildings belong to the community which built them. Taking part of a building away from a public school and turning over part of a building to a privately run charter school is like stealing the community's property for profit. We don't turn over control of certain parts of public parks for privately run athletic teams. We don't close of parts of public libraries and let for-profit book sellers "share the space." Neither should we do that with public schools.

Merrow said it all when he said...
In the end, how charter schools conduct their business is basically their own business.



November 22

What kind of future are we building for our nation?

Policy makers regularly talk about how important it is to have good schools, but there's no follow through on their part. They blame schools for low achievement, but don't accept their responsibility for the high levels of poverty in the nation, the main cause of low achievement.

Schools...the education of our citizens...is not a high priority for this nation, despite the rhetoric. Jefferson said, "An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." If that's true, then the nation is in jeopardy.

The late Carl Sagan had this to say more than 25 years ago...
...we have permitted the amount of poverty in children to increase. Before the end of this century more than half the kids in America may be below the poverty line.

What kind of a future do we build for the country if we raise all these kids as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.



December 19

This is the latest and longest of the videos I posted this year. It's an important one because, despite ESSA, many teachers and schools around the nation are still judged by the test scores of their students, a practice which Dr. Berliner says is invalid. He also discusses the fact that outgoing Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wanted to carry the process one step further and evaluate schools of education by the test scores of their students' students.

We're using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year's ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn't be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

Student achievement tests measure only student achievement.

David C Berliner's presentation is titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.
Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America's education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.



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Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Reading List for Hilary Candidates


Despite the fact that NEA and AFT "endorsed" Hillary Clinton, she is not, IMHO, a strong supporter of public education.

Her math mistake in Iowa (misunderstanding the meaning of average) notwithstanding, she believes that closing schools will help...well...somehow. She said,
Now, I wouldn’t keep any school open that wasn’t doing a better than average job. If a school’s not doing a good job, then, you know, that may not be good for the kids.”
Like other politicians, she believes that closing a school solves problems which result in low achievement. For the most part those problems are based on high levels of poverty. Schools with large numbers of high poverty students need more support. More support equals more tax money. Closing public schools to open charters, or diverting money to private schools through vouchers won't solve the problems. Shifting students from one school to another won't solve the problems. Blaming teachers and parents for the low income of families in a school neighborhood won't solve the problems. What Mrs. Clinton should have said was, "Instead of closing schools we need to bring people out of poverty and provide more support for schools with students who struggle."

Arne Duncan, when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, closed "failing" schools. He then diverted public funds to charter schools. Some of those newly opened, "Duncan" schools were, in turn, closed by Rahm Emanuel, when he closed "failing schools."

The problem is not that Hillary Clinton made a math mistake or doesn't understand the meaning of average. The problem is that she wants to attack low achievement through closing schools.

Here's a short reading list for her...for all candidates, actually.

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

Because we're in the middle of an election cycle there is lots of discussion about Hilary's comments. Here are a couple of other articles to read.
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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

MISUSE OF ISTEP

On December 15 I wrote that, instead of "pausing accountability" and waiting a year to use ISTEP to label teachers and schools, we ought to stop using it altogether because, there is no
proof that the ISTEP has been developed to include measuring the effectiveness of schools and teachers, in addition to measuring student achievement.
DAVID BERLINER

By coincidence, the following day, Diane Ravitch reported on a talk given by David C Berliner titled Teacher evaluation and standardised tests: A policy fiasco. You can read about the video presentation by Dr. Berliner at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education web site and watch the hour-long video below.



Berliner discusses the worthlessness of evaluating teacher competence and teacher training program effectiveness with standardized achievement tests. His impetus for writing the paper was the call by Arne Duncan for the evaluation of teacher training programs based on their students' students' test scores.

Berliner maintains that the tests are invalid measures of teacher quality. To use them to measure the quality of teacher training institutions and programs is even worse.

He lays the blame for low test scores on America's high child poverty levels..
Teachers and teacher preparation programs are perfect targets to take legislators minds off of all the poverty and inequality that make some of America's education systems an international embarrassment. Blaming teacher education programs and the teachers they produce for disappointing standardized achievement test scores appears to me to be a diversion, of the type used by successful magicians. Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.
He lists 14 points which explain why using test scores to evaluate teachers and teacher training programs is invalid.

Effects of Poverty vs. Effects of Teachers

The first point is that "reformers" who insist on using standardized test scores for evaluation of teachers and teacher training programs confuse the effects of poverty with the effects that teachers have on their students.
When using standardized achievement tests as the basis for inferences about the quality of teachers and the institutions from which they came it is easy to confuse the effects of sociological variables on standardized test scores for the effects that teachers have on those test scores. [14:15 on the video]
Blaming Teachers is Inconsistent with our Moral Code

Point 2 – We don't hold pastors responsible when parishioners kill themselves or others. We don't hold parents responsible for the actions of their adult children.
The logic of holding schools of education responsible for student achievement does not fit into our system of law or into the moral code subscribed to by most western nations. [19:48]
Clients Don't Always Comply

Point 3 – Medical schools and dental schools aren't held to the same standard. Poverty will result in lower life expectancies, poorer dental health, and poorer health in general, yet we don't blame doctors for their patients' illnesses, or dentists for their patients' oral problems. We don't tell them that "poverty is no excuse" or "poverty isn't destiny." We don't close hospitals or dental offices which treat the poor and we don't blame health professionals who work with poor people.
Professionals are often held harmless for their lower success rates with clients who have observable difficulties in meeting the demands and the expectations of the professionals who attend to them. [20:09]
Berliner added,
No one is proposing Heal for America so recent college grads can spend two years in an inner city emergency room.
Competent Teaching can Occur Independent of Learning

Berliner fourth point is that practicing good medicine is the goal of medical care, even when diseases can't be cured. The same is true for teaching and learning.
People accept the fact that treatment in medicine may not result in the cure of a disease. Practicing good medicine is the goal, whether or not the patient gets better or lives! It is equally true that competent teaching can occur independent of learning, although this appears to be too difficult a concept for our Secretary of Education.[23:48] [emphasis added]
We don't have to use invalid measures just to evaluate teachers. Other methods are available. See, for example, Linda Darling-Hammond's Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching and PARS, from Montgomery County, MD (note: the latter is no longer in use because the legislature requires that tests be used to evaluate teachers!).
Berliner said,
There are other quite acceptable sources of data besides standardized achievement tests for judging the efficacy of teacher education programs and their graduates.
Is Teaching to the Test Good Instruction?

What is good instruction? Berliner says, in point 5, that there is a confusion about good instruction because of the reliance on standardized tests. Is success in raising test scores good instruction?
My government's reliance on standardized achievement test scores as the only acceptable source of data about teacher quality, will inevitably promote confusion between what we mean by successful instruction on tests, and what we mean by good instruction, about some values we hold about what teaching and learning should be like. [27:20]
Tests Are Not Sensitive to Teachers' Effects


The effect of teachers on student achievement tests is actually very small. Berliner's 6th point begins at 37:14 and continues for several minutes. He says,
Although teachers may have profound affects on individual students, they do not affect standardized achievement test scores much at all. [43:28]...Teachers are not affecting test scores very much, yet the test scores are used as ways to blame teachers, schools of education in New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and dozens of other cities.
Teachers' Effects Aren't Permanent

Not only is the teacher effect on student test scores small, but what there is of it doesn't last – his 7th point.
Teachers affects on standardized achievement test scores fade quickly. [43:50]
Student Achievement Tests Aren't Validated for Anything Other Than Student Achievement

I wish Dr. Berliner's paper was available to read. Because of lack of time, he rushed through points 8 through 14. Here they are...
8. Observational measures of teacher competency and achievement tests of teacher competency do not correlate well. [44:18]

9. Different standardized achievement tests, both purporting to measure reading or math or science at the same grade level, will give different estimates of teacher competency. [45:40]

10. The administration of standardized achievement tests at different times of the year, will yield different estimates of teacher effectiveness. [46:13]

11. No standardized achievement tests have provided proof that their items are instructionally sensitive. [46:32]

12.Teacher effects show up more dramatically on teacher made tests than on standardized achievement tests because the former are based on the enacted curriculum, while the latter are based on the desired curriculum. [47:46]

13.The opt-out testing movement invalidates inferences about teachers and schools that can be made from standardized achievement tests results. [49:56]

14.Assessing new teachers with standardized achievement tests is likely to yield many false negatives. [50:17]
He concludes...
Standardized achievement tests are remarkably insensitive to teacher effects. [51:24]
In other words, standardized achievement tests aren't changed much by classroom teachers. Other variables are more important, especially those outside of school.
[This explains why] Teach for America's new and grossly untrained teachers do not seem any worse on standardized achievement test given to poor children than do experienced teachers. The tests are simply too insensitive to instructional quality, while being highly reactive to the income, social class, quality of the neighborhood, and the home lives that are presented by the students of Teach for America instructors, as well as the better trained and more experienced instructors. [53:33]
STOP MISUSING TESTS


We're using standardized achievement tests incorrectly. They are invalid as a measure of teacher competence, school quality, and teacher training program effectiveness. The discussion of whether or not to use this year's ISTEP tests to evaluate teachers and schools is irrelevant. We shouldn't be using any standardized student achievement test to evaluate teachers or schools.

The incompetence comes from those who insist on and/or pass laws requiring schools, states, and state departments of education, to misuse already questionable measures of student achievement. That's not accountability. It's irresponsibility.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Musical Interlude: Beethoven's Seventh

Born on this date, December 16, 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven gave his first public performance at the age of 7. He published his first compositions at 11, and at the age of 14 he was appointed organist of the court of Maximillian Franz, the Elector of Cologne.

Between then, and his death at the age of 56, Beethoven produced some of the world's most familiar music – even to those who don't generally listen to classical music: the Fifth Symphony, Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise, and the Ode to Joy from the finale of his Ninth Symphony.

Most people know some of the themes from his symphonies, the Fifth and the Ninth especially, but one of my favorites is the Seventh (I've embedded some parts, but was unable to embed the entire symphony which you can hear by clicking here. The entire symphony can only be viewed from the original youtube site).

The Seventh was written by Beethoven at the age of 42. He was at the Bohemian spa town of Teplice trying to improve his health. NPR writes of the Symphony,
The Seventh Symphony's premiere concert was performed to benefit the soldiers wounded a few months earlier in the Battle of Hanau. It was one of Beethoven's most successful concerts.
The second movement was the most popular of the four parts of the symphony. When it was first played the audience immediately called for an encore of that movement...and it was frequently played separately from the entire symphony. Again, NPR...
Occasionally, Beethoven wrote something that was immediately recognized as both artistically great and hugely popular. An example is the second movement of his Seventh Symphony, a piece that was often performed separately from the complete Symphony and that may have been Beethoven's most popular orchestral composition.
Here is The second movement of Symphony Number 7, Allegretto.



My personal favorite movement is the third – especially the tympani, the flute/oboe duets, and the contrast between the two tempos of the movement. He starts the third movement at a fast-pace which he alternates with the trio, first introduced (at about 2:15 in the video below) by a stirring call of the french horns, echoed by reeds.



The conductor for this (and all those listed below) is Leonard Bernstein. He doesn't need the music and often dances along as he conducts.

Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No 7 A major, Leonard Bernstein conducts Wiener Philarmoniker
Movement 2: Allegretto
Movement 3: Presto. Assai meno presto
Here are links to all 9 of Beethoven's Symphonies performed by Bernstein and the Wiener Philarmonker (Vienna Philharmonic) [source for titles].
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Don't Pause – STOP!

ISTEP FAIL


The Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress, called ISTEP, is a mess.

First it was too long, then it was too hard, then it was too late. And now the too-long, too-hard, too-late test has just been revealed to have been the subject of scoring errors. The Indy Star explains...

Computer glitch could have misscored thousands of ISTEP tests, scoring supervisors say
Scores on thousands of student exams could be incorrect because of a computer malfunction that inadvertently changed grades on Indiana’s high-stakes ISTEP test, according to scoring supervisors familiar with the glitch.

But the company that scored the exam on behalf of the state — testing giant CTB McGraw Hill — decided to leave those potentially faulty scores in place, even after the problem was brought to management’s attention, the supervisors said.

Company executives would not speak with The Indianapolis Star, but in a letter Tuesday to the Indiana Department of Education, Executive Vice President Ellen Haley downplayed the problem. She said the issue “was very rare” and “did not affect student scores.”

Seven supervisors who spoke with The Star disagreed. All said they believed the problem was more widespread. Two estimated that tens of thousands of test questions were likely given incorrect scores. Others said it is difficult to put a number on the problem, but it was pervasive enough to merit rescoring the potentially impacted tests.
This has inflamed bloggers, pundits, and educators all over the state. Dave Bangert sums it up...

Bangert: The ISTEP Dumpster fire
ISTEP has tumbled and crashed the way educators across the state predicted as obvious back in January and February. In those days, the dire warnings from classrooms around the state were blown off by those with Statehouse clout as just more excuses about the testing culture of school reform. That’s dereliction of a different sort.

The incompetence of CTB McGraw Hill simply removes all doubt, pounding one more nail in a coffin for a round of testing that should have been lowered into the ground long ago.


Everyone, from your local school superintendent, to the Indiana State Teachers Association, is calling for the legislature to "pause accountability" since the tests used to measure schools and evaluate teachers are so messed up. Even the Governor has agreed to ask the legislature to not use the test scores to grade teachers.

I disagree...we ought not "pause accountability." We ought to end it.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Most "reformers" don't read my blog, but if there are any out there, I'm not calling for an end to all accountability for schools and teachers. I'm calling for an end to "reform-style" accountability.

I'll explain.

Standardized tests, assuming that they're valid and reliable to begin with (another post for the future), ought to be used for that which they have been developed. In other words, student achievement tests ought to be used to measure student achievement, not to evaluate teachers and schools. By definition, student achievement tests are invalid when used to measure anything else.

James Popham, UCLA Professor Emeritus, wrote in 2001 that there were only four appropriate uses for standardized student achievement tests.
Informing parents about their children’s relative achievements
Informing teachers about their students’ relative achievements
Selecting students for special programs
Allocating supplemental resources
He also listed four inappropriate uses.
Evaluating schools
Evaluating teachers
Promoting or grading students
Making classroom instructional decisions
Even earlier (1982) was this from "Ability Testing: Uses, Consequences, and Controversies"
A test score is a numerical description of a sample of performance at a given point in time. A test score gives no information as to why the individual performed as reported.

Claiming that it does, whether intended as a positive attribute or a criticism, is tantamount to test misuse. Furthermore, no statistical manipulation of test data, even though combined with the best additional data, will permit more than probabilistic inferences about causation or future performance.


In other words, a student's score on a student achievement test should not be used to show that a teacher (or school) was the cause of the student's score.

In order to use a test in a way other than the purpose for which it was intended, the user must be able to show how the test retains its validity. To my knowledge, the developer of ISTEP has never shown how it is a valid tool for evaluating schools and teachers other than the non-research based explanation of "it shows what the kids know, therefore the teachers and schools must be responsible." (For just one of many reasons this isn't true, see Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

"Reform-style" accountability, then, insists that tests do more than they were developed to do. It insists that tests be used to evaluate schools and teachers. This is a common, though blatant misuse of tests.

I'd love to see proof that the ISTEP has been developed to include measuring the effectiveness of schools and teachers, in addition to measuring student achievement.

If there is none (and I don't think there is), we need to stop, not just pause, using it for those purposes.


For more information about ISTEP see:
A CLOSER LOOK: ISTEP SCORES, A HISTORY AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOUR SCHOOL

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 Medley #37

Privatization, Poverty, YGWYPF,
Bullet-Proof Blankets

PRIVATIZATION – THE FALSE CHOICE

The adventures of Timmy in Public Schools...



You’ve got homework!

Gayle Cosby is a member of the Indianapolis Public Schools school board. In this entry she links to an excellent video of what has happened to education in New Orleans since charters moved in. Watch this if you care about public education...the falsehoods about "choice" will be coming to your town or state soon, if they're not already there.
Go watch this 16 minute video. Share it on social media. Talk about it. I’ll let it sink in for a little while…give you some time to think about how similar this is to Indianapolis… then I’ll be back with a little discussion for ya.

Florida Has a Plan to Eliminate Public Education

The good news about ESSA is that it has moved some important education decision making to the states, instead of leaving it with the federal government. The bad news is that for some states, like Florida, that means nothing changed. State legislators can no longer blame the federal government for tying their hands and privatizing public education. Contact your state representatives now. End the use of tax revenue for private and religious profit. End the overuse and misuse of standardized testing.
Diverting......the name of the game in Florida and it is growing.
TALLAHASSEE — Without a word of debate Friday, the Florida House approved a controversial proposal that could require school districts to share tens of millions of dollars in construction funds with rival charter schools.
Just follow the money to find the corruption.....
The bill was one of four high-profile education proposals that won the support of the Republican-dominated House to end the week. The others would:
  • Ease the penalties for schools that fail to comply with the constitutionally mandated limits on class size.
  • Create a pilot program to give principals more control over hiring and budget decisions.
  • Encourage school districts to adopt mandatory school uniform policies for children in grades K-8 by offering incentive money.
All of the Democrats in attendance voted against the charter school bill, HB 7037. But none debated the measure on the floor
On top of everything else, the incentives of money to local districts to enforce school uniforms was added into the mix. I wonder which uniform company has major stockholders sitting in the legislature. 

New report: Charter schools great at making money for private business, not much else

Read this important report. The motive for public spending on education should be to provide education for the community not to provide a profit for corporate education amateurs.
Charter schools are able to siphon off large quantities of public money for private gain — and only substantial changes to state policies regarding charter schools can stop this, according to the authors of the report from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at University of Colorado Boulder.

The Adventures of Timmy, Part 2



Growing Evidence that Charter Schools Are Failing
"An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people." – Thomas Jefferson
"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
Sometimes regulation is necessary. The education of our children is one of those areas where the public needs to keep tabs on what's going on for two reasons. First, charters and voucher schools use public tax money and they need to be held accountable to the taxpayers. Second, education is a public trust. The nation depends on an educated populace for its continuation. It is in our national best interest to make sure that public schools are fully supported.
Performance aside, charters have other serious issues. The Nation called them "stunningly opaque...black boxes." Indeed, the federal government has spent billions on charter development without basic forms of accountability, even for the causes and details of school closings. The charter system is so unregulated that oversight often comes from whistleblowers who feel disturbed enough, and courageous enough, to report abuses.

The report Cashing in on Kids notes that the Walton Foundation, one of the biggest charter school supporters, has "supported the unregulated growth of a privatized education industry." The Walton-funded New York Charter School Association, which takes considerable public money and advertises itself as "independently-run public schools," refused state audits, arguing that they were run by boards outside the public domain. Charter operators want the best of both worlds. As Diane Ravitch explains, "When it is time for funds to be distributed, they want to be considered public schools. But when they are involved in litigation, charter operators insist they are private organizations."


POVERTY

Are Low U.S. Scores on International Tests Caused by High Child Poverty or Bad Schools?

Poverty negatively affects student achievement. Students who are hungry or hurt by the effects of poverty, have trouble achieving at as high a level as students who don't live in poverty. This isn't new information. Politicians and policy makers can't solve the problems of poverty so they continue to deflect the blame to schools instead of taking responsibility.

Do schools need to improve? Of course, but schools in high poverty areas need extra support, and politicians are loathe to provide it. Citizens in high poverty areas are rarely campaign donors.
...Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond explores the many ways childhood poverty affects the lives of America’s poorest children—their child and adolescent development, their health, their academic potential, and their life prospects. Desmond begins with the story of Crystal, a premature baby born after her mother was stabbed. Crystal’s father is imprisoned; she is molested as a preschooler, placed, at age five, in foster care where she begins a life with “dozens of group homes and sets of foster parents.” Crystal drops out of school at sixteen, ages out of foster care at eighteen, and after a litany of other problems, becomes a homeless adult. Desmond continues: “Should we say Crystal is ‘poor’? She certainly is that—but living in mere poverty would be a tremendous blessing for Crystal. Poverty is defined officially as an income cutoff, a threshold. But there are many depths below the poverty line. Poverty is qualitatively different from ‘deep poverty’ (half below the poverty line), which in turn is a world apart from ‘extreme poverty’ (living on $2 a day). There is poverty, and then there is poverty. Recent debates about poverty measurement have focused largely on its material attributes…. These debates are necessary and productive, but a relatively small income is but one of any obstacles preventing Crystal from living a full, productive, and healthy life. Like many people from disadvantaged families, she experienced setbacks at a very young age (even before birth) and never fully recovered from them. Poverty is more than a material condition.” Surely we need to improve our public schools, but just as surely we need to learn how to identify and address challenges like Crystal’s. Today, we pretty much talk as though we expect school teachers to be able, on their own, to turn such children’s lives around.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR

Eight Years Under the Ax

How have schools fared since the "great recession?"
Wall Street tanked the economy, resulting in a big bunch of cutbacks as every state tried to deal with a sudden lack of money. That part of the story we already knew.

The second part of the story, which you may have suspected, is that once states got in the habit of slashing education budgets, the just kept on doing it even after the economy began to recover. CBPP does not bury the lede on this one:

Most states provide less support per student for elementary and secondary schools — in some cases, much less — than before the Great Recession.

BULLETPROOF BLANKETS

Now you can buy a bulletproof blanket specifically made for your kids to use during school shootings

This article reminded me of my own childhood growing up during the Cold War. During monthly "air raid drills" we would hunker down under our desks and listen in fear for the sounds of Soviet planes ready to drop bombs on us. For most of the years of my childhood I would stop at the sound of every plane overhead and search the skies to see if I could see the bomber with the red star. This was especially disruptive since I lived on the incoming air route to O'Hare Field in Chicago...

Now that our leaders are too afraid of the NRA to provide sensible solutions to mass murder we will raise another generation of children growing up in fear.
If mass shootings weren't such an integrated part of our culture, you'd think The Bodyguard Blanket was an SNL skit or an Onion article. Kids are being gunned down in their 1st grade classrooms, but what can we do? No we're not talking about gun laws, just arm your children with these bulletproof shields!


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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tests Don't Measure Everything

NEIFPE

I'm fortunate enough to be a member of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE). Our mission statement, which you can find on our blog, reads,
We are citizens, teachers, administrators, and parents united by our support for public education and by concerns for its future. Recent federal and state reform measures have created an over-emphasis on testing and have turned over public education to private interests. We believe that these reforms threaten the well-being of our children and jeopardize their futures. Our goal is to inform ourselves and to start community discussion about the impact of these measures on our public schools and, more importantly, on our children. [emphasis added]
Earlier this week NEIFPE had the opportunity to speak to three undergraduate education classes at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) about "educational reform."

Our presentation was often depressing as we talked about the loss of public education funds to charter and voucher schools, the misuse and overuse of testing, and the loss of teachers' collective bargaining rights. However, we tried as much as we could to be encouraging to the future teachers in our audience.

One question which kept coming up (because the professor kept bringing it up) was, "Why, with all this going on, would anyone want to go into teaching?"

We answered in a way you would expect a group of retired and former teachers to answer. "We never wanted to do anything else." "We loved our careers." "We loved our students." "We loved what we did." "There's nothing better than seeing the light in a child's eyes when they 'get it.'" "There aren't many jobs which provide the satisfaction that teaching does."


I loved teaching and working with children so much that upon retirement, I immediately began to volunteer in local elementary schools. Now, five years retirement, I still work a few hours a week with primary aged students on reading and literacy skills in a public school near my home. I like being with children and I find satisfaction in teaching and working with students who need extra help. I enjoy interacting with students and helping, where I can, to make learning easier for them, and, in a very small way, to mitigate the negative effects of "educational reform." I indicated this to the students at IPFW (though not in such detail).

A VISIT FROM A FORMER STUDENT

As often happens, an event occurred today which reinforced what our group said about being teachers. It also reminded me of one aspect of teaching which is often ignored by "reformers" – the relationship between teacher and child.

This morning one of my former third grade students (from c.mid-1980s) paid me a visit. It has been decades since I saw her...probably the last time was when she was in the elementary school I taught at when she was in third grade. She had discovered that I volunteer in the building where her child is a student and made it her business to come talk to me.

She was my student during a particularly difficult time in her life. I remembered it clearly when she mentioned it this morning and I mentioned a talk we had, teacher to child, during which I did my best to encourage her. She remembered, and was surprised, but seemed genuinely pleased that I remembered it as well.

The important part of our conversation today, was that she expressed gratitude, after all these years, for the patience and understanding which I had shown her when she was a child who was hurting. She has carried it with her throughout her life and has shared it with her family now that she is an adult.

She didn't thank me for helping her learn to read. She didn't thank me for helping her pass the achievement test. She didn't thank me for helping her learn her math facts. She thanked me for being a kind and caring adult who helped her during a difficult time.

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects in the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.


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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Listening to Experts

NO EXPERTS ALLOWED

In 1964, Richard Hofstadter won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life in which he traced intellect in American Life. Fifty years later we're still are surprised when "anti-intellectualism" rears its ugly head and negatively impacts public education.

The Texas State Board of Education has been fighting "experts" for years. In 2009, board chair Don McLeroy, infamously exclaimed, "Somebody's gotta stand up to experts..." because those same "experts" disagreed with his religious beliefs.

Texas Board of Education rejects plan to have academics fact-check their textbooks

Recently, the same school board voted down a proposal which called for a panel of actual content area experts to review textbooks for errors.
The push for more experts to be involved came after more than a year of controversy over board-sanctioned books' coverage of global warming, descriptions of Islamic history and terrorism and handling of the Civil War and the importance of Moses and the Ten Commandments to the Founding Fathers.
Texas SBOE: Experts? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Experts.

Ed Brayton, a blogger who favors fact over myth and anti-intellectualism, reacted with this.
The way we govern our schools in this country is absolutely asinine. No one in their right mind would suggest that textbooks for medical school be written or approved by anyone other than medical professionals, yet we somehow think that decisions on school curricula should be made by whatever random yahoos can get elected by a few hundred local yokels who don’t know [blank] about [blank]. I would be willing to bet that if you had school boards across the country take the final exams in almost any of the courses offered in the schools they govern, a very small percentage could even pass them, much less demonstrate a solid understanding of the subjects.

History curricula and textbooks should be determined by historians, chemistry by chemists, math by mathematicians, and so forth. It boggles my mind that anyone could possibly disagree with that.

IGNORING THE REAL EXPERTS

I saw this meme on Facebook the other day...

"Please Do Not Confuse Your Google Search With My Medical Degree."

It occurred to me that education "reformers" have been doing that sort of thing for years. For the most part they have confused their experiences as students with K-12 teachers' experience and education degrees. For example, the following politicians and/or billionaires, while influential in American education policy for K-12 schools, have no education training other than what they learned as students. In other words, the last time they set foot in a K-12 public school – other than for a photo-op – was when they were students (NOTE: Arne Duncan never attended public schools. Ever).
  • Michael Bloomberg – former mayor of New York City. (Johns Hopkins, Electrical Engineering: Harvard, MBA)
  • Eli Broad – Philanthropist, Billionaire. (Michigan State Univ., Accounting: CPA)
  • George W. Bush – 43rd President of the United States. (Yale, History: Harvard, MBA)
  • Arne Duncan – Secretary of Education during the Obama Administration. (Harvard, Sociology)
  • Bill Gates – Philanthropist, Billionaire. (no post-secondary degree)
  • Joel Klein – Former Chancellor of New York City Schools. (Columbia B.A.: Harvard, JD)
  • Wendy Kopp – Founder and CEO, Teach For America. (Princeton, Public Policy)
  • Barack Obama – 44th President of the United States. (Columbia, Political Science: Harvard, JD)
  • Margaret Spellings – Secretary of Education during the second term of the George W. Bush administration. (Univ. of Houston, Political Science)
These so-called experts likely ask only trained medical professionals for medical advice or call trained legal experts when they need legal advice. And I imagine they only ask licensed plumbers for advice when they have a leak or backed up drains. Yet they had/have no trouble giving advice, proposing projects, and working for laws which have damaged the nation's public education through obsessive testing and privatization.

Add in other non-education professionals such as
  • TFA alums who, after 5 weeks of training and 2 years of teaching call themselves experts in education.
  • Thousands of legislators and other politicians at all levels of government who introduce and pass laws to privatize public education
  • Pundits and lobbyists who pontificate on public education without any experience other than their own childhood school years.
The Texas State Board of Education has just taken Anti-Intellectualism one step further. They have decided that they are the only ones who understand and will have input into the content areas which are taught to their constituents' children. Since textbooks written for Texas are also sold all over the country, the Texas State Board of Education has made content decisions for other, non-Texas students as well.

FEDERAL INTERVENTION

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top took public education out of local hands.

Yearly testing, closing "failing" schools (aka high-poverty schools), opening charters, evaluating teachers and schools with student test scores...are just a few of the worst aspects of the federal laws and policies which have been responsible for the increasing chaos in America's public education system. None of those things have improved teaching and learning.

Closing schools doesn't help children learn. Charter schools don't perform better than public schools. Teacher evaluations using student test scores are invalid and unreliable. Grading schools based on student test scores does nothing but cause damage to schools and communities.

The Common Core State Standards – not to be confused with actual standards written by states with the input of actual working educators – are, in some cases, developmentally inappropriate, have never been field tested, and are set in stone – unchangeable.

SELLING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Teacher training is the next target. For example, Pearson has now become the "gatekeeper" for student teachers. "edTPA" is a standardized assessment for teachers working for certification. Certification is dependent on the successful completion of "edTPA."

Pearson to become the gate-keeper for student teachers in Illinois.
As the fall semester begins, all student teachers in the state will be required to pay an extra $300 (on top of the tuition they are already paying) [for edTPA] and arrange for videotaping so that they can submit a lengthy narrative that covers the planning, execution and evaluation of a series of lessons with one of their classes as well as a ten-minute video of themselves carrying out their lesson with a class.

Student teachers are required to get parent permission for their children to be video-taped.

Pearson owns the video.

Once submitted to Pearson, an “evaluator” will apply rubrics and 2-3 hours of their time to decide whether or not the student teacher “passes” and can be licensed to teach by the State of Illinois.
It's not just Illinois. California, New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Oregon, and others are edTPA states. In addition, at least one teacher training institute in many other states also require edTPA – Indiana, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania. At $300 a pop Pearson is raking it in and getting their foot in the door of teacher training.

Imagine the future of the US public education system as a subsidiary of Pearson; They train the teachers at Pearson/edTPA College, provide the curriculum, and provide the tests. Local school boards will be unnecessary. Decisions will be made in Pearson board room in London, UK.

WHERE ARE EDUCATORS VOICES?

Where are actual educators in all of this? In the same way that Texas has denied input from academic experts for textbook adoptions, politicians and policy makers have denied input from education experts for testing, curriculum, standards, and education in general. The real education experts are the millions of teachers who teach in public schools across the country, not Bill Gates...not Arne Duncan...and not Wendy Kopp.

For the most part, over the last several decades of so-called "reform," teachers voices haven't been heard or acknowledged. School closings, changes in evaluations, and testing...have all taken place without input from the real experts in education – teachers. Instead of listening to teachers, policy makers increased high stakes testing. Instead of listening to teachers, policy makers didn't fix schools with high levels of poverty: They closed them. Instead of listening to teachers, policy makers instituted punitive evaluation procedures which hurt those who teach our hardest to teach students the most.

However, the new education bill before congress, the Every Student Succeeds Act, supposedly includes provisions for listening to actual educators. The NEA released this today.

NEA president supports the Every Student Succeeds Act
“In particular, the bill includes student and school supports in state accountability plans to create an opportunity ‘dashboard’; reduces the amount of standardized testing in schools and decouples high-stakes decision making and statewide standardized tests; and ensures that educators’ voices are part of decision making at the federal, state and local levels. [emphasis added]
After reading some analysis of the new law, it seems that it will be left up to the states to decide.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Some Eleventh-Hour Observations
The document continues the trend of NCLB test-heaviness. ESSA is not as punitive as NCLB, but its worn-out test-centrism will accomplish little as it prompts states to seek creative ways to retain Title I money in the face of an increasing public resistance to the very testing on which corporate reform depends.
Why many high-stakes testing foes see ‘modest’ progress in No Child Left Behind rewrite
From an assessment reform perspective, FairTest is convinced that the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) now before the House and Senate, though far from perfect, improves on current testing policy. The bill significantly reduces federal accountability mandates and opens the door for states to overhaul their own assessment systems.
Will actual teachers have any input? We shall see...

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Life is Like a Sonnet

Today would have been Madeline L'Engle's 97th birthday. She was born on November 29, 1918 in New York.

L'Engle's writing was, according to an article in the Huffington Post today by Claire Fallon, for the oddball in everyone.

Madeleine L'Engle, The YA Author For The Oddball In Everyone
L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time quintet isn’t just for the oddballs, though. It’s for the oddball in every single one of us. In L’Engle’s books, there’s no one standing onstage who’s simply normal, accepted, whole. Reading the series is a course in learning that every person faces their own path to feeling normal, and their own obstacles to feeling special.
L'Engle was best known for her Wrinkle in time Quintet, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. The books trace the adventures of the Murry children: Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, twins Sandy and Dennys, and others, as they travel through the tesseract.

A Wrinkle in Time is a frequently challenged book because it refers to witches and crystal balls. L'Engle herself was a strong Episcopalian...and a universalist, which resulted in objections to her work from those who insisted that their truth was the only truth.

Her biography on Wikipedia claims that she...
...wrote her first story at age five and began keeping a journal at age eight.[5] These early literary attempts did not translate into academic success at the New York City private school where she was enrolled. A shy, clumsy child, she was branded as stupid by some of her teachers. Unable to please them, she retreated into her own world of books and writing.
A writer's personal history is always instrumental in their creativity. However I have to believe that, had she been better served at school, she still would have written her stories...another reason to encourage creativity, originality, and problem solving over test and punish education.

As I was reading about her I noticed her wonderful attitude about aging. She once wrote,
The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
Here's to the oddballs among us.


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Friday, November 27, 2015

Tomorrow's Teachers?

WHO WILL STAFF TOMORROW'S CLASSROOMS?

A Not Quitting Letter

Earlier this month blogger Peter Greene struck back against the increasingly frequent "teacher quits via internet post" genre. He wrote a "not quitting" letter to an imaginary school board.
So I will stay here, and I will do what I consider-- in my professional opinion-- to do what is best for my students and my community. When I am told to implement a bad policy, I will circumvent it by any means at my disposal. I will disregard directives to commit malpractice. I will question, I will challenge, and I will push back. I will speak at every board meeting. I will talk to every parent.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. To his credit, he did acknowledge that not everyone is in position to do what he suggested. In the school I volunteer at, for example, anyone who did what he said would get fired due to insubordination.
Yes, I know. Not everyone is in the position to be this feisty and confrontational, and not every situation lends itself to this approach. I'm not advocating this for every single teacher up against it. And yes-- lots of teachers have adopted this "stay and fight" stance-- they just haven't written a letter announcing it.

As I said, I am not unsympathetic to those who quit. You can only take as much as you can take.
I get it. Teachers who are strong will stay in the classroom...until they can't. Some teachers will leave because they can't handle the cognitive dissonance of the education malpractice they are forced to dump on their students...and would rather quit than be fired (because, while it's always been possible to fire teachers, it's even easier now).

Some teachers will do what Greene has said...they'll fight back, subvert the malpractice process, and stand up to the "reformers." Some might even be able to do that without getting fired.

Some teachers will stay and do what they're told because they believe they can overcome the educational malpractice forced upon them by "excellent teaching." Those are also the teachers who Greene is speaking of...those teachers who can deal with all the paperwork and all the wasted time in test prep and testing, and still make sure that their students are active learners...and still make sure that their students are evaluated in ways which reflect their real learning, rather than on the basis of an annual BS test (Greene's way of referring to the "Big Standardized test").

Some teachers will stay in the classroom, do what they're told, and participate in the educational malpractice because they don't know what else to do. They'll do what they're told when it's time to beat test prep into their students' heads. They'll do what they're told when they're told to limit the curriculum to "tested content." They'll ignore or repress the feelings of cognitive dissonance because they don't know how to combat them.

Some teachers – as witnessed by the numbers of people leaving the profession (and the lack of numbers entering it) – will leave.

A Not So Graceful Exit: Why I Left Teaching

How can you defend what you're doing to your students if you don't believe it's in their best interest? How can you subject them to the educational malpractice of 'reform' and tell them that you know it's not good for them, but you have to do it anyway? Someone else will do the same thing to them if you quit...someone who might not understand them as well as you do. When do you tell them that enough if enough and you can't be the one to do this to them any more?

You do it when you decide that you have to take care of yourself, too.

If you think it's easy to quit when you care about your students, read this. Staying, fighting, and risking getting fired takes courage...but sometimes so does walking away.
So, I quit. I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test. I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand.


Why today’s college students don’t want to be teachers

All but the most partisan (pro-"reform") among us recognize that there is a looming, if not current, teacher shortage in Indiana and the U.S. Why are today's college students choosing other ways to "give back" to the community?

The word is out. Not only do teachers have a difficult job, but they are disrespected, scolded, insulted, and derided.
Calling today’s undergraduates privileged or spoiled is similarly reductionistic. Certainly, economic diversity remains a persistent problem in American higher education. But one can find numerous examples of students who, despite growing up in poverty and navigating tragically under-resourced schools, persevere to become the first in their family to attend college. These remarkable individuals are among the most likely to pursue careers in social work, community organizing, or public health with plans to return home and give back to their communities.

But they do not want to become teachers.

This is more than just an unfortunate trend. When our brightest young college graduates, especially those who reflect the increasing diversity found in our public schools, eschew teaching we need to ask why.
The atmosphere surrounding teachers and public education has been toxic...and no amount of denial by politicians saying, "We love our teachers" will change that.
University of California-Davis Education Dean Harold Levine went further, urging leaders to do more “by creating an environment free of teacher bashing and the politicization of our jobs.”
Teachers are losing the freedom to actually impact students' lives due to restrictions and high-stakes tests. Teachers are also losing job benefits and rights such as collective bargaining, seniority, and economic stability. This is enough to direct college students' attention to other careers.
But finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option. Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.


We must despise our kids: Our ugly war on teachers must end now: Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing: Demonizing teachers. It's the "reformers" doing the most harm

The demonizing of teachers and teachers unions is a bipartisan effort (until, of course, one needs a political endorsement). Democrats and Republicans alike have fallen into the trap of accountability – as if teachers and schools should be held accountable for the failure of America to deal with its deplorable child poverty rate.

Instead of fixing social problems, improving schools, and providing support services, politicians take no responsibility for the problems in high poverty areas. Like the irresponsible parent who doesn't think they have to do anything to support their child's learning, politicians, pundits, and policy makers call out the schools when hungry or traumatized children have difficulty learning. They incorrectly label schools as "failing" when they, themselves, fail to do their jobs. They blame teachers and schools for not solving the problems of poverty and violence in our cities, towns, and rural areas. Accountability isn't for legislators, governors, or mayors.

Democrats and Republicans alike have sold out the public schools to "choice" and allowed the "choosers" to suck up tax money previously reserved for neighborhood schools. Parents don't get to choose. Charter schools get to choose. Private schools – using tax money to repair church steeples or add on extra classrooms for religious instruction – get to choose. If you have a high needs child you get to "choose" the now underfunded public schools because there are no other options.

Democrats and Republicans alike have allowed themselves to be bought by lobbyists working for for-profit or religious schools. The constituency is not longer the voting public, but the hedge fund managers, the "reform" think tank, or the CMO.

The attack on public education continues. Why are we surprised when fewer young people want to opt for a career in the classroom?
Obviously the main culprit of this tremendous and damaging shortfall in student learning is austerity budgeting around the country. Most funding for public schools comes from the states, and they have not rebounded to pre-recession funding levels, nor have they made education enough of a priority to keep up. Though teaching children is routinely stated as our nation’s most important priority in political campaigns, we treat it in the exact opposite manner in budget documents.

But there’s a bigger point to be made here, first brought up by blogger Duncan Black, aka Atrios. Speaking of teachers, Atrios wrote, “who could have predicted that demonizing them, cutting salaries and benefits, and reducing job security might make it a slightly less attractive option for people.”

The amazing thing is just how bipartisan this campaign to denigrate the American teacher has been... [emphasis added]


STILL HOPE

'Some of the best people I know'

And yet there's still hope. A young teacher, still untouched by cynicism, writes about her fellow teachers. Can people like this writer hold on long enough to give us a chance to turn things around? Can she and her colleagues overburdened with ever larger class sizes and ever more tests remain in the classroom long enough to see a return to America's promise of good public schools for every child in every neighborhood?
My first-year teaching experience boils down to this: No matter how rough my day is, nothing has made me regret the decision to teach. Every day I watch my students grow – not just as learners, but as people. Teaching can easily become all-consuming. While I may not have the free time I did when I worked 9 to 5, I still meet up with friends, I still run road races, I still read for pleasure. I haven’t lost myself completely. I feel free and fulfilled.

There are plenty of challenges in the field of education. Have those challenges caused a teacher shortage? It seems so. These challenges, however, aren’t a death toll; they are a call to action.

Teaching is for the brave, the caring, the quick-witted and the thick-skinned. If that doesn’t sound like you, then stay away. As for the rest of you, we have some openings.


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The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.
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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade...“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.

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