"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, January 30, 2015

An Open Letter to Indiana's Public School Teachers

Dear Teachers,

Over the last several years...
  • You have lost many of your collective bargaining rights.
  • You have lost the right to due process when it comes to your job. You can now be fired for teaching hard to educate, and hard to accelerate students because...
  • You have lost the right to use your professional judgment with your students, instead being forced to rely on inadequate and massive amounts of testing -- testing which robs you and your students of valuable instructional time. Those same tests are now the basis of your evaluation no matter what happens to your students outside of school. You have no control over their family income, their neighborhood safety issues, their emotional health, or the ability of their parents to get them adequate mental, physical, and dental health care. All of those issues have a bearing on your students' achievement, yet you alone are held responsible for their academic success or failure.
  • You have lost the right to use your school's communications to discuss "certain" topics, even while former public officials did the same thing.
  • Your schools have lost millions of dollars of tax money being transferred to private schools and charter schools with the ability to choose their clientele, while your schools must accept every child who enters its doors.
  • Your schools have been forced to spend millions of their scarce dollars on those same inadequate and massive testing programs.
This year, there are bills before the state legislature which will...
  • Allow the State Board of Education to usurp the authority of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Indiana Department of Education.
  • Allow charter and non-public schools to administer different tests than the ones your students are required to take.
  • Allow for a hostile takeover of your bargaining agent.
  • Provide for more forced testing at a younger age...and for that testing to be a larger part of your evaluation. 
  • Eliminate your right to any collective bargaining.
This year the Governor's plan would...
  • Allow private, parochial, and charter schools to circumvent restrictions which your school must follow.
  • Allow even more tax money to be spent on vouchers and charter schools resulting in fewer resources and larger classes in your public school.
  • Increase the interference of so-called "Merit Pay" plans, which deny adequate financial remuneration to teachers who teach hard to educate and hard to accelerate students.
Public schools are starved of resources...public school teachers are forced to teach in ways which are not conducive to real learning...and then public schools and public school teachers are blamed for low achievement.

The Governor, State Board of Education, and legislature are still trying to negate the State Superintendent of Public Instruction election of 2012. They are still trying to privatize public education. They are still trying to destroy the state's teachers unions.

Isn't it time for you to speak up? Your students deserve a fully funded public education system. You deserve a profession of which you can be proud, focused on best practices and professional growth not interference by uneducated and inexperienced politicians.

Learn about what the legislature is doing this year. Their actions will have an impact on you and your ability to teach your students. Stay informed with...
  • the Parent Community Network of Monroe County (on FaceBook)
  • the American Federation of Teachers - Indiana (Website).
At the very least contact your legislators and urge them to end the battle against public education and public school educators.


~~~

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.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't Defend Public Education With Tests

DON'T DEFEND YOUR SCHOOL WITH INDEFENSIBLE TESTS

No! No! No! No!

Look, I understand why Rod Gardin, the superintendent of East Porter County School Corporation in northwest Indiana, wrote the op-ed on NWI.com titled Public schools outperform charter schools. Studies across the nation have shown that charters don't perform any better than regular public schools given the same students.

I understand why Superintendent Gardin is defensive about his local public schools. Charter schools are taking students away from public schools. Vouchers are taking students away from public schools. The legislature continues to provide more support for privatization and less support for public schools. The Governor's new plan for education is simply more transference of public money from public schools to voucher accepting schools and charter schools. Public schools are consistently and wrongly bashed as "failures."

I get it...professional educators are tired of being insulted and slandered by politicians and pundits and want to strike back with the truth. So Superintendent Gardin compared the letter grades assigned to schools by the Indiana Department of Education, based mostly on student test scores, and discovered that a higher percentage of public schools got A's than charter schools and a higher percentage of charter schools got F's than public schools...and so on for B's, C's and D's.


Public schools outperform charter schools
According to the A-F grades assigned by the Indiana Department of Education, public schools outperform charter schools across all grade categories. Forty-eight percent of public schools received an A while only 25.4 percent of charter schools received the same grade. Twenty-two percent of public schools received a B. Only 1.7 percent of charter schools received that grade. 18.5 percent of public schools received a C. Charter schools once again underperformed, with 17 percent receiving the same grade.

What is most startling is the number of charter schools that received a D or an F. Twenty-seven percent of charter schools received a D as compared to 10 percent of public schools. Worse yet, 29 percent of charter schools received an F while only 4.8 percent of public schools did. Overall, 56 percent of the charter schools performed in the two lowest categories (D and F). That is almost four times greater than the percent of public schools that received a D or an F (14.8 percent). Public schools vastly outperformed charter schools in the two highest categories (A and B), with 66.6 percent of public schools earning those grades as compared to 27.1 percent of the charter schools.

BUT IT CUTS BOTH WAYS

Based on those tests charter schools score lower than public schools...and Superintendent Gardin, in his attempt to defend and support his public schools -- for which I commend him -- wants everyone to know it!

But what happens when someone from the state decides to close a public school based on those same test scores...or those same letter grades given by the state DOE? What happens when low-scoring public schools are bashed and labeled "failures" because they received an "F" from the state? What happens when teachers in those schools are labeled "ineffective" simply because their students scored low on the state tests?

Do we wait till then to stand up and claim that Indiana's A-F School Accountability grading system is worthless because "there's more to school than test scores"? Do wait till then to remind everyone that standardized test scores have more to do with a family's income than a student's teachers?

Poverty, not "bad teachers," is the main cause of low achievement in America's public schools and anyone involved in public schools knows it [even Arne Duncan and other "reformers." They know it, too, but saying "We need to reduce poverty" doesn't get the campaign donations that yelling "Teachers unions are destroying America!" does].

Giving a school an A based on student test scores doesn't tell you anything about that school. It doesn't tell you about the atmosphere in the school. It doesn't tell you about the quality of the teachers, staff members, administrators and volunteers. It doesn't tell you about the parents -- other than perhaps their income. We're still overusing, and finding new ways to misuse, standardized tests.

Instead, we need to say, right now, that Indiana's A-F School Accountability grading system is flawed. It doesn't give a real-life picture of what goes on in a school. We need to say, right now, that grading school systems, schools, and teachers with students' scores on standardized tests is a misuse of data. We shouldn't join in the misuse of standardized tests just when it suits us.

DEFEND YOUR SCHOOL WITH TRUTH

Instead of defending our schools by using test scores to compare them to private and charter schools we need to defend our public schools by informing people of the advantages of public education.

Peter Greene, in his blog Curmudgucation, had a great post about public education. In it he listed some of the positives about public education...

What Is Public Education, Really?
  • The public education system takes all students.
  • The public education system is publicly funded.
  • The public education system is run by local taxpayers.
  • The public school system is run transparently.
  • The public school system is not run for profit.
  • The public school is stably staffed with the best professionals the available money can buy.
  • The public school is a long term commitment.
Instead of defending our schools by comparing them to private and charter schools we need to defend our public schools by repeating the truth that public education in the U. S. is successful, not failing. Public school teachers are not failing. Students are not failing.

Public education is a public good...like public libraries, public parks, municipal water systems and roads. Our states and communities should support public education, not because public schools are better than private or charter schools (though they might be), but because they belong to all of us and are good for our communities.

Defend public education with truth not test scores!

~~~

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.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015 Medley #3

NCLB, Poverty, Teacher Diversity, 
Policy Makers-not Teachers,
Reading Aloud and Time to Read

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND REAUTHORIZATION

Hill fight on No Child Left Behind looms

As I write this there is a debate going on about Senator Alexander's proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the newest version of which is No Child Left Behind.

A main focus is testing. The conversation is mostly about frequency of testing with little discussion of the need for testing and its uses...

The Obama administration is for keeping the testing policy as it is...
Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlined his priorities in a speech, saying he wants to keep many of NCLB’s testing requirements, as well as the requirement that the government intervene in low-performing schools...

There’s little recent polling, 2012 survey by Education Next found that only 14 percent of parents oppose the annual testing requirement, and a majority of parents supported it...
The KDP/GALLUP Poll of 2014 indicated that a majority of public school parents were not that crazy about standardized testing (see column 2 in the image below)...I suppose it depends on how the question was formatted.


Here's one of my pet peeves! We always hear how "low performing schools" need to improve...how "failing schools" or "poorly performing schools" need to get better. The use of language is telling. The fault is assumed to be with the schools.

The truth is that schools with low achieving students are most often schools with high poverty. The problem is poverty, not failing schools. Who's at fault? Everyone! Schools need to improve, of course, as do government services and responses to the growing poverty in America (see The Future is Not a Priority). When are policy makers going to accept their share of the responsibility?
Pushing low-performing schools to get better was a core part of No Child Left Behind...

Duncan has been clear that he thinks keeping the interventions in poorly performing schools should be included in any NCLB rewrite...
Since the assumption is that "failing schools" are the fault of teachers we mustn't forget to offer more money to those teachers who teach to the test. Merit pay is based on the incorrect assumption that teachers aren't trying hard enough...that somehow we're keeping the really good teaching strategies hidden and more money will help us get higher test scores. "Teacher quality," below, is defined simply as higher test scores.
It’s important to keep in mind that many Republicans in Congress strongly support merit pay and other strategies to improve teacher quality...


POVERTY MATTERS

More students living in poverty strains education system

Two days ago I wrote about the Southern Education Foundation's report on student poverty (see The Future is Not a Priority).

This four minute video news report reminds the watcher that teaching is not only academics and test scores.

Minute 1:25
I talked with one kindergarten teacher, a veteran teacher from New Mexico. She teaches in downtown Albuquerque. And she told me that the first hour of her morning, she does an inventory to check her kids, have they eaten, are they clean?

She keeps a drawer full of socks, shoes, clean underwear, toothbrushes for them just to take care of their immediate needs.

She can’t even focus on the academics.
Is it a classroom teacher's responsibility to provide those support services for children in poverty? If that's part of the job description then teachers need more money, lower class sizes, and credit for dealing with the high levels of American childhood poverty that politicians and policy makers ignore.



TEACHER DIVERSITY

Our Teacher Diversity Problem Is Not Just About Recruitment. It’s About Retention.

It's hard enough to keep half of America's beginning teachers long enough to become career teachers. It's even harder to keep minority teachers in a career that burns them out quickly...
Nationwide, we have a teacher diversity problem. This year, for the first time in our country’s history, a majority of public school students are children of color. But most teachers—82 percent in the 2011-2012 school year—are white. That figure hasn’t budged in almost a decade.

The knee-jerk response is to blame the minority teacher shortage on inadequate recruitment efforts. But key data suggests that we also have a largely unacknowledged and unaddressed problem with retention. In other words, our schools are churning and burning teachers of color at unconscionably high rates.


GREAT TEACHERS

TEACHER POWER!

We live in a world where test scores mean everything...from school quality, to student effort, to teacher competence. We must stop misusing standardized test scores.
The illusion has been created that having a great teacher is an outlier and not the norm. There is a quote from Metro Nashville School Board member Mary Pierce in a recent Salon article that says,“If the school is doing the job it’s supposed to be doing, then the test scores will follow.” This is indicative of the culture we’ve created. The test scores aren’t generated to assess the needs of the child and give guidance on a direction for instruction; they are seen as a method for a teacher to demonstrate their competence. In essence, we’ve morphed into a culture of guilty until proven innocent.

TEACHERS OVERLOOKED-AGAIN!

Texas: Lt-Gov Asks Business and Industry to Shape Policy, But Not Educators

Diane Ravitch noted that the new Lt. Governor of Texas formed a "special council" to deal with state issues, including education. No educators were invited.

She reminded us that this also happened in Nevada. The Governor formed a "Business Roundtable on Education Policy" which included "leaders," but no educators (see the image below).

Is education the only field where practitioners are the only ones excluded from participation in policy making? Arne Duncan is a basketball player/Sociology major. Bill Gates is a technology expert/college dropout. Rahm Emanuel, Michael Bloomberg, Joel Klein, Eli Broad...the list goes on and on. When it comes to education policy, educators need not apply.
...55 leaders of business and industry to advise him on state policies, including education. There do not appear to be any educators on the panel...
Here are the articles linked to in Diane Ravitch's entry...

Lt. Gov.-Elect Taps Business Leaders for New Advisory Board
...Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick said Thursday he had appointed a 55-member special council made up of Texas business and industry leaders...

Issues like immigration, health care and education would be considered by the committees, he said, and those topics might also be added as separate panels in the future.
Gov. Sandoval calls for a legacy of ‘leadership, vision and courage’ in starting second term
Sandoval, who easily won a second term in the Nov. 4 general election, made the event about Nevada’s schoolchildren, saying he will dedicate his next four-year term to helping the state’s children succeed.

Sandoval asked that all Nevadans work together to ensure future families inherit a legacy of “leadership, vision and courage.”
This image is from the Nevada governor. It defines who will be on the "Business Roundtable on Education Policy." Perhaps the last category -- "Any other members who the Governor deems necessary" -- will be the lone educator's spot.
















READING ALOUD

Study Finds Reading to Children of All Ages Grooms Them to Read More on Their Own

In the "why does this surprise anyone" department -- those children whose parents make reading important will read more. Those students who are given time to read at school will read more.
Fewer children are reading books frequently for fun, according to a new report released Thursday by Scholastic, the children’s book publisher.

In a 2014 survey of just over 1,000 children ages 6 to 17, only 31 percent said they read a book for fun almost daily, down from 37 percent four years ago.

There were some consistent patterns among the heavier readers: For the younger children — ages 6 to 11 — being read aloud to regularly and having restricted online time were correlated with frequent reading; for the older children — ages 12 to 17 — one of the largest predictors was whether they had time to read on their own during the school day.


~~~

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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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Future is Not a Priority

PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS IN POVERTY

The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) has released a research bulletin which reports that for the first time in 50 years, more than half of America's public school children are low income. Indiana is in the middle of the pack with 49%.

Why isn't this front page news in every newspaper, and the top story on every TV news report? Nearly half of Indiana's public school students are low income. Is this the economy the Governor touted in his 2015 State of the State address?
Together we’ve made Indiana the fiscal envy of the country. We’ve balanced budgets, funded our priorities, maintained strong reserves, and still passed the largest state tax cut in Indiana history.
Does this mean that almost half of Indiana's public school students are not a priority?


FREE AND REDUCED

The state rankings are based on the free and reduced lunch counts for schools. When the SEF report looked at ONLY FREE lunch, a measure of higher poverty, it showed that Indiana has 41% of it's public school children in this category. Two out of every 5 children in Indiana's public schools live in poverty severe enough to qualify for a free lunch. To put this in perspective, the income for a family of four is 100% or less of the federal poverty level of $23,850 per year. In contrast
Average CEO compensation was $15.2 million in 2013, using a comprehensive measure of CEO pay that covers CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms and includes the value of stock options exercised in a given year...
That comes to @41,600 per day...

POVERTY AND ACHIEVEMENT

Numerous research studies have linked low school achievement with poverty. At this point it's clear that the primary method for increasing low achievement in America's public schools is to decrease poverty. Politicians have not accepted the responsibility for creating jobs and raising people out of poverty. They have been too busy fighting each other over power and campaign contributors...

Political forces have manipulated the message in order to help their friends and donors in corporate America reap the economic windfall of public tax money for public schools, and to deflect the problem away from their own inability to work together to solve the problem of rampant poverty among our children. Instead of taking responsibility politicians have dumped all the responsibility of low achievement on the public schools.

Blogger Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) explains...

Poverty Matters (Ep. 2,364,339)
Even though the data points to poverty as the big flashing neon sign of "Hey, here it is!" Steinberg and Sartain walk right past the blinking brightness to select again the teachers and principals as the cause. This is not so much mis-reading data as simply ignoring it. I'm not sure why they bothered with the big long article. They could have just typed, one more time, "Poor students do worse on standardized tests, therefor we conclude that the only possible explanation is that all the bad teachers in the world teach in high-poverty schools." Also, I've noticed that whenever a building is on fire, there are firefighters there with big red trucks, so if you never want your building to burn down, keep firefighters and big red trucks away.
...and Stephen Krashen...

Protect children from the impact of poverty
The results of these studies show that our unspectacular test scores are not because of teachers, teachers unions, or schools of education, but because of poverty. The US has an unacceptable 25% rate of child poverty, higher than all other industrialized countries, and much higher than it was in the past: the lowest recorded rate of child poverty in the US was 13.8%, in 1969. In contrast, high-scoring Finland has only 5.4% poverty.

The solution is not "shutting down failing schools," as proposed in the article. Studies show that school and teacher-factors play a small role in student academic success. Far more important is dealing with out-of-school factors, specifically the effect of poverty. Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access of books. The best teaching in the world will have little effect when children are hungry, ill, and have little to read.


THE FUTURE IS NOT A PRIORITY

Just as the level of child poverty is not a priority in Indiana, it's also not a priority in the rest of the country. A friend of mine commented on the SEF report today...
This is absolutely despicable. Everyone of us should realize these youngsters are the future of our country and yet, we allow this to happen...
We have enough money in America to ensure that no child has to go hungry...to go without health care...to go without a good neighborhood public school. But that's not a priority.


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Here are a few articles about achievement and poverty...

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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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Friday, January 16, 2015

Religious Freedom Day, 2015

In 1993 President George H. W. Bush declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. January 16 was the date in 1786 when the Virginia House of Delegates passed Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. In 1992, on that date, Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder signed the first proclamation to that effect for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom was a revolutionary document. It ended the state-established church in Virginia and guaranteed religious liberty for all.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
In his proclamation, the first President Bush wrote:
"...we do well to acknowledge our debt to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. These two men were instrumental in establishing the American tradition of religious liberty and tolerance. Thomas Jefferson articulated the idea of religious liberty in his 1777 draft Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia...

James Madison later introduced and championed this bill in the Virginia House of Delegates, where it passed in 1786. Following the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Madison led the way in drafting our Bill of Rights.
The Virginia Statute became the basis for the First Amendment protection of religious liberty.

Jefferson understood the impact of his Virginia Statute. He understood that many people were against acknowledging religious liberty for everyone. In a column about Religious Freedom Day, Frederick Clarkson wrote:
Thomas Jefferson was well aware that many did not like the Statute, just as they did not like the Constitution and the First Amendment, both of which sought to expand the rights of citizens and deflect claims of churches seeking special consideration.

So before his death, Jefferson sought to get the last word on what it meant. The Statute, he wrote, contained "within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohametan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination."
Freedom of belief was for everyone -- religious and non-religious alike -- and, with the passage of the Virginia Statute, and later the First Amendment, it was guaranteed.

Thomas Jefferson considered the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom to be one of the three great accomplishments of his life. He didn't choose to be remembered as Minister to France for the fledgling nation, or as its first Secretary of State, or as it's third President. Instead he chose as his life's three great accomplishments, the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the founding of the University of Virginia and it was those three things that he wished to be inscribed on his tombstone.


Religious Freedom Day is a mostly unheralded event in the United States. It was begun through the urging of the First Freedom Center, whose mission is:
The mission of the First Freedom Center is to commemorate and educate about freedom of religion and conscience as proclaimed in Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Each President, since the first President Bush in 1993, has issued a proclamation on the occasion of the day.

The quest for freedom of belief is as old as humankind, and it's still ongoing. Recent events have shown us that while human life might be fragile, the conviction of those who would protect the right to free belief is strong.

Americans owe a debt of gratitude to Jefferson, Madison, and to all local, state, and national leaders who have worked diligently to uphold the rights protected under the First Amendment.

President Obama's 2015 Religious Freedom Day Proclamation includes the following...
[The First Amendment] protects the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free from persecution and fear. This religious freedom allows faith to flourish, and our Union is stronger because a vast array of religious communities coexist peacefully with mutual respect for one another. Since the age of Jefferson and Madison, brave women and men of faith have challenged our conscience; today, our Nation continues to be shaped by people of every religion and of no religion, bringing us closer to our founding ideals. As heirs to this proud legacy of liberty, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to safeguard these freedoms.


~~~

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.
~~~

Stop the Testing Insanity!


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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lying and Clueless

TEACHERS LIE, PARENTS ARE CLUELESS

Arne Duncan's "major speech" on testing reminds us that he has two core (excuse the pun) beliefs about the subject...as Peter Greene of Curmudgucation explains it in What Duncan Got Wrong About Testing...
It wouldn't be a Duncan speech about testing without the presumption that schools are liars and parents are dopes.
Duncan apparently believes that parents have absolutely no way of knowing how their children are doing in school without federal requirements for testing in every grade from third through eighth (One might wonder why he isn't calling for testing in kindergarten, first and second grade, like we are here in Indiana, but let's leave that for another time).

According to Duncan, parents apparently aren't capable of communicating with schools to find out what's going on in their children's third through eighth grade classrooms. Just picture poor, distraught Mom sitting at home or in her cubicle at work distracted and unable to function from worry about how her little ones are doing. Oh...thank goodness for the federally mandated testing in grades 3 though 8. If she can just hold out till the scores come back...

Greene continues...
Will we work together to ensure every parent’s right to know every year how much progress her child is making in school?

Because only with the intervention and oversight of the federal government can parents have a clue about how their children are doing in school. And only a federally-mandated BS Test can give them a picture of their child's education.
And what about teachers and schools? Duncan seems to think that teachers and administrators 1) don't communicate with parents, 2) and if they do they lie and don't tell them what's really happening in their child's classroom. Does he think that teachers won't really know what's going on with their students until they are tested by the always accurate Standardized Test? It seems that way because he said,
I believe parents, and teachers, and students have both the right and the absolute need to know how much progress all students are making each year towards college- and career-readiness. The reality of unexpected, crushing disappointments, about the actual lack of college preparedness cannot continue to happen to hard-working 16- and 17-year olds – it is not fair to them, and it is simply too late.
Arne Duncan seems to think that a struggling student won't get any attention until they're late in their high school career...and then it will hit them all of a sudden...that they're not prepared for college. He assumes that teachers won't know which students are struggling and that parents won't care enough to keep track of how their children are doing!

The sad thing about this is not the level of insult that the nation's Secretary of Education heaps upon parents and teachers. It's that Duncan actually seems to believe that there is no communication between schools and parents without the bludgeon of a federally required standardized test every year. He believes it...and people believe him!




THE U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE DOUBLES DOWN

The U. S. Chamber of Commerce agrees...completely. The Chamber of Commerce believes that standardized tests are just like medical tests. If you don't have them then you'll have no idea what's happening in your child's classroom. This 3 minute Chamber of Commerce video explains...



The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, then, seems to agree with Duncan that federally mandated tests in grades three through eight are all that's keeping parents informed about what's happening in school. Just like a test for some mysterious medical malady, you mustn't forego a standardized achievement test for even one year because then you'll never know how your child is doing in school.

How do the Finns...who don't use standardized tests at all...achieve at the highest level in the world? There must be some secret that American teachers and parents don't know about...

Standardized tests a foreign concept in Finland
And while there are no annual standardized tests there are still ways that the school system checks for quality. Progress is monitored at both the local and municipal level in a variety of ways, including assessments throughout the school year. But the design and timing of any exams are left up to the teacher.
What about elite, expensive, private schools (or even not so elite, expensive ones)? Do they test their students every year using standardized tests? Do the parents of students attending these schools have any idea how their children are doing in class?

Duncan (and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) might respond that it's the public schools which are failing, not private schools. Wrong. It's public policy towards the effects of poverty that is failing. Public schools in low income areas are trying to overcome the effects of poverty...with little help from policy makers.


ALERT: TEACHERS AND PARENTS COMMUNICATE

Duncan, who never has taught in a public school...and who has never even attended a public school...has absolutely no idea about what goes on in public education around the country. Here are two facts for Duncan to learn...
  • Teachers have ways of assessing students that do not require standardized tests
  • Parents ask about how their children are doing and teachers contact parents with concerns about students; in other words, parents and teachers communicate 
Duncan also should learn that demoralizing teachers, closing public schools, and opening charters hasn't helped children achieve higher.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is right behind him supporting charters and privatization. This despite the fact that massive testing programs, charters and other "reform" moves towards privatization of public education over the last decade and a half haven't improved student achievement.


LACK OF TRUST

Despite his frequent words to the contrary, Duncan mistrusts teachers and parents and encourages the nation to mistrust teachers and parents. Stephen Krashen wrote...

The "need" for standardized testing
If you are a teacher and you need a standardized test to know how much progress your students are making, you are in the wrong profession, as Arne Duncan obviously is. If you are a parent, and you need a standardized test to know how your child is doing, you don't trust teachers, as Arne Duncan doesn't.
Duncan also believes...and one might assume that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees...that there is a virtual epidemic of "bad teachers" in the U.S. Why else would all those students in poverty score so low on achievement tests? The assumption is that teachers are 100% responsible for all learning that takes place in a child's life.


LYING AND CLUELESS

The truth is that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lying to the American people in its claim that the only way to know how children are doing academically is to test them every year...and it's Duncan who is clueless.

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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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Monday, January 12, 2015

CALL TO ACTION: Stop IREAD-2

INDIANA LEGISLATIVE SEASON BEGINS

I know it's early in the legislative season and the bills being introduced in the Indiana Legislature are not all intended to become law. In fact, I suspect some of the bills introduced early in a session are for the expressed purpose of making later bills seem less crazy. When Representative "Florist" introduces a bill to transfer yet more public money from public schools to private and charter schools it will seem mild compared to Senator "Whacko's" bill to force schools to teach the controversy about the Heliocentric Theory of the Universe (NOTE: To my knowledge no Indiana legislator has introduced legislation to teach that the sun moves around the Earth...at least not yet).

Thus, it's possible that Senate Bill 169 (see below) will never get out of committee. But because of the terrible things being done to public education by legislatures in general, and Indiana's legislature in particular, it's worth paying attention to even the most insane education bill.


STANDARDIZED TESTING

I won't go through all the arguments about how standardized testing in elementary schools is being overused and misused. I have talked about that enough on these pages. If you're really interested in everything I've said over the last 8 years click here for all of the 219 of my posts on the subject (number subject to change).

Instead, you could read any or all of the following...
Once you learn about standardized testing you know that it should not be used
  • for high stakes decisions (especially for young children) such as graduation or grade placement
  • as the basis of evaluations of schools or teachers
  • as a determiner of merit pay for teachers
Standardized tests should only be used for the purpose for which they are designed. Period. Standardized achievement tests like Indiana's IREAD-3 and ISTEP, should only be used to measure the achievement of students. Teachers should be given the information gleaned from the test (if there is any) in order to help their students. The tests should not be used to punish school systems, schools, teachers, or students.

Indiana is one of a handful of states which use a third grade reading test, in Indiana's case, IREAD-3, to determine placement of students in grade 4. This is in direct contradiction of good testing policy, yet we do it anyway.


TEST ALL OF THEM...ALL. OF. THEM.

Freshman Senator Erin Houchin has introduced Senate Bill 169 which provides for the state to move the third grade reading test -- which must be passed before one moves to fourth grade -- to second grade. It would seem that Senator Houchin would like to see second graders pass a reading test before they move on to third grade.

Fortunately, Senator Houchin wasn't interested in adding another layer of testing. Her bill would require a second grade test to replace the test for third grade (although for the first year after the bill becomes law both grades will be tested. We wouldn't want anyone to get away without their IREAD test).
Senate Bill 169: Requires that the state superintendent of public instruction's reading deficiency remediation plan (IREAD-3) provide a reading evaluation for students by grade 2. (Current law provides that the evaluation must be made by grade 3.)
Perhaps Senator Houchin believes that the earlier we identify children with reading problems the better. If so, that's good, because it's true...and I applaud her for understanding that. However, we have teachers for that. During the years I taught second grade (or kindergarten, or first grade, or any other grade I taught) I never had to use a standardized test to help me identify which students needed extra help in reading. I was able to identify students who needed extra help and worked towards meeting their individual needs all on my own. Why? Because I was the teacher. That's what I was trained to do.

The state of Indiana is filled with excellent teachers who know their students. We don't need another misused standardized reading test to tell us which students need extra help. We didn't need it for third grade students...and we certainly don't need it for second graders. What we do need is to take the money we spend on the overuse of testing and provide schools with resources -- materials and personnel -- to help the students who are struggling.


CALL TO ACTION

Indiana residents, read Vic's Statehouse Notes #190. The committee meets Wednesday, January 14, 2015. If that date hasn't yet arrived then I urge you to email or call your senator as well as the senators on the Senate Education Committee. Tell them that it's bad enough that we have a test with high stakes attached for third graders...we should definitely NOT move IREAD to second grade.

Contact Indiana State Senators by Tuesday, January 13, 2015!

If you need any talking points, use Vic's Statehouse Notes #190 or

Second Grade Testing: A Position Paper from The National Center for Fair and Open Testing
Most seven-year-olds are still in the process of acquiring the complex skills involved in learning to read and write. They need a chance to consolidate these skills which, at first, are fragile and inconsistent. Premature testing, no matter how well intentioned, is discouraging to the learner like having a work-in-progress exposed to summary judgment. And no matter how well intentioned the tests, no matter what the disclaimers or reassurances, the results will be understood by the children as judgment.
On Standardized Testing by the Association for Childhood Education International
...the Association for Childhood Education International denounces the contin- ued use of standardized testing in the primary grades and cautions against the use of these tests as a sole means of assessment in every year throughout the upper grades. Standardized tests are inappropriate to future learning and the motivation to learn. They have taken away the power of classroom teachers to make informed decisions about instruction and learning that leads to critical thinking, higher level learning, and decision-making.
Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
In general, assessment specialists have urged great caution in the use and interpretation of standard- ized tests of young children’s learning, especially in the absence of complementary evidence and when the stakes are potentially high...
Go!
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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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Saturday, January 10, 2015

2015 Medley #2

Florida's Privatization Plan, Why Teachers Quit, VAM, Privatization, Teachers Speak Out,
Texas SBOE, Children's Growth, ADHD

FLORIDA EXPORTS 'REFORM'

Jeb Bush’s “Florida formula” of education privatization in North Carolina

Does this look familiar to Indiana readers? This article describes how Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education used "ALEC-like" methods to export the "Florida Formula" to other states. One way was through the "Chiefs for Change" group, a group of state education commissioners, including Indiana's (and later Florida's) Tony Bennett.
Since its creation, the foundation has been largely devoted to exporting the “Florida formula,” an overhaul of public education [Jeb] Bush oversaw as governor between 1999 and 2007.

That agenda includes ideas typically supported by conservatives and opposed by teachers unions: issuing A-to-F report cards for schools, using taxpayer vouchers for tuition at private schools, expanding charter schools, requiring third-graders to pass a reading test, and encouraging online learning and virtual charter schools.

WHO WILL BE TOMORROW'S TEACHERS?

Why half of the nation’s new teachers can’t leave the profession fast enough.

One of the goals of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) is the destruction of the teaching profession. The lack of professional educators means lower overhead...lower pay, no pensions, no unions, no professionals to get in the way of for-profit "choices."

Around the nation teachers' job benefits are disappearing, pensions are being blamed for the economic difficulties caused by the banking crisis, and qualifications for becoming a teacher are watered down to the point that completely untrained college graduates can walk into a classroom and start teaching.

The "reform" movement is being directed by billionaires with no training in education, politicians with no training in education, and the media with no training in education. Soon public education will be delivered by people with no training in education.
….teachers quit because we have all the responsibility and little or no authority in the classroom. Administrators don’t support teachers and often don’t trust our judgment as professionals. It’s very hard to stay at a job where you are not supported, appreciated or trusted. Add disrespectful students and parents, and it becomes a daily battle to go to work.” A daily battle to go to work sounds like reason enough for anyone to leave the profession. She went on, “My stepdaughter has been teaching for three years and she’s done. It’s sad because she’s a teacher at heart – this is her calling. But she says no way. Her main reason: lack of support from administration and parents. She said she is held responsible for things she can’t possibly control.”



Virginia Teacher of the Year Tells Why He Resigned

Another intelligent, award winning, high quality teacher resigns.
I’ve seen teachers cry over Standards of Learning scores. I’ve seen students cry over SOL scores. I’ve seen newspaper and TV reports sensationalize SOL scores. These are all indications of an unhealthy obsession with flawed standardized tests.

SOL tests are inherently unfair, but we continue to invest countless hours and resources in our quest for our school to score well. This leads me to the following questions:
  • Do we care more about student progress or our appearance?
  • Why can’t we start a movement to walk away from these tests?
  • Why can’t we shift our focus to critical thinking and relevant educational experiences?
It’s tough to acknowledge that people in Washington, D.C., and Richmond (and sometimes decision makers in Waynesboro) develop systems and policies that affect my students and me negatively. But as they retire and sail off into the sunset, we’re the ones left with the consequences of ineffective measurements and strategies.

Our new teacher evaluations focus heavily on test scores. But while teachers are continually under pressure to be held accountable, there seems to be very little accountability for parents, the community, or district offices.

It’s only going to get worse, and it seems that we have no intention of taking a stand or advocating against flawed assessments. Instead, we have submitted ourselves to these tools that misrepresent student growth. It is a game, and it is a game I no longer wish to play.

Indiana education dean: Teacher measures aren’t fair

VAM isn't reliable. Why do we continue to use student standardized tests for the wrong purposes? Is it because testing companies don't care what their tests are used for as long as they're being paid (with the public dollars)? Is it because the politicians making education policy don't know anything about educational testing? Is it because the policy makers are getting campaign contributions from said test makers?

The answer is probably "yes" to all three questions.
Holding teacher training programs accountable for measures such as how many graduates get jobs within a year of graduating, how well teachers perform on evaluations during their first few years of work or how much student test scores grow isn’t fair because the science behind those measures can’t be trusted, said Gerardo Gonzalez, Indiana University’s education dean.

...“We want to blame teachers, hold them accountable, pay them less than just about every other profession and then we worry why they are leaving within five years?” Gonzalez said.


NEED CAMPAIGN FINANCES? SUPPORT PRIVATIZATION

Will the Media Help Destroy Public Education?
The most important fact in American politics today is the Citizens United decision. With this, the hand of the Democratic Party was forced: in order to win major elections the party must accept major campaign funding from the Silicon Valley right libertarians, neoliberals and their financiers on Wall Street. For neoliberal Democrats who are forced to lick the Nikes of their major funders, the privatization of education has become the price they pay to get the dollars needed to win elections.

COURAGEOUS TEACHERS STAND UP

Teachers of Conscience

Read the position paper...a strong statement against corporate "reform."
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.



IGNORANCE IN THE TEXAS SBOE

Texas Freedom Network: Live-Blogging the Texas Social Studies Textbook Vote

The Founding Fathers: Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, James Madison...and Moses?

According to the Texas State Board of Education, Moses (yes, that Moses) was a major influence in  the formation of the nation's founding documents, aka the U.S. Constitution.
During a months-long process, publishers made a number of improvements to their textbooks. Those improvements included removing inaccurate information promoting climate change denialism; deleting offensive cartoons comparing beneficiaries of affirmative action to space aliens; making clearer that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War; and revising passages that had promoted unfair negative stereotypes of Muslims. Scholars and the general public had ample opportunity to review and comment on those revisions.

However, the new textbooks also include passages that suggest Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and that the roots of democracy can be found in the Old Testament. Scholars from across the country have said such claims are inaccurate and mislead students about the historical record.



EMOTIONAL GROWTH

Why Emotional Learning May Be As Important As The ABCs

A growing body of research suggests that teaching really young kids how to recognize and express their feelings can help them into their adult lives...and save society time, money, and social stress in the long run.
...common sense — along with a growing body of research — shows that mastering social skills early on can help people stay out of trouble all the way into their adult lives.

ADHD

ADHD And Creativity: New Research Says ADHD Is Being Mistreated In Schools
Research now shows what many people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder — or those who parent someone who does — have long since believed there is a huge link between ADHD and creativity, often referred to as the “upside of ADHD.” And according to an extensive report by Salon, in focusing solely on the difficulties those with ADHD have — such as poor attention and impulse control — kids with ADHD are falling through the cracks, educationally speaking...

...recent studies in the field of cognitive neuroscience draws a strong connection between ADHD and creativity, as well, showing that both creative thinkers and people with ADHD have trouble “suppressing brain activity coming from the ‘Imagination Network.'”

All of this creativity — and with it, the inability to control those creative thoughts — can be seen as either positive or negative. Creativity is a valuable asset, but so is being able to control one’s thoughts and impulses, and obviously, a creative mind that is always spontaneously generating new ideas or constantly daydreaming interferes greatly with the ability to pay attention in the classroom.

For parents, teachers, and significant others...

10 Things You Should Never Tell Your Child

Most parents, teachers, and significant others don't say things to others to hurt their feelings on purpose, but sometimes, when living, or working with an ADHD child or adult we become frustrated and the hurtful words slip out.  Unfortunately, hurtful words stay with people, causing humiliation and embarrassment which can last into adulthood and negatively impact relationships and one's ability to hold on to a job.

Here's an incomplete list of hurtful phrases ADHD folks have grown up and lived with.
People say some pretty insensitive things. ADHD myths and misinformation don't help. People blame us or our kids for behaviors controlled by the condition, and we know it's wrong. But sometimes frustrating behaviors can push even the most loving parents to say things we quickly regret.
I would add a few more to this list:
  • "Why didn't you think!?"
  • "...if you'd only try harder..."
  • "...if you weren't so lazy."
My advice to those living (or working) with people with ADHD..."Think before you speak."


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



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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Making it Harder to be a Teacher

BLAME THE TEACHERS-AGAIN

Once again we're told that it's impossible that so many Indiana teachers are "effective." Claire Fiddian-Green, the state's former "superintendent of privatization," said that the number of F schools (rating based mostly on test scores) is too many when compared to the number of "ineffective" teachers (also based on test scores).
She cited the number of F schools — about 4 percent of schools in Indiana last year — as out of step with less than 1 percent of teachers rated ineffective.

"I do think that calls into mind whether the models, especially the local models, are being implemented with fidelity when it comes to the law," she said.
Ms. Fiddian-Greed was Governor Pence's "point person" on education and the former head of the Center for Career and Education Innovation, or CECI, which the Governor closed in a blatant attempt to gain political points...after he opened it in 2013 in a blatant attempt to gain political points.

Let's give Fiddian-Green the benefit of the doubt. She may have been Governor Pence's point person on education, but she only has a BA from Brown University in Political Science and Russian Studies, and an MBA from Columbia. Perhaps she really doesn't understand education, and specifically public education, at all.

Perhaps she doesn't understand that there are other factors which have an impact on Indiana students' test scores in addition to their teachers. Factors like low birth weight, lack of health care (mental, physical and dental), food insecurity, community stresses and family relations. Factors related to a child's outside-of-school life affect his or her achievement. Educators know this...Poli-Sci majors and MBA's perhaps not so much. I suggest that she read David C. Berliner's Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success for more information. If that's too long or complicated, she can read a summary here.

There's more.

Does Ms. Fiddian-Green know that nearly 50% of teachers leave the profession before their 5th year? The percentage is even higher in schools or school districts with many high poverty students. Why does that happen and who are those teachers who leave?


ANYONE CAN TEACH

The first group of people who leave teaching early are those who don't understand that the job is difficult...and teaching expensive and difficult to educate students, while being held accountable for 100% of their learning, is even more difficult. People who have never taught, while they might be able to imagine the difficulties, don't really know how hard it is...just like I don't really know how hard it is to run a newspaper, or campaign for President, or build an airplane, or drive a semi across the country.

Some college students majoring in education (although because of the destructive forces aligned against public education, there are fewer of those these days) think that teaching is easy...like baby-sitting. All you have to do is tell the students what they need to know and they learn it...plus you only work 7 hours a day and get your summers off. Those people don't last very long in a classroom.

THOSE WHO CAN'T, LEAVE

There's another group of teachers who leave the profession early -- those who aren't very good at it. Good administrators understand this and will try to help newbies get better. However, there are some who just can't cut it in a classroom. It's no coincidence that most states don't grant teachers permanent status (aka tenure) immediately. This gives principals and administrations time to weed out the weak links. Those teachers who just aren't destined to be adequate teachers are either fired soon after they're hired, or they are "counseled out" --  which means that they're allowed to quit rather than be fired.

Of course, there are a few teachers who aren't very good, who somehow get past the first few years and make it to the permanent ranks. Poor administrators who don't do their jobs are the main reason for this.

But by the time year six in a teacher's career comes along most of the people who think the job is too difficult are gone, and so are most of the duds. For the most part, the ones who remain are the "effective" and "highly effective" teachers.


Out of school factors...getting rid of the inadequate performers early...those are the reasons that the number of "bad teachers" doesn't match the number of F schools.

Unfortunately, Claire Fiddian-Green is not the only one who doesn't get it. The legislature, the Governor, and other privatizers, are going to make sure that they punish more teachers by blaming them for the fact that some students have difficulty passing a test.

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



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