"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

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Medley #34: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Real Life Classrooms,
Religion in Public Schools, ALEC,
School Grades, Betsy DeVos


WRAPPING UP 2016

This is the 93rd and last post to this blog of 2016.

It's common to wrap up a year in "top ten" lists and such. But a calendar year is a human construct built around the cycle of seasons, and good and bad things happen every year. We all have successes and failures...triumphs and tragedies...joys and sorrows.

A lot has been made recently of the number of celebrities who died in 2016, and it's true that there were famous people who died this year, just like every year. However, science blogger Greg Laden makes it clear that of the last 7 years, 2016 has had the fewest celebrity deaths.

It's true that some of the celebrity deaths in 2016 were to people who were "too young to die" (Christina Grimmie, 22 and Anton Yelchin, 27) – artists who were just beginning to make their mark on popular culture. On the other hand, there were many who had lived long, productive lives (Elie Wiesel, 87, Noel Neill, 95 and Abe Vigoda, 94).

My point is not to minimize the importance of anyone's loss at the death of a friend, relative, or cultural icon, but to suggest that 2016 is like any other year, with its share of sadness and tragedy.

The Guardian suggests that the emotional response to 2016 celebrity deaths is exacerbated by technology
There may not, in fact, have been an unusual number of celebrity deaths this year, but they seem to have been much more salient than before. Part of this must be the result of the growing reach and responsiveness of digital media. Technology makes it possible to observe and react to a distant readership almost as accurately and immediately as an actor can respond to their audience in a theatre. Sudden emotional impulses are amplified with astonishing speed across the internet just as they can be in a crowd. Each apparently solitary smartphone user is really sharing other people’s emotion as well as their own.

It’s not just emotions that are shared in this way. It’s memories as well. The generations of middle-aged people along with all their children and grandchildren have experienced a kind of collectivisation of childhood. This was a historic shift. Before the mass media, childhood memories were shared among very small groups, and anchored to particular places. But for the last 60 years, children in the west, and increasingly elsewhere, have grown up in front of televisions, and many of the most vivid characters of their childhood and adolescence were actors or singers.
Each year is also filled with events which elicit our emotional responses...events like: family occasions (births, weddings, etc), sporting events, and – dare I mention it – political contests.

The path of humanity through history is a path of emotional responses to events in our lives. Joy and sorrow are natural human responses and each is balanced by the other.
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.


REAL LIFE CLASSROOMS

"Reformers" are often strangers to public school classrooms, either because they haven't been in one since childhood, or because they were never in one at all. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan never attended and never taught in a public school. His only experience with public education was as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools – where he got no first hand classroom experience and as a parent of public school children after he was already appointed Secretary of Education.

The new nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is likewise devoid of any public education experience. She never attended a public school. She never taught in a public school. Her children never attended a public school. How is she qualified to lead the federal department charged with supporting America's public schools?

Real schools are peopled with real children and real teachers...real support personnel and real administrators. Their voices need to be guiding public education in the US.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Children
I teach first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. I know my job well, and I am actually very good at it (according to all the Christmas cards from children I just opened). And this is what I can tell you, in spite of the politics and policy of education that get harmfully thrown around – the most important part of this job is to keep children safe, and care for them deeply so they can live the lives they were meant to live.

The Only Subjects That Matter
I'm an English teacher, but I will argue till your ears are blue that history is the single most important subject of all and the root of all other education.

6 Ways in Which Teaching Is Nothing Like the Movies
It doesn’t work that way in real life. Maybe your kids do love you. Maybe most of them look forward to your class and work hard and achieve things they never thought were possible. But it’s not all of them, dammit! There’s always that one who fights everything you do. And there are always six or seven who sit quietly in the back of the class, and you never know whether they’re learning or sleeping or secretly plotting your violent overthrow. Yeah, sometimes the bad kid ends up being your greatest ally, just like in the movies. Other times he takes his pants off in your class. Mysteriously enough, often it’s both.


RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS

Can students pray in public schools? Can teachers say ‘Merry Christmas’? What’s allowed — and what’s forbidden.

How do you handle religion in your classroom? Many teachers don't understand what is and isn't allowed in the classrooms.
"Can students pray inside their public school buildings? Can teachers say “Merry Christmas” to their students? Can religious music be played in public schools? Yes, yes and yes. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to religious expression in public schools..."
Students are allowed religious expression in public schools unless it disrupts the education process. In other words, they can pray before they eat, before tests, at recess, and at other times during the day. They can talk about their own religious beliefs. They can even share them with others. What they can't do is disrupt the class with religious preaching or interrupt the education of others or themselves. Adults in the school are not allowed to direct religious expression.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.

As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.
See also: Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents’ Legal Rights




ALEC

ALEC politicians cut backroom deals to float voucher legislation in several states

Follow the money...from private schools, from charter school edupreneurs, to politicians' campaign coffers.
State politicians across the nation are skirting ethics laws and making backroom deals with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to trade their votes away in 2017 to corporate special interests pushing voucher legislation.


GRADES

Opinion: What school grades really say

Students are not widgets. They cannot be standardized. Using the same bar to measure two students from diverse backgrounds is unfair, unrealistic, and unproductive. Using student tests to compare schools is equally unreasonable. Tests were made to measure student achievement, not school or teacher quality.
...factors outside of the school have a dramatic impact on academic performance, making so-called accountability measures such as school grades useless as a determinant of school and teacher quality. If we were serious in Indiana about improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all Hoosier students, we would stop focusing on standardized tests and school grades and listen to the professionals who work most closely with our children on a daily basis—their teachers. If we would allow teachers to do their work without interference and arbitrary judgements, what we would see would not be the same in every classroom or for every child, and that is as it should be. Education is a people business, not a product business, and it is time we start trusting our people.
See also: Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

School grades still reflect student demographics

How long will it be before "reformers" admit that standardized tests measure family income?
It was true five years ago and it’s still true today. The grades that Indiana assigns to schools say more about the students the schools serve than how effective the schools are.

A change in the grading system this year was a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step to make the grades fair or credible. Schools that get high grades are still more likely than not to serve few students from poor families. Those that get low grades are almost certainly high-poverty schools.


Op-ed: Indiana fails test on teacher bonuses

We know – and have known for a long time – that standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher "bonus" plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

Perhaps the legislators and policy makers who put this plan into action were ignorant of the facts of testing. Perhaps they did so because they collected campaign contributions from pro-test groups and testing corporations. Whatever the reason, they shouldn't be shocked at the result.
The policy is so flawed that the result was highly predictable. Gov. Mike Pence and his minions in the legislature boasted in 2013 that this would reward highly proficient teachers and sort out (shame?) the less effective.

In effect, it undermined the poorer districts and gave to the wealthy, shattering inner-city morale and contributing to a teacher shortage. It was a business model designed to make schools compete for resources, ignoring two important premises: (1) that excellent teaching is a collaborative effort, and, (2) competition creates winners but also losers. When it comes to our youth and their right to an education, we cannot afford to have losers.


NOMINATED SOE IS UNFIT: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW

Letter: DeVos unfit for education post

Among the people who were considered by President-elect Donald Trump for the position of US Secretary of Education...

Michelle Rhee is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. She taught for three years, was the chancellor of DC Public Schools for one term, and put in place procedures that led to widespread cheating.

Tony Bennett is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, he manipulated test score data to favor political donors and charter school owners. He also allegedly used government resources for his own campaign purposes.

Williamson Evers is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. He never taught in a public school. He was never an administrator in a public school. His only public school activity has been to cause damage. He is a self-proclaimed "education expert" for no reason.

Luke Messer is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. His only education experience is as a legislator making rules for schools without having to live with the consequences as an educator. He is an attorney.

As unqualified as those four candidates are, they are all infinitely more qualified than the ultimate nominee for the position. Betsy DeVos is unfit to have anything to do with America's public schools. Not only does she have no experience, unlike some of the names above, but she has actively worked to destroy public schools as an act of faith. She has promoted charter schools while demanding that they be allowed to function with no public accountability. She has worked to transfer public funds into private pockets. You want to see how well her policies have worked for public schools? Take a look at Detroit.
On Nov. 23, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education in his administration. From what we have seen in her home state of Michigan, DeVos is unfit for the Cabinet position. Her family has heavily funded a failed push for constitutional change to allow for vouchers, which allow taxpayer money to go to private schools.

Vouchers drain our public schools of the money they so badly need. DeVos also supports the rapid expansion of charter schools and online schools with minimal regulation. We've seen in Ohio with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow how minimally regulated charters steal our children's education and enrich business people.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

Meet Betsy DeVos: Alphabetical Listing


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Monday, December 26, 2016

December Quotes

Random quotes from 10 years (plus 2016) of Decembers on this blog. Quotes are from me, unless otherwise noted.

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2016 Medley #31

from Arthur H. Camins
...it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.


TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY'S REFLECTION

2015
Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

from David C. Berliner
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.

CAN WE JUDGE TEACHERS BY THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STUDENTS?

2014
Evaluate Harvard
During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn't.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn't be allowed any federal grants.


TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY'S REFLECTION

2013
Our Nation is More Than a Test Score

from The AFT
One thing PISA research makes clear is that poverty's effect on educational equity matters.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HELP ALL OF US

2012
Darling-Hammond on American Education

from Linda Darling-Hammond
We all now have to care about the education of every person's children. It's not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn't spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders...to be sure they could learn to read...we're spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.


NO MORE LOSERS

2011
The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

from Diane Ravitch
The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.


ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2010
NY Student Play Banned

from a student play (N.Y.) on school reform
Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?

Chancellor: The school is failing.

Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?

Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.

Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?


ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2009 (November)
What Are You Doing Wrong?
The obsession with testing is so that schools will be "accountable" to the greater society. Where is the society's accountability, though? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the "economy gap" in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind to eliminate the "soft bigotry of low expectations" yet local, state and national governments don't have to be accountable for the "soft bigotry of urban neglect?"

ON TEACHING

2008
Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea
8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.


PLAY IS CHILDREN'S WORK

2007
Kindergarten and Developmentally Appropriate Education
Play is children's work. They learn how to live in the world, how to get along, to solve problems, and to share by playing. They can't learn these things, though, unless they are allowed to get up from their chairs and interact with each other.

Skills based, academically oriented kindergartens are now the rule rather than the exception. Developmentally appropriate practice does not exist in some places any more. Does this help children? No long term studies have been done at this point, but my hunch is that by taking the opportunity to grow at their own rate away from children we are asking many of them to do what they can't do...we're asking them to touch the ceiling without a ladder.
MISUSE OF TESTING

2006
Leave this law behind...
At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically...to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that...and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.


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Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 Medley #33

Privatization, "Good" Teachers, Learning,
Happiness–Love–Kindness, Politics

PRIVATIZATION

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

The NC legislature is worse than most when it comes to lack of support for public education. Even so, blogger Stu Egan's comments in this article can be universally appreciated just by inserting "Indiana" (or "Ohio," or "Pennsylvania," or "Florida," etc) instead of "North Carolina." GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, is everywhere.

The first sentence below is what separates us from the "reformers."
Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

...“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities”

...It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.


Privatization or Public Investment in Education?

For the nerdier among us...here's the study to which Egan (see above) refers to.
Finnish educators attribute a modest dip in 2012 (although their scores remained) as potentially resulting from distractions caused by their popular international status. As a result, the country has refocused on the principles of equity, creativity, and the “joy of learning” that produced their high-quality system in the first place. Furthermore, Finland maintained its position as the top European performer in 2012 (well above the OECD mean), demonstrating the value of the public investment approach in developing and supporting high-quality teachers.


TEACHER QUALITY

Do Poor Students Get the Worst Teachers?

How does one define a "good" teacher? For too long the "reformist" definition has been based on test scores, a misuse of assessment since it's been long established that test scores are a function of family income more than teacher quality. Students who live in poverty come to school with problems not seen in low poverty environments. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential, notes six areas that
...significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
It takes more than test scores to define "good" teaching. I know this to be absolutely true. I've experienced it in my own classrooms. There have been children who have thrived in my classrooms...for whom I have had a major life impact. There are others for whom I was the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Some students had an outstanding teacher when they were in my classroom. Others not so much. What was the difference? I was the same person. I used the same teaching styles in most of my rooms. I read the same books, worked with the same intensity, and spoke with the same voice.

The difference was that, like all teachers, I'm a human being with inconsistencies, good days and bad days, emotional ups and downs. A teacher makes thousands of decisions over the course of a school year. Sometimes those decisions don't yield the best result. No matter how "good" a teacher is, there will be days when the interactions between the teacher and students don't go as planned.

In the current article, Peter Greene reminds us of this...
...teacher quality is not a solid state. Over time, we all have better days and not so better days. And how "good" we are is also a matter of which students you put us together with. One student's terrible teacher is another students life-altering agent of positive change.


LEARNING

Got to remember them all, Pokémon: New study of human memory for Pokémon finds that it is possible to boost memory capacity

One of the most important concepts for a teacher to keep in mind when teaching reading is to "activate prior knowledge."
Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.
A new study has shown that when people are familiar with content they can remember information related to it. Activating prior knowledge does this.

When I was working in my classroom I introduced students to study techniques to help them activate prior knowledge...helping to improve comprehension.

It works with Pokémon, too.
People can learn and remember more of a subject when they are already familiar with it, new research concludes. And the more familiar they are with the subject, the better they remember new information related to it, add the researchers.


HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND KINDNESS

In school relationships, just like in close personal relationships, positive connections are beneficial. A happy classroom is more conducive to learning. Students feel safe and are willing to take learning risks.

Below are three articles exploring personal relationships...

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement
A positive climate, most education stakeholders agree, is on most schools’ wish-list. Schools do not aspire, after all, to create environments that are detrimental to students and educators. But the No Child Left Behind era – a decade plus of “test and punish,” a stripped down curriculum, and narrow accountability measures – decoupled school climate from student achievement, in effect imposing a “nice schools finish last” credo. Sure, a “happy” school would be nice, but … about those test scores.


Love and Kindness
The older I get, the more certain I am that kindness is hugely important (though I don't think kindness always looks like a warm, fuzzy Care Bear). There is science on my side; mean people really do suck, and they really do have a hard time building good relationships. We seem to have entered a pronounced mean streak as a country; the challenge will be to remember that unkind, ungenerous meanness is not beaten by more of the same.

Masters of Love
They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

DUELING ECHO CHAMBERS


Paul Simon sang,
A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest...
The political climate in the US is a perfect example of that. For the most part we stay in our own echo chambers hearing the "news" that supports our point of view. "Tell me what I want to hear, don't confuse me with facts" is the attitude, and anyone else's sources are "lies" and "fake news."

One might have hoped that a new administration in Washington would have come in with the ability to ease the polarization of the nation. If so, one would have been disappointed.

Working in the Irony Mines

In the last eight years the Republicans have done everything they could to stop President Obama from governing...from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner saying they would obstruct everything Obama favored, to Ted Cruz forcing a shut down of the government rather than allow Obama's policies to work. It's ironic then – and by ironic, I mean amazingly, monumentally, ironic – that President-elect Trump's campaign chair is blasting Democrats for establishing a "permanent opposition" to his administration. Was she not in the US in the last eight years? Was she hiding in a cave? Or perhaps she's complimenting the opposition for adopting the policies of her party.
“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election,” [Kellyanne Conway] said. Liberals cannot, she added, “wave magic pixie dust and make this go away.”


Trump Opponents and Supporters Have Divergent Racial Attitudes

File this under, "so what else is new." We all knew that there is an underlying racism in America and that the Trump campaign tapped it and benefited from it.

When economic times are tough there is a tendency to revert to scapegoating. It's happened before. "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
These findings aren’t particularly surprising. Others have also found that priming respondents to think of black people tends to make them tougher on crime and advocate for less generous social programs, like in this study on attitudes toward CA’s three-strikes law. What’s new here is the difference between Trump supporters and opponents. For opponents of Trump, priming made them more sympathetic toward mortgage holders; for supporters, priming made them less. This speaks to a real divide among Americans. Some of us feel real hostility toward African Americans. Others definitely do not.

Donald Trump’s Conflict-Of-Interest Network (COIN) - Otherwise Known As His Cabinet

President-elect Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos is just the tip of the unqualified iceberg in a collection of unqualifieds. Virtually every nominee and appointee has a history of working against the department for which they have been chosen. Trump promised to "drain the swamp," but instead turned over a rock.
2. A Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) who opposes public education and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting private charter schools.
For more information about Betsy DeVos and her anti-public education policies see here.


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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

From the Network for Public Education – The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos


The more we learn, the more we are certain that Betsy DeVos is bad for public schools and for kids.

When De Vos has to choose between quality schools and “the free market,” she chooses “the free market” of privatized choice every time. The best interests of children take a back seat.

And we know the DeVos endgame–shut down our neighborhood public schools, and replace them with a patchwork of charters, private schools and online learning.

We can’t let that happen and we need your help. Present and future generations of children are depending on us to act now. We now know that some Senators have grave doubts. It is our job to make those doubts grow into active resistance to DeVos. Our senators are in district offices from 12/17 – 1/2.

Here are our three toolkits to help you do your part.

Toolkit 1. Call your senators’ offices. The toolkit with numbers and a phone script can be found here. It includes a link to phone numbers.

Toolkit 2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. You can find a model here.

Toolkit 3. Visit your senators’ offices. If you cannot get an appointment, hand deliver a letter. Our toolkit, which you can find here has a model to use, and directions to find local offices. If you cannot hand deliver it, send your letter in the mail.

When you go into the toolkits and commit to an action, we have a simple form that let’s us know what you did. As a thank you, you will receive a special badge for your Facebook page or Twitter account each time you complete an action, and you will be entered into our drawing for a copy of Reign of Error signed by Diane Ravitch.

The drawing will be held on January 5th, so please begin your actions today. Share this link on your Facebook page and Twitter account, or email it to a friend.

We thank you for all that you do. Sadly, our nation’s children need you to do more.

For more go to: The NPE Toolkit: Stop Betsy DeVos

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Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Medley #32: Still Testing After All These Years

Testing, Teacher Evaluations, EdTech,
A-F Grading System, Classroom Grades

TESTING MADNESS


In America we misuse standardized tests. We grade school systems, schools, teachers, and students, and no amount of "tweaking" testing programs will change the fact that using tests as a high stakes measurement is inappropriate.

The overuse and misuse of testing hasn't improved education in the US, so why do we continue to do it? The answer is simple. Money.

When we decide to focus on student learning instead of trying to make a buck off of children's education, or solve social problems with test scores, we might begin to improve education in America.

No comparing school grades to previous years

Tests measure income, pure and simple. We've known it for years, and it hasn't changed in years.
...there’s still a strong correlation between grades and family income. Nearly all schools in Hamilton County — one of the lowest-poverty areas in the country — get A’s and B’s. And of the 89 Indiana schools that got F’s, over half were in the urban districts of Indianapolis Public Schools, Gary and South Bend.


Teacher bonus inequity shouldn’t be a surprise

When you have a teacher evaluation plan based on standardized tests, like Indiana's, you reinforce the economic segregation of public schools by rewarding teachers for working in high income areas.

Schools in areas of high poverty need good teachers, but where's the incentive for teachers to work in those schools?

Why is the US one of only three countries in the OECD who spend more money on the education of wealthy children than of poor children?

Indiana used to provide more resources for high poverty districts...one of the few states who did...until last year's legislature turned that around.

Here in Indiana we pay teachers extra for good test scores. Guess which teachers get the big bonuses?
...The results, released last week, are what you’d expect. The biggest awards go to suburban districts where there are few low-income families. In Carmel Clay Schools, one of the lowest-poverty areas in the nation, the average award is estimated to be $2,422 per teacher...

At the other end of the scale, teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools will get an average of $128.40 In Indianapolis Wayne Township, they will get $42.50 In Kokomo, $39.79. In East Chicago, zero.

...To say this is unfair doesn’t begin to describe it. No one can argue with a straight face that teachers employed in wealthy districts deserve huge bonuses but teachers who dedicate their lives to helping poor children should get a slap in the face. Yet that’s the program the legislature gave us.


The new standardized testing craze to hit public schools

Changing the medium over which tests are administered doesn't remove the damage caused by high stakes. And it further exacerbates the differences between schools in wealthy districts and schools in poor districts.
Parents Across America’s report on the dangers of EdTech suggests six questions parents can ask, including: which devices and programs are being used, how much time children spend on electronic devices, and what kind of data is being collected. Parents should also ask whether assessments are mostly multiple choice, how often they are administered, if some students (e.g., students with disabilities or English learners) are tested more frequently, and who controls the data and how it is being used.

Armed with detailed information, parents can fight back against technology misuse and overuse.

A failing grade: Folly of state's school-assessment system apparent at even a cursory glance

Why stop at grading teachers based on test scores when you can misuse standardized tests even further by grading schools? Indiana jumped on the Jeb Bush bandwagon to grade schools in 2011 and while the A-F grading system hasn't done anything to improve schools we keep using it.

The A-F Grading System continues to show us that wealthy students score higher on the tests than poor students. Did we need to spend $800 million on testing over the last 30 years to learn that?
Under Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2011, the state board threw out the descriptive labels and adopted a letter-grade system, a practice championed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Indiana’s new approach was broken from the start. It was revealed in 2013 that Bennett privately ordered staff to change the metrics so that dozens of school grades improved. A charter school operated by one of the state superintendent’s biggest campaign donors saw its grade boosted from a C to an A.

In spite of repeated problems and unsuccessful efforts to develop a valid grading formula, Indiana policymakers have refused to give up on their quest to attach grades to schools.

Why?


Beyond Grades: How Am I Doing?

During my 35 years of teaching (20 of those in gen-ed classrooms) I consistently struggled with grades. I would keep track of student scores, average them out, and then, at the end of the "grading period" figure out what grade all those numbers represented. More often than not I would comment to myself that "I really would like to say more" about a child's learning than just a letter grade and a quick general comment on a report card, but with the time constraints of the structure of education in the US, I was rarely able to do more than just write down the grade and move on to the next.

Since I'm retired, I can now admit that sometimes I would "embellish" or "fudge" on grades because of the child's effort, actual learning, or some other reason, and in that way I would rationalize to myself that the grade reflected the actual progress of the child. It would be nice if teachers had time to actually analyze their teaching and their students' learning.

I wonder how they figure grades in Finland?
Parents believe grades have some meaning, primarily because we have tried to convince them that they do over the past 150 years. We all know better. We need to tell parents we were wrong, We need to show them there are better ways to report on learning.
Click here for part one of this series by Russ Walsh.


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Friday, December 16, 2016

Musical Interlude: A Beethoven Concert

DECEMBER 16, 1770

Today is Beethoven's birthday.

Biography.Com says,
Composer Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770, in Bonn, Germany. He was an innovator, widening the scope of sonata, symphony, concerto and quartet, and combining vocals and instruments in a new way. His personal life was marked by a struggle against deafness, and some of his most important works were composed during the last 10 years of his life, when he was quite unable to hear. He died in 1827 at the age of 56.
He performed in his first concert at the age of seven...and published his first work at 13. By 1819 he was completely deaf, but went on to compose some of his most famous pieces of music including, the Ninth Symphony.

Last year we listened to the Seventh Symphony (my personal favorite) and in 2014, the Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy).

Beethoven wrote more than his 9 symphonies. He also composed
  • a horn sonata
  • an opera
  • five cello sonatas
  • five choral works
  • seven piano concertos numbered #0 through 6, the last being unfinished
  • seven piano trios and a piano quartet
  • ten violin sonatas
  • sixteen string quartets
  • thirty-two piano sonatas

A CONCERT OF PIANO WORKS

This year's concert of about 50 minutes, consists of five pieces exploring Beethoven's piano works.

Beethoven's first published work (at age 13): Nine Variations on a March by Dressler for piano.



Piano Concerto in E flat major is one of his earlier works, written in 1784 when he was 13. Only the piano part survives today, although there are some indications in the manuscript for orchestral cues. On the occasions when the work has been performed, the orchestral part has had to be arranged beforehand. The concerto is sometimes referred to as Piano Concerto No. 0, as it came before all of Beethoven's other piano concertos. It is rarely performed.

This is the third movement, Rondo Allegretto.



From early works, to one of the latest – Beethoven wrote his last piano sonata, number 32, in 1822, after he had completely lost his hearing. This is one of his most interesting pieces with traditional phrases, hints of Mozart, along with a pre-shadowing of modern music and a few jazz licks. The second movement is performed here by Spanish pianist, Alberto Cobo.



Für Elise, which Beethoven wrote for piano (1810), is here, played on a classic guitar.



Today's concert closes with the complete Piano Sonata No. 14, the "Moonlight" Sonata. This is perhaps his most well known piano piece, here performed by Valentina Lisitsa.



FURTHER EXPLORATION

A Complete Listing of Beethoven's music

Ludwig van Beethoven on Biography.Com

Ludwig van Beethoven at Encyclopædia Britannica

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

What DeVos Could Learn from 'The Book Lady'

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the President-elect's nominee for US Secretary of Education, has a lot to learn about education, and she could learn some of it from another rich woman who has donated some of her millions to actually helping children.

DeVos, whose family is worth more than $5 billion, is a product of private schools and the advantages of money. She went to a private high school in Holland, Michigan, and attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science.

Betsy DeVos and her family have donated millions to the arts and have a family foundation which is
motivated by faith, and "is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas", namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership.
It's in the area of education that her activities have been damaging and reflect her privileged background. She has funded and worked steadily for the privatization of public education.


What should she have done differently as a philanthropist...what should she have done differently to have a positive impact on children's learning?

'THE BOOK LADY'

'The Book Lady' grew up "dirt poor," never went to college, and made her millions in the entertainment industry. Unlike DeVos, she has invested her money, time, and energy into improving the literacy of America's (and other) children one book at a time.

'The Book Lady' grew up in a one room cabin in eastern Tennessee. Her father, a farmer and construction worker, paid the doctor who delivered her for his services with a bag of oatmeal. At seven, she started playing a homemade guitar...and by the time she was twenty-five, she had begun her successful and award-winning career. Since then she has accumulated more than two dozen gold and platinum singles and albums in the US, Canada, and the UK, as well as
  • eleven Academy of Country Music Awards
  • three American Music Awards
  • eight Grammy Awards and nearly four dozen Grammy nominations
  • two Academy Award nominations
  • two Tony nominations
  • five Golden Globe nominations
  • a Living Legend Medal from the US Library of Congress
  • a National Medal of Arts awarded by President George W. Bush
  • and other awards which you can read about HERE.
'The Book Lady' is famed singer, actress, and philanthropist, Dolly Rebecca Parton.


Dolly Parton, whose net worth, about $500 million, is about 1/10th that of the DeVos family, has given some of her millions to help the American Red Cross, HIV/AIDS-related charities, efforts to preserve the bald eagle, and a proposed $90-million hospital and cancer center to be constructed in Sevierville in her home county of Sevier in Tennessee.

But she earned the title 'The Book Lady' when she started the Imagination Library.

In 1995, Parton began her involvement with literacy by sending an "age-appropriate" book every month of their first five years to every child born in Sevier County, Tennessee. The Imagination Library has grown since then...
Today, children across the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Belize have received tens of millions of books, and the program continues to expand. By November, Imagination Library will be distributing more than 1 million books each month to children. And next year, Parton’s Imagination Library will have distributed a total of more than 100 million books.
She founded the Imagination Library, raising money for the program through her companies and charity concerts, to fulfill a promise to her father.
Literacy is a very personal issue for Parton: her father, Robert, never learned to read, and he implored her to use her star power and resources to help ensure his fate was not repeated in others. “I started my Imagination Library in honor of my dad,” she says. “He didn’t get to live long enough to see it do well, but it’s a wonderful program that I take a lot of pride in."
She should take pride in it...
The Imagination Library was a quick success, and pre-school teachers in Tennessee cited its impact on young children’s love of books...Repeated studies by the foundation have shown that Parton’s efforts are helping to improve children’s vocabularies and early-school readiness.
Instead of using her money to support the destruction of public schools, Parton has developed a program which directly benefits every child who participates. Instead of working to prevent accountability measures for private and charter schools, Parton has worked to help students learn to read, and learn to love reading.

DeVos could learn a lot about education from 'The Book Lady."


For Further Reading:


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Monday, December 12, 2016

2016 Medley #31

Support Public Education, Poverty, Politics, Privatization, US Secretary of Education,
Imagination Library

SUPPORT PUBLIC EDUCATION

The Mis-Measure of Schools and School Children

Russ Walsh explains in clear language why A-F grading scales are an insufficient way to judge schools.
Currently, at least 14 states grade their public schools on an A-F scale. Educators are correct to point out that this is a stupid way to hold schools accountable. Three reasons pop out right away when we think about the idiocy of giving schools a letter grade and then publicizing this grade through the media.


Don’t Let The Government Take Away Your Public School

Over the past three decades, both Democrats and Republicans have worked to privatize America's public school system.

America's public schools ought to be repaired and improved, not abandoned. If your local public schools are successful then protect them. If they need repair, fix them. You don't throw away your car when a tire goes flat. You fix it.
With his selection of Betsy DeVos to be Secretary of Education, Donald Trump has made it clear. He wants to take away your public school. Tell him, “Keep the government’s hands off our public schools!”

...it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.


Open Letter to Rep. Jason Saine -You’re a State Representative; Fight For All Public Schools, Not A New Charter School

Too many legislators make decisions based on campaign contributions. Here's a letter to a legislator in North Carolina reminding him where his responsibility lies.
When you as a lawmaker were elected to office in North Carolina, you took a vow to uphold the state constitution no matter what area you represented. While the interests of any lawmaker’s constituents are of vital importance, it could be argued that the entire state is actually the represented area of any lawmaker. Any policy, law, or act passed will have an effect on all North Carolinians.

One of the most sacred components of the NC state constitution is the edict that the state will provide a quality public education for all students and will fully fund the schools that educate those students. If a lawmaker is beholden to supporting the state constitution and helping make public schools viable for all students, then it is almost as if each lawmaker is a de facto board member for each public school in the state.
Dennis Kruse, Bob Behning, Brian Bosma, and other Indiana legislators, the same is true in our state. Your responsibility is to provide a "general and uniform system of Common Schools" for the benefit of all...not just your campaign donors.

Indiana Constitution ARTICLE 8. Education, Section 1. Common school system
Section 1. Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all.

POVERTY

The reason for “lousy” performance on international tests: Poverty.

Public school parents, students, teachers, and advocates owe Stephen Krashen continued thanks for his nearly single-handed effort to educate Americans (through frequent letters to editors) about the role of poverty in low achievement, and the benefits of libraries for student reading achievement.

Here is his most recent letter (to the Miami Herald) in response to an article decrying the low scores of American students.
Until we eliminate poverty, let's invest in food programs, school nurses, and libraries and at least protect children from some of the effects of poverty.


POLITICS

DeVos says media is spreading ‘false news’ about her

...and by false news she means
  • she has no experience in public education, as a professional, a student, or a parent
  • she has worked to divert public funds into private hands through charters and vouchers

Betsy DeVos is even less qualified to be the US Secretary of Education than was Margaret Spellings or Arne Duncan. At least they had the experience of being a public school parent.

It's true that you don't have to actually work in a field to learn a little bit about it, but shouldn't you at least have some knowledge of a system before you take over the federal reins?
President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, pushed back against criticism of her selection today — accusing the media of spreading false stories about her.

“There’s a lot of false news out there,” DeVos said on stage with Trump at a rally in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Mich. “All I ask for is an open mind and the opportunity to share my heart.”

DeVos doesn't have a conventional background in education, such as working as a teacher or schools superintendent. But the billionaire philanthropist has long donated to "school choice" advocacy groups and politicians who are supportive of school vouchers and charter schools.

Undermining Public Education Has Been A Bipartisan Affair

Betsy DeVos might be the worst nominee for US Secretary of Education we've ever had, but most of the others in recent memory haven't been a whole lot better. Both Democrats and Republicans have worked to push the "market" solution for what ails public schools in America. Not one presidential candidate, of either major party (in my memory, I think only the Green Party, has acknowledged that privatization is bad for public schools, and that child poverty is the cause of low achievement), in the last 16 years has understood that the major challenge facing public schools in America is child poverty.

Most members of congress are the same. They talk about how important public schools are, how much they respect teachers, how much we need to empower parents to have "choice" in their children's education, but few, if any, understand that our child poverty rate is the basis for our low international test standing.
If there is one thing Democrats and Republicans agreed on during the last two decades, maybe the only thing, it is how to undermine public support for public education. Misguided education policy is a bipartisan endeavor in the United States and set the stage for the Trump anti-education agenda.


PRIVATIZATION

Rural America in the Crosshairs: A New Frontier for Profiteers

Most public school advocates acknowledge that many urban schools are being decimated by charterism and public school starving voucher programs. But how many understand that rural, and small town, public schools are also suffering from the intrusion of the "market" into public education?

In this article, public school advocate Victoria Young, directs her attention to the privatization taking place in small towns and rural areas.
So with 80 percent of charter schools in Michigan being for-profit schools, the education industry profited at the expense of American small-town traditions. Gone were the Friday night football games. Gone were the Christmas programs. Gone were the opportunities to gather in local businesses after school events — because — gone were the schools. They were closed. Kids are bused elsewhere.

The fabric of the community was shredded.

Rural America, I’m not crying wolf. Rural schools ARE in the crosshairs of the education industry. The plan is well underway.

SECRETARIES OF EDUCATION

The U.S. Secretaries of Education, A History: Part I

My own page about the US Secretaries of Education simply lists the Secretaries and their qualifications (or lack thereof) for the job.

History teacher Jake Miller, at the Educator's Room, goes further and provides us with (part 1 of) a complete history of the US Education Department and it's frequently unqualified leaders.
The Department of Education is one of the newer offices in the Cabinet. After three years of debate within the legislature in creating the department, a bill was signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 17, 1979. Prior to that, educational issues were overseen by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.


READING

In a 2010 blog post, Building a Nation of Readers, I referenced Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and said,
Dolly Parton put her money where her mouth was.
She began her program of giving books to children in Sevier County, TN, her home county, where she provided every child with a new book each month of their lives for their first 5 years. When a child entered kindergarten, then, they would have a home library of 5 dozen books. The program has exploded now to where more than 10 million free books are distributed annually in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

An Open Apology To Dolly Parton

A new fan gives Dolly her due...
Now the Dolly Parton Imagination Library just surpassed gifting one million books to participating children around the world each month. To celebrate, your Dollywood Foundation randomly selected one of those children to receive a $30,000 college scholarship. Two-year-old Evey, from Conway, Arkansas, has no idea yet how fortunate she is, but her parents surely do.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Musical Interlude: A Door Opened. A Door Closed

DECEMBER 8, 1943

On this date in 1943 door opened...Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida.

Morrison is best known as the driving force behind The Doors.
There are things known and things unknown and in between are the doors.
Morrison graduated from UCLA with a degree in Film, but only stayed in college till graduation to avoid the draft and real-life work (1965). After college he formed the Doors.

He was uncomfortable with the "mainstream" success of The Doors, and would become more and more outrageous in his lyrics and behavior as their popularity grew. And their popularity grew. The Doors became the first American rock band to earn eight consecutive gold LPs.

Morrison was well known for his violent temper and eventually quit The Doors and moved to Paris, where he died at the age of 27.
This is the strangest life I've ever known.
Jim Morrison on Biography.Com

The Rolling Stone Interview: Jim Morrison


Light My Fire is #35 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.It was also included in the Songs of the Century list and was ranked number 7 in VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

DECEMBER 8, 1980

On this date in 1980 a door closed...John Lennon was shot in New York.

John Lennon was arguably one of the most important musical figures of the last century. He was a prolific composer, writing or co-writing more than 300 pieces of music with people like Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, and David Bowie.
Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.
At around 11 PM on December 8, 1980, Lennon and Yoko Ono were entering their apartment. Mark David Chapman shot Lennon (not long after getting his autograph) four times. Lennon died on the way to the hospital.

John Lennon's ashes were scattered in Central Park.
Love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep on watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.


Imagine ranked number 30 on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of the 365 Songs of the Century bearing the most historical significance. It earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.

John Lennon on Biography.Com

Strawberry Fields

Top 50 John Lennon Quotes

In My Life: Words and Music by John Lennon

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Medley #30

Politics, The Teaching Profession,
Privatization, Testing, Libraries

POLITICS

My Letter to President-Elect Trump

Your entertainment for today consists of a teacher from Oklahoma, with no political or diplomatic experience, who has never traveled abroad, yet claims he is qualified to be the next US Secretary of State. How is this possible? If Betsy DeVos is qualified to be the US Secretary of Education, with no public education experience as a student, a teacher, an administrator, or a parent (has she ever even visited a public school classroom?), then the qualifications for other Cabinet positions should have similar requirements.

Maybe I could be appointed as the Attorney General. I'm not an attorney...never written a brief...never even appeared in court (although I have watched Lawyer shows on TV). Sounds like I'm perfect for it.
I know you are a busy man so I will get right to the subject of my letter. I would like to formally announce my strong interest in your administration’s open cabinet position as U.S. Secretary of State.

I think you will find my qualifications and experience to be exactly what you are looking for.


Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

There are so many articles and blog posts being written about the nomination of Betsy DeVos for US Secretary of Education (see above), that I thought it would be nice to collect them in one place. This is undoubtedly not all of them, but so far (as of noon ET on Nov. 29) I have listed about 80 and arranged them by date.

Full disclosure: Most of them are opposed to her selection as Secretary of Education. Someone else will have to collect those posts and articles which are in favor.
A collection of articles and information, sorted by date, about President-elect Trump's choice for US Secretary of Education. Check back frequently for additional articles.

THE TEACHING PROFESSION

When Finnish Teachers Work in America’s Public Schools

"Reformers" frequently claim that the US is "behind" the rest of the world in education. Finland, because of the high scores of its students on international tests, is often held up as an example of good education...until anyone suggests that we do the same sorts of things that the Finns do in education: no standardized testing, no privatization, 15 minutes of recess for every hour of school, teacher collaboration, and an investment of time. Then, "we can't" duplicate it because education in the US is too decentralized and the population too diverse.

That is true. We also have four times the child poverty rate, less effective social safety nets for our children, and the future of our country, based on our interest in educating everyone in a free, uniform, public education system, is a low priority.

Learning about the Finnish school system is an eye-opening experience for anyone who understands public education in the United States. The experience of these teachers, who came to the US from Finland, was certainly eye-opening to them. They "don't recognize this profession."
“I have been very tired—more tired and confused than I have ever been in my life,” Kristiina Chartouni, a veteran Finnish educator who began teaching American high-school students this autumn, said in an email. “I am supposedly doing what I love, but I don't recognize this profession as the one that I fell in love with in Finland.”


In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Todd Gazda, Superintendent, Ludlow Public Schools (MA) has written an insightful piece about turning lemons into lemonade. The end of the piece, however, is where his comments really had an impact on me.
...it seems that every time those discussions arise the end results rarely align with what educators in the field believe is important to improve our system.
American educators are kept out of the room when public policy for public education is discussed. A mere three out of the eleven US Secretaries of Education (DeVos included) have had K-12 experience as a teacher. Most decisions are made by state legislators, governors, and school board members, only a few of whom have likely had public school experience. Medical decisions are made with the input of medical professionals. Legal decisions are made by those with experience in the US Legal System. Why is it different with education?
...all that educators are looking for is an accountability system that gives a fair and accurate picture of the health of a district. I still assert that standardized testing alone will not accomplish this goal and that we need a more comprehensive accountability system that takes a holistic approach based on more than test scores...

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

The Essential Selfishness of School Choice

Steven Singer, edu-blogger at Gadflyonthewallblog, has presented as good a case as I've ever read against school "choice."

We have a large, functioning, public school system in the US which serves every child. If there are problems we need to fix them, not just throw the system away.
...school choice is essentially selfish. Even in cases where kids do benefit from choice, they have weakened the chances of everyone else in the public school system. They have increased the expense and lowered the services of children at both types of school. They have allowed unscrupulous profiteers to make away with taxpayer money while taxpayers and fiscal watchdogs are blindfolded. And when students return to their traditional public school after having lost years of academic progress at a substandard privatized institution, it is up to the taxpayers to pay for remediation to get these kids back up to speed.

Choice advocates talk about children being trapped in failing schools, but they never examine what it is about them that is failing.

Almost all public schools that are struggling serve impoverished students. That’s not a coincidence. It’s the cause. Schools have difficulty educating the poorest children. Impoverished children have greater needs. We should be adding tutoring, counseling and mentor programs. We should be helping their parents find jobs, providing daycare, healthcare and giving these struggling people a helping hand to get them back on their feet.

But instead we’re abandoning them.
See also


The Problem with Choice

We should improve our public schools, not close them.
If parents truly want choice, this is where we as parents and educators need to concentrate our efforts. In Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the statement that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” should be taken literally and used to fix public education for all, not to give choice only to the wealthy and the fortunate.

If we want true education reformation, we need to make sure the public tax dollars are being used correctly to create an actual choice movement within the public school system itself: Increase money being spent on public education to improve ALL schools, regardless of location; increase teachers’ salaries to create a true competition for quality teachers; increase public school autonomy so that principals and teachers can use their knowledge and experience to innovate and create the right learning environment for their students.

Scores drop when students move to private, magnet schools

What's the purpose of "choice?"
The Indianapolis study suggests more choice won’t boost achievement and may hurt it. But Waddington notes that families choose schools for a variety of reasons. Some may find a private or magnet school a better fit. Evidence from Indiana’s voucher program suggests parents choose private schools for religious instruction, raising questions about whether the state should support sectarian education.

Berends and Waddington said the Indianapolis study provides more evidence that the key to improving student achievement doesn’t lie with a particular type of school. They said research suggests we should get past the “horse race” question of whether public, charter or private schools are better and seek a better understanding of the characteristics that make some schools more effective than others.


PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Recent Research Shows Vouchers Fail Children
The two most recent studies indicate that students do worse with vouchers.

TESTING

Feds say Indiana can drop its A-F system. But does it want to?

We're still misusing standardized tests. Standardized tests are developed to evaluate the achievement of students, not teachers. Not schools. Not school systems. Not nations.
If Indiana wants to make changes to its A-F school grading system, new rules from the U.S. Department of Education announced today could make it much easier.

The question is: Does Indiana want to make a change? And what would an overhauled school rating system look like?


LIBRARIES

The value of reading and our neglect of libraries

Does your neighborhood public school have a library for its students? Did you know that there are schools in the US, the richest nation in the world, without a library or a full-time librarian for its students?
Isaac Asimov was right in 1995 and his insight is still valid: "When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."
See also:

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