"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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Society's Commitment is Reflected in Tests

We continue to punish students, teachers, and schools with punitive standardized testing. One could argue that all this testing is worth it if it actually made a difference, but the truth is, testing only makes things worse.

A valid purpose for standardized testing might be for determining what students have learned. Yet despite the arguments against it such as the limitations of its content (reading and math, and not much else) and the cultural limitations putting some children at a disadvantage, we judge students, teachers, and schools, by this inadequate and often inappropriate measure.

For the most part, standardized tests are an excellent tool for determining students' economic backgrounds.


As for invalid purposes...we have those as well.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate schools and to give them grades A through F and call it "accountability." Yet there's rarely "accountability" for the adults in legislatures and policy groups around the country who don't seem to understand that public schools don't choose their students. A school which is filled with poor children will have lower test scores. That doesn't mean they're not learning. It means that there's likely neglect on the part of the governing body (the city or state) to adequately fund and maintain the school. It means that standardized tests don't measure the arts, physical education, emotional development, and strength of character. It means that standardized tests don't take into account trauma, hunger, lack of medical care, environmental toxins, and housing insecurity. It means that one size does not fit all.

Invalid: We use tests to evaluate teachers calling them "effective" or "ineffective" based on a child's score. Schools filled with wealthy students have "effective" teachers. Schools filled with poor students have "ineffective" teachers. Why? If a school doesn't use test scores to evaluate teachers, then ignorant politicians will question how "failing schools" could have "effective" teachers without the slightest understanding that the "failure" is as much their fault as anyone else's. Instead, we continue to punish the teachers who work with the children who are the most difficult to teach.

Invalid: We use tests to punish students for not learning at the speed we want them to learn. How many eight and nine year olds around the country are retained in grade because they haven't mastered reading? How many policy makers have ever read the research on retention and its damaging effect on children? This is institutional child abuse based on faulty data.

ISTEP+ tossed for hundreds

Now comes the incompetent testing industry draining billions of tax dollars from public schools every year...using the wrong kinds of tests...in the wrong kinds of ways.

The company charged with administering Indiana's standardized tests, and sucking millions of dollars from already minimal budgets, has failed in its task...putting the burden on schools to beg the state not to hold them "accountable."
“It's so discouraging for the children. It's discouraging for everyone,” said Lori Vaughn, assistant superintendent at DeKalb Central United School District. “It is what it is. I hate that expression, but we're going to move on. It's a black eye when DOE puts (scores) out.”

She said 34 students in third grade at Waterloo Elementary and 19 students in fourth grade at the school will receive “undetermined” scores. This results in passing rates of less than 1 percent for third grade and 17 percent for fourth.

“It's horrific,” Vaughn said. “And that's what's going to be put out with no explanation. It will impact our participation rate and our accountability grade.”

Test scores are a large factor in the A-to-F accountability grades that schools will receive later this year.

Department of Education officials told Vaughn there is nothing that can be done now but schools can appeal those A-to-F grades when they are issued.
Discouraging? It's discouraging that after all this time we're still using these tests to punish students, teachers, and schools.

Politicians and policy makers will denounce public schools as "failures" blaming parents and teachers for low test scores. They don't realize that what standardized tests truly measure is a society's commitment to its children.

📊✏️📝

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tiny, Decent Things


PART I: THE WAR AGAINST PUBLIC EDUCATION

I began my whine against the overuse and misuse of standardized testing when No Child Left Behind passed in 2001 and Indiana doubled down on student testing.

I complained to my principal, the school corporation, my local legislators. I became an officer in my local teachers association, and a delegate to the state teachers association representative assembly, but we couldn't change things either.

I retired in June of 2010 and two years later joined a public education advocacy group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. Since the Save Our Schools March in 2011 in Washington D.C., our members have been working to end and undo "education reform" in Indiana and the U.S.

2011 was a watershed year for privatization in Indiana. Mitch Daniels and his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, along with help from the Indiana General Assembly, hit hard at public schools and public school teachers.

2011 was the year that Indiana...
  • cut $300 million from public school funding while at the same time they...
  • passed a voucher law which drained even more public tax dollars from public schools
  • reduced collective bargaining rights for teachers
  • introduced test-based evaluations for teachers
  • increased funding for charter schools


The privatizers haven't backed off since then...they've continued to deprofessionalize the teaching profession and strip funds from public education to support the ravenous appetite of an ever-expanding privatization plan consisting of vouchers and charter schools.

Each year, when the Indiana legislature is in session, we do our best to minimize the damage done to public schools. And each year we lose a little more ground. We had a bright light of hope in 2012, when Glenda Ritz was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, beating Tony Bennett on a platform which supported public schools, but that was short-lived. Governor Pence, the legislature, and state school board, worked together to make sure she was unable to slow down the damage to public education by the privatizers.

It's not just Indiana. A few days ago Nancy Flanagan wrote...

The War on Teachers and the End of Public Education
Three days ago, Diane Ravitch wrote this:
Public education today faces an existential crisis. Over the past two decades, the movement to transfer public money to private organizations has expanded rapidly.
She's right. The end of public education as we know it is in sight. And there's a war on public school teaching toward that end, with Betsy DeVos as Field General.
It keeps happening even though privatization has increased segregation and hasn't improved instruction or achievement.


PART II: ENCOURAGEMENT

It's hard not to feel discouraged. It's hard not to give up. We need frequent inspiration to help reenergize ourselves...to remind ourselves that public education is worth saving, and no matter how many times the politicians and privatizers damage public education in Indiana (and across the nation) we need to keep trying. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we need to get up again. No matter how many times we're silenced, we need to speak out again.

Public schools are open to every child in the state, not just the wealthy or the able. Public schools are an investment in our future...and support for public education means an educated citizenry, a lower incarceration rate, an improved economy, and happier lives. Public education is not just for me...not just for you...but for us, because we are all responsible for, and dependent upon, each other. The students we serve are not just mine – or yours – or even their parents'. They are ours. Within each child is the future of our society.

In order to save America's public schools it's necessary for each of us to do what we can. All of us are important...from those who run for the legislature, to those who work quietly in the background registering voters, to those who convince a friend to support public schools. We must, as Danusha Veronica Goska wrote in ‘Political Paralysis’ From The Impossible Will Take a Little While, do "tiny, decent things" to support the public education system. With enough of those "tiny, decent things," we can give public education the support it needs to survive.
...when we study the biographies of our heroes, we learn that they spent years in preparation doing tiny, decent things before one historical moment propelled them to center stage.

Moments, as if animate, use the prepared to tilt empires.
Be one of the prepared.


CHANGE THE WORLD

Write your legislator. Write for publication. Run for office. Support and/or contribute to pro-public education candidates. Learn about the issues facing public education and share what you have learned with others. Talk to your family, neighbors, and friends. Volunteer in a public school. Help a child learn. Donate a book to a school or a family. Organize or join with others to support public schools. Join the PTA. Send your children to public schools. Call into a talk show. Write a letter to the editor.
Get involved.
Do something.
Don't give up.
Goska ended her essay...
I suspect that we all have our three-in-the-morning moments, when all of life seems one no-exit film noir, where any effort is pointless, where any hope seems to be born only to be dashed, like a fallen nestling on a summer sidewalk. When I have those moments, if I do nothing else, I remind myself: the ride in the snow; the volunteers at the food bank; the Nepali peasants who fed me. Activists like the Pole Wladyslaw Bartoszewski who, decades before he would earn any fame, got out of Auschwitz only to go on to even more resistance against the Nazis, and then the Soviets. Invisible, silent people who, day by day, choice by choice, unseen by me, unknown to me, force me to witness myself, invite me to keep making my own best choices, and keep me living my ideals.
If all of us do "tiny, decent things" to support public education, we can slow or even stop the takeover of public education by those who would destroy it.

Alone, each one of us might not be able to "tilt the empire" of the privatizers, but perhaps we can preserve public education long enough for our cumulative efforts to gather strength and eventually succeed.

🚌🚌🚌

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father's Day post...with changes.

READING ALOUD

I read aloud to my students from my very first day as an elementary school teacher beginning in 1976. I had caught the read-aloud bug from the late Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors. I had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because reading aloud is simply one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

My collection of Read-Aloud Handbook editions,
several of which have been signed by the author, Jim Trelease.
Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.”
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...and, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.


FATHERS AND READ-ALOUD

In the latest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by politics, sports and television, and boys watch their role models carefully. Among those men in important cultural and political positions in America are abusers, racists, and misogynists. It's more important than ever that fathers exert role-model influence over their sons.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," he asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?

Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.

📕📙📘

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Money for Nothin'

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY

For the past two decades Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have been dropping millions of dollars into education schemes the billionaire was sure would transform America's schools. Gates tried small schools, teacher incentives, and the Common Core to try to influence the achievement of public schools – all to no avail. (Further reading: Anthony Cody's, The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation)

The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation has invested millions of dollars into training managers to run school systems like businesses. They've put money into large scale teacher merit-pay experiments in school districts. They've supported legislation, including the so-called "Parent Trigger" which would allow a majority of a schools current parents to transfer a community owned public school to a for-profit charter company.

The Walton Family Foundation, run by America's wealthiest family, has invested millions of dollars in the privatization of public education. They have supported the creation and expansion of voucher programs in Indiana and other states.

The attempts to improve America's education by billionaires, none of whom have any training in education, have several things in common.

First, none of the schemes have been successful enough, or been replicable on a large enough scale to improve the country's public education system.

Second, the money used to fund the projects hasn't been sustainable. Some programs have failed when grants ended, because of the inability of the school systems to continue to pay for it.

Third, nearly all attempts to improve schools measure that improvement with standardized test scores which are often inadequate.

Fourth, America's low international test scores are often cited as the reason for the billionaires' interference in education. I have explained in detail why our students' average scores are lower on international tests in The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools.

Finally, none of the attempts by these wealthy families, even if we assume that they are altruistic in their desire to help children succeed, attack the root cause of low achievement in America. Poverty.


POVERTY: THE CRUX OF THE PROBLEM

The late Gerald Bracey wrote,
When people have said “poverty is no excuse,” my response has been, “Yes, you’re right. Poverty is not an excuse. It’s a condition. It’s like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.”
David C. Berliner, professor and dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Institute and Graduate School of Education at Arizona State University, presented a brief titled, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. The report explains how improvements of schools are not enough to overcome the out-of-school factors faced by children who live in high poverty areas.
...the negative effects of many [out-of-school factors] are concentrated in the schools that serve poor and minority children and families. This increases the burden on these schools in such a way as to make broad reductions in the achievement gap nearly impossible.


MONEY FOR NOTHIN'

Silicon valley billionaires are dumping their tax write-offs into America's schools in the hopes, they say, of increasing test scores...and, if they can get a few bucks themselves in the process, so much the better.

The New York Times has a long article detailing ways that projects from tech entrepreneurs, like Netflix's Reed Hastings and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, are influencing America's schools. Once again they aren't focusing on the real problem.

The influx of money from rich technology-king benefactors has an influence on what teachers are teaching...and how they teach. After all, when a teacher or school gets a grant for a half million dollars in hardware and software they generally don't turn it down. The students, then, become the "de facto beta testers" for the billionaires' ideas.

But does it actually help?

The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools
Tech companies and their founders have been rolling out programs in America’s public schools with relatively few checks and balances, The New York Times found in interviews with more than 100 company executives, government officials, school administrators, researchers, teachers, parents and students.

“They have the power to change policy, but no corresponding check on that power,” said Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. “It does subvert the democratic process.”

Furthermore, there is only limited research into whether the tech giants’ programs have actually improved students’ educational results.
Once again we have billionaires dumping money into schools, and often into privatization schemes, without regard to actual research and often without public oversight.

Technology can be a powerful educational tool, when used correctly. Where did Mark Zuckerberg get his teaching credentials? Who is determining how these programs are used? Who is monitoring them to see if they work? Will the money disappear if the programs fail?


ANOTHER WAY: A LESSON FOR THE BILLIONAIRES – FROM SOME MILLIONAIRES

A New Jersey family won a lottery of nearly a half billion dollars...guess where it's going?

Family in New Jersey Wins $429 Million Lottery, Uses Money to Fight Poverty
Last year, the Smith family in Trenton, New Jersey, won the $429 million Powerball lottery, and they planned to use all that money to help fight poverty. Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven children meant what they said at a press conference when they promised to give that money back to their community.

...They used the money to pay off bills and student loans before they put it back into their community with the Smith Family Foundation. “We want to fund programs that directly affect systems of poverty so we can help change the systems or change the dynamics that are causing people to be in poverty,” Harold Smith told NJ.com. “Rather than just helping them find food or give away food, we can make it so they now have the ability to obtain employment, get their proper education in order to be able to go out and get their own food.”

The foundation will work with the city in order to provide both long- and short-term grants for Trenton. [emphasis added]
Imagine if Gates, Broad, The Waltons, and the rest tried to improve education by donating their billions to help fight poverty, like the Smiths, in cooperation with municipalities and states. If we reduce poverty we can reduce the negative effects of out-of-school factors that get in the way of student achievement.

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,
...we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.


🖥⌨️🖨

Thursday, June 8, 2017

2017 Medley #19

Politics of Privatization, Bullies,
Accountability, On Teaching,
June is Internet Safety Month

THE POLITICS OF PRIVATIZATION

As Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence made no attempt to hide his preference for private education. His school-based photo ops were nearly always at parochial schools. His state budgets favored private schools and charters, and his friends in both the Indiana General Assembly and the State Board of Education followed his lead.

Betsy DeVos joins Pence in the current administration as an unapologetic advocate for privatizing education and the destruction of public schools. She doesn't hide the fact that her intent is to provide as much money for private schools as possible. She couches her preference in terms which imply support for students, but when we dig deeper we find that she doesn't consider all students worthy of support.

Her budget cuts millions from programs designed to help the neediest students. She passes the buck to the states and private donors to pick up the monetary slack. The fact that the states don't have the money doesn't matter. With the continued tax cuts for America's wealthiest citizens, money for education is scarce and DeVos prefers to direct it towards the children attending private schools rather than those attending public schools.

In her recent appearance before a Senate committee, DeVos refused to take a stand against discrimination. Instead she repeated the same inane statement about supporting federal antidiscrimination laws. Would she take a stand against discrimination when the federal laws were vague? No...

This is what happens when a know-nothing, anti-public education billionaire, buys her way into the highest education office in the land.


Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Again Fails to Say Voucher Programs Shouldn’t Allow Discrimination

From American's United for Separation of Church and State
At a minimum, DeVos’ answers reveal that she knows her desire to let private schools discriminate with federal dollars is unpopular. Students deserve better than private school vouchers that undermine civil rights protections.

The issue of discrimination is one of the many reasons Congress should reject any efforts to impose a federal voucher program. Rather than diverting funds for private schools, we should be funding the public school system, which educates all students.


Betsy’s Choice: School Privatization Over Kids’ Civil Rights

From Steven Singer
Betsy DeVos seems to be confused about her job.

As U.S. Secretary of Education, she is responsible for upholding the civil rights of all U.S. students.

She is NOT a paid lobbyist for the school privatization industry.

Yet when asked point blank by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) whether her department would ensure that private schools receiving federal school vouchers don’t discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students, she refused to give a straight answer.

She said that the these schools would be required to follow all federal antidiscrimination laws but her department would not issue any clarifications or directives about exactly how they should be doing it.

“On areas where the law is unsettled, this department is not going to be issuing decrees. That is a matter for Congress and the courts to settle,” DeVos said at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education yesterday.

“I think you just said where it’s unsettled, such discrimination will continue to be allowed under your program. If that’s incorrect, please correct it for the record,” Merkley replied.

DeVos did not correct him.


The Demolition of American Education

From Diane Ravitch
The most devastating cuts are aimed at programs for public schools. Nearly two dozen programs are supposed to be eliminated, on the grounds that they have “achieved their original purpose, duplicate other programs, are narrowly focused, or are unable to demonstrate effectiveness.” In many cases, the budget document says that these programs should be funded by someone else—not the US Department of Education, but “federal, state, local and private funds.” These programs include after-school and summer programs that currently serve nearly two million students, and which keep children safe and engaged in sports, arts, clubs, and academic studies when they are out of school. They have never been judged by test scores, but the budget claims they do not improve student achievement, and aims to save the government $1 billion by ending support for them. The budget assumes that someone else will pick up the tab, but most states have cut their education budgets since the 2008 recession. No mention is made of how other sources will be able to come up with this funding.


BULLIES

Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It

President Trump has made bullying great again.
Donald Trump’s campaign and election have added an alarming twist to school bullying, with white students using the president's words and slogans to bully Latino, Middle Eastern, black, Asian, and Jewish classmates. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.


ACCOUNTABILITY

State Board Votes to Allow Voucher Schools to Bypass Accountability

The accountability laws in Indiana are a waste of time and money. The criteria used to judge a school, its students' test scores and attendance, are inadequate and invalid. Tests and attendance do not indicate the quality of a school. The school climate and the involvement of parents are equally, if not more important to a school than how high the students score on a given achievement test. Student achievement tests should be used (if they're going to be used at all) to assess student achievement, not the quality of a school or its teachers. Student attendance has very little to do with a school's quality, and more to do with the economic status of the families of the students (for that matter, so do the achievement tests).

For decades, "reformers" have used poor test scores as the basis for claims that America's public schools were "failing," and to lobby for charters and vouchers. Now that they have charters and vouchers, the state rules about "accountability" are getting in the way of the smooth flow of tax dollars into private, parochial, and corporate pockets. The solution? Get the corporate stooges on the state board of education to "suspend" accountability for private, parochial, and corporate schools.

Just because Mike Pence is no longer in the Governor's seat doesn't mean that the state preference for privatization is gone...

Kudos to my former colleague, Steve Yager, for being one of the two votes against this.
Four private voucher schools previously cut off from accepting new voucher students because of academic failure, have been given a reprieve from the Indiana State Board of Education.

Due to receiving a grade of D or F for two consecutive years, the private schools had lost their ability to take on new voucher students. The schools can retain their current population of voucher students.

The schools were given permission to bypass accountability laws created for failing private voucher schools thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Holcomb. ISTA strongly opposed the bill throughout the legislative session, because it gives failing voucher schools a pass for low performance and allows a new voucher pathway via new school accreditation – schools with no track record.


ON TEACHING

On Teaching Well: Five Lessons from Long Experience

From an experienced teacher and teacher educator...Russ Walsh gives us the benefit of his years as an educator. You'll notice the five lessons he presents have nothing to do with teaching to the test. Instead he deals with relationships between teacher and student, teacher as coach, pedagogical content knowledge, using student errors to guide teaching, and teacher self-reflection. This, along with his book, A Parent's Guide to Public Education in the 21st Century: Navigating Education Reform to Get the Best Education for My Child, are essential reading for parents, teachers, and anyone who is interested in improving public schools.
At its most basic, teaching is about building individual relationships with children. If children trust you, they will be willing to follow you in your flights of instructional fantasy and if they follow you they will learn from you.


STAY SAFE ONLINE

Be Internet Awesome

June is Internet Safety Month. Share these tips from Google with your family.
To make the most of the Internet, kids need to be prepared to make smart decisions. Be Internet Awesome teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.

🎯📚🎓

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

There's More to Teaching Than Telling

It's important for teachers to have content knowledge before they try to teach. Peter Greene – Curmudgucation – wrote,

Expertise
Yes, teaching is both a skill and an art and to do a good job, you have to know the skill and the art of teaching. But just as you can't have waves without water or air, you cannot have "teaching skills" without content knowledge-- and all the teaching skills in the world will not make up for lacking knowledge. You cannot make an awesome lesson about adding two plus two if you do not know that the result is four. You cannot lead your students through an illuminating and inspiring study of Hamlet if you have never read the play yourself.
This is true, absolutely.


It's also true for teachers of young children. Early childhood educators and elementary teachers need to understand the reading, math, social studies, and science they teach, just as much as a physics teacher needs to understand physics. Curmudgucation agrees...
Content knowledge is the foundation of everything else. You cannot be an expert at teaching without being an expert at subject matter. Yes, even teachers of the littles, who in particular need the security of knowing they are in the hands of a grownup who Knows Things.
However, what is often misunderstood by non-educators who think they know all about teaching (I'm looking at you, "reformers") is that content knowledge is only one part of the teaching skill set.

Elementary teachers – and most educated people in general – are already experts in elementary school content. The average college graduate, for example, can already read, do basic arithmetic, and is familiar with basic science and history. This is the likely reason that non-educators think teaching elementary school is "easy." As one parent said to me when I was explaining why his son was struggling in first grade, "Just tell him. Just tell him what he needs to know."

Indeed, many people think that you "just tell" children information and they learn it. They don't understand that learning is more than information. They don't understand that teaching is more than simply teaching content. Elementary students need more than someone who "tells" them stuff.

In the early 1980s I had been teaching for about 5 years...and had started on my masters degree. I was discussing this with a group of people and someone asked, "When you get your masters, will you be able to teach high school then?" I tried to explain that teaching elementary school was more than just telling kids stuff. The misunderstanding was, and still is, pervasive.

This ignorance about learning has led to things like REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) in Indiana which allows people with no education training to start teaching content areas in high school. If you have a degree in biology (and a B average), for example, you can teach biology. According to REPA III, there is no education degree required...no need for pedagogical training...no need to learn about classroom management, child development, teaching methods or student discipline. Those are things you can apparently pick up while you're teaching.

The same sorts of rules are now in force in other states like Arizona and Utah.

But that's wrong. Teachers need training before they can take on the sole responsibility of a classroom. That's why legitimate educator training programs include a significant amount of time in classrooms as well as a full semester (or more) of student teaching.

Of course, content knowledge is important, but it's only part of the teaching story...


One of the comments to Expertise contained an excellent list of what knowledge is necessary to teach...
NY Teacher June 6, 2017 at 7:39 AM

...Might I add, the importance of knowledge goes beyond subject area content:

Knowledge of pedagogy and methodologies
knowledge of child and adolescent psychology
knowledge of mob psychology (Ha!)
knowledge of cognitive learning theory and brain development (and damage)
knowledge of local community and families
knowledge of school community and happenings,
knowledge of your students - as people
knowledge of your limitations
knowledge of classroom management techniques and policies

And that's just the knowledge side of of being a good teacher.
Work ethic, professionalism, judgement, personality and many more come into play. Maybe the clueless tweeter and all the other know-nothing reformers that came very late to this 150 year old party will begin to understand just how complex and nuanced the skill set required to a "good" teacher. It's no wonder they don't grow on trees.
A child is more than a test score. A teacher is more than a purveyor of information.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Listen to This #7

PRE-SCHOOL

Building a Better Pre-School: Finding the Right Balance

Russ Walsh looks at two recent studies of preschool instruction, one focusing on academics in preschools, the other on social and emotional learning. The unsurprising results of the research? Developmentally appropriate instruction. [emphasis added]

From Russ Walsh
"In order to ensure that our pre-schools are finding the right balance between academics and play, we need to be sure that we are employing the best teachers available and we need to make sure that these teachers are getting the finest, best informed professional development possible. No program, no research, no policy can come close to matching what the well-informed, well-prepared teacher can provide for children in the classroom.We cannot do pre-school on the cheap just because the children are small. We cannot run pre-school, as is often the case now, with poorly trained, poorly compensated para-professionals. The answer, ultimately, is not in the false dichotomy between academics and play, but in the will of our policy makers to make sure that every child has access to teachers who are prepared to do the job well and who are compensated appropriately for it.


AMERICA'S SCHOOLS ARE NOT FAILING

The purported failure of America’s schools, and ways to make them better by David C. Berliner

I posted twice in the last couple of months about the lie promoted by politicians, privatizers, and "reformers" which claims that America's schools are "failing."
David C. Berliner, Education Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, writes that real improvement will cost money. He wrote, paraphrasing Dewey –“What the best and wisest (among the wealthiest) parents want for their children, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” [emphasis added]

From David C. Berliner
...“fixing” the schools, about which so many of our editorialists and political leaders talk, needs deeper thinking than a knee-jerk reaction to our mean score on any international test. That mean score hides the diversity of our scores by social class and housing tract, and easily misleads us about what solutions might exist. When our leaders say teachers are not good, we need to point out to them how well some of our students are doing, and that a recent Mathematica report for the U.S. Department of Education states that the quality of teachers working in low-income schools is about the same as the quality of teachers working in high income schools. So blaming teachers won’t fix schools that need fixing!


A PLACE TO VENT

Angry (tl;dr)

During the second half of my teaching career one of my roles was that of (co-) test coordinator for my school. It didn't take long for me to realize that classroom teachers were being forced to spend more and more time "teaching to the test," a practice which had previously been avoided.

Each year more tests were added, taking up more and more instructional time, with less and less diagnostic information returned to the teachers. Each year it took longer and longer for the information to be returned to the classroom so that, by the time the results came back, the students had moved on.

I complained loudly...bitterly...obnoxiously. Other teachers agreed with me...even the principal agreed with me, but there was nothing to be done. I complained to the administration, who passed the buck to the State Department of Education...who passed the buck to the State Legislature...who passed the buck to No Child Left Behind.

In 2006 I decided that I needed a place to vent, so I started this blog.

If I were a better writer I could have written this post by Peter Greene.

From Peter Greene
My colleagues at school were, by and large, not interested. They complained when we were gored by the tip of the iceberg that passed by us, but they had no particular interest in finding out what the tip was attached to, or how big and wide the iceberg really was. And I was turning into the staff crank. So I turned to the outlet that has always served me in the past-- writing-- and for a number of reasons (mostly admiration of the bloggers already out there) I turned to blogging.

It did not occur to me that anybody would read my stuff. My goal was to vent, to rail about policies and articles that struck me as foolish, destructive, blind, ignorant.

POLITICS

Trump dumps Paris climate deal: reaction

The first two quotes need no comment...

From Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh
“The United States will come to rue this day,” said Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management and Education at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “President Trump has argued that his decision puts economic interests first, that it will cut out interference from foreign bureaucrats and help U.S. business. In fact this move puts all business and economic interests at much greater risk. Climate change knows no borders, its impacts are blind to national flags. If global efforts to limit warming fail then we are all in trouble. From climate change, Mr. President, you can run but you can't hide.”


We Aren’t Number One…Not Even Close

From Sheila Kennedy
It’s enough to make you think American policymakers put a higher priority on the bottom lines of Big Pharma and Big Insurance than they do on the health of average citizens.

But then, what do we expect when we elect people so corrupt and self-serving they don’t even care about the health of the planet their children and grandchildren will inherit?


MIKE PENCE – OBTUSE AND IGNORANT

Mike Pence: ‘For Some Reason’ Liberals Care About Climate Change

Is Vice President Pence really this obtuse?

From Mike Pence
“For some reason or another, this issue of climate change has emerged as a paramount issue for the left in this country and around the world.”
It seems that Vice President Pence hasn't heard anything about climate change. He doesn't seem to know why it's an issue for "the left," which in this case means anyone who wants to prevent the catastrophic destruction of the earth's ecosystem by global warming. He hasn't heard that, with the rise of greenhouse gasses,
  • the earth gets warmer,
  • the oceans get warmer,
  • the ice at the poles melts,
  • the life in the ocean is at-risk,
  • the sea-level rises threatening coastal cities,
  • more moisture is in the air making storms wetter and stronger,
  • causing flooding and more...
The Vice President has apparently not talked to the Secretary of Defense who believes global warming is a threat to national security...or the former Secretary of the Navy...or the U.S. Army...See also, the planet Venus.

Yet we really shouldn't be surprised. This is the same person who said...
..."2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer."
and
"The truth is, [evolution] always was a theory, Mr. Speaker."
A few years ago, when he was in the House of Representatives, Pence was scientifically ignorant about smoking...or maybe he was getting money from the tobacco companies.

His ignorance also showed in his use of the word theory when talking about Evolution. In science, a theory is an explanation of a natural process which encompasses facts, laws, inferences, and hypotheses. Pence, like so many other ignorant creationists, confuses the popular meaning of the word theory with its scientific meaning. For an explanation of why theory is not "just a guess" see, Definitions of Fact, Theory, and Law in Scientific Work.


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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Your School in a Market Economy

DISRUPTION

Betsy DeVos thinks this is a good way to run America's public education system...allow for the privatization of public education and let the market decide whether or not a school remains open. DeVos thinks the marketplace provides all the safeguards schools need.

In the meantime, school privatization is providing the "disruption" so important to free-market types because schools that close before the school year ends are a feature, not a bug.


Southfield charter school closes shocking students, staff

In just one of many daily stories about fraud and corruption in the mostly unregulated charter industry, students in this Michigan town got to school last week to find that their school closed -
just three weeks before the end of the year.
Teachers were seen packing their belongings. They say they will get paid Friday but the school is not able to pay them through August.
Teacher pay is often budgeted throughout the year. A contract is generally for the length of the school year – 9 or 10 months, but the pay is spread out over the entire length of the calendar year. In other words, teachers won't receive the pay for days they have already worked.
Taylor International has been beset by money problems since 2013 and according to Renaissance School Services, the company managed it and things came to a head.

"The board has resigned and we terminated our relationship with the school because we haven't been paid in about six months," said Richard O'Neill, Renaissance School Services.
The school didn't pay the management company, so it was closed down. The bottom line for privately owned and operated schools is profit, not children. Was there any governmental oversight of the taxpayer funds spent for this school? Were the books open to all? Where did the money go? Who got paid? Who didn't?

The resulting "disruption" which free-market "reformers" prize so highly, interferes with learning. School closures can have a negative effect on students.
Ben Kirshner and his colleagues at the University of Colorado at Boulder documented numerous negative effects of school closure, including higher dropout rates, lower achievement, loss of friendships, and weaker emotional ties between students and teachers.
STABILITY

When schools close before the school year ends, there's no closure to the year. Students and teachers have no chance to say goodbye to each other and their friends. Teachers are left without a complete year of student work needed to compute grades. In some cases, teachers are left without their full pay and parents are left without a place to send their children for the remainder of the year. The taxpayers' money is gone - and without public oversight, no one knows where it went.

Russ Walsh, in Creative Stability: A Better Plan for Public Schools, writes,
Every teacher knows that children learn best in a stable environment. That is why teachers spend the first several days of school establishing routines and norms for the smooth functioning of the classroom.
The disruption of a school closing gets in the way of that stability.

Public schools – real public schools, not privately owned and publicly funded charter schools - provide stability. They are part of the community and are owned by the community. The focus is on the students, not profit. The bottom line is education, not stock holders.

The free-market means competition and competition means there will be winners and losers. There should be no losers in public education.


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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

2017 Medley #18: DeVos Doubles Down

Accountability, Discrimination, Budget Cuts, Church-State Entanglement

We all knew that Betsy DeVos was going to be a problem for public education. She didn't hide her disdain for the common folk who sent their children to America's public schools. She didn't hide the fact that she wanted to privatize all the education in the U.S.

So it was no surprise that last week she presented the Trump Administration's plans to support privatization and destroy public education.

[emphasis in any of the quoted material below is mine]


ACCOUNTABILITY: FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ONLY

DeVos Still Anti-Accountability

The bludgeon used by "reformers" against public schools has been accountability based on test scores. As we have learned in Indiana, that accountability is only meant for public schools. Schools accepting vouchers or charters can get their grades changed, can get loan forgiveness when they collapse, can continue to receive state funding even after having "failed," and can even choose their own students.

Accountability is the weapon used to hurt public education, and then claim that public schools are failing. As far as DeVos is concerned, no such accountability is needed for schools run privately.
...What we know is what we've known since the days that DeVos beat back attempts at accountability measures in Michigan-- she opposes anything that might in any way tie the hands of the Right Kind of People, the people who deserve to set policy and create schools and profit from all of it.

I can understand how liberals are bothered by this policy. What I don't quite understand is where the conservatives are. Where are all the people who built up the education reform wave in the first place with rallying calls for teacher accountability and school accountability and don't just trustingly throw money at schools and where the hell are our tax dollars going, anyway? Oh wait-- they are off in the corner, counting up all the money they aren't going to pay in taxes under the GOP plan.

As my college ed prof told us in the seventies, the accountability needle keeps swinging back and forth-- but this time it has gone so far in the accountability direction that it has come out the other side in a place so unaccountable that the federal Secretary of Education cannot imagine a situation in which she would deny federal dollars to any voucher school, ever, for any reason. This isn't just throwing money at schools-- it's lighting the money on fire and throwing it off a cliff. This is wrapping all the money around a big club that will be used to beat anybody who's not white and wealthy and healthy.


Betsy DeVos Continues Her Push For Private School Vouchers

One of the problems with "school choice" programs (aside from the fact that the "choice" is with the school, not the parents) is the lack of public oversight. Millions of taxpayer dollars are funneled into private, religious, and charter schools, which are given fewer restrictions for how money is being used. Nearly every day there's another scandal in which someone misappropriates or misuses funds meant for educating children.
...We have a responsibility to provide great public schools to every kid in America. Instead of strongly investing in public schools where 90 percent of kids go, Trump’s budget cuts billions of dollars from key programs and would divert already scarce funding to private schools.

Members of Congress pressed DeVos on the fact that these private schools, even though they get taxpayer funds through vouchers, discriminate against students and are unaccountable to the public. Although she tried to evade their questions, it was clear that she has no interest in ensuring meaningful oversight of schools or barring discrimination in a federal voucher program.


PRIVATIZATION: DISCRIMINATION ALLOWED

Betsy DeVos Wants to Take Money From Poor Kids and Give it to Schools That Could Discriminate Against Them

Private schools get a big boost with the Trump/DeVos education plan. At the same time the message for public schools is, "Let them eat cake."
...the real priority of this administration isn’t pragmatic; it’s ideological – and it’s a particularly ugly ideology our federal government has historically been focused on dismantling.

More specifically, Trump’s education budget cuts $9.2 billion (13.5 percent) of federal outlays to public schools, and eliminates or phases-out twenty-two programs.

Both Republicans and Democrats expressed concerns with cuts in federal support for afterschool programs, Special Olympics, arts education, gifted and talented students, teacher training, class size reduction, career and technical education, and programs targeted at helping disadvantaged students and veterans successfully complete high school and enter higher education.


TARGETING THE NEEDIEST

10 Serious Issues Facing Public School Students: Where’s Betsy?

DeVos couldn't seem to care any less about serious problems facing America's school children. Problems like poverty and segregation simply don't matter. In fact, the cuts in the proposed budget seem designed to target the most needy children in our schools...the poor, special education, and students who don't speak English.
Betsy DeVos wastes precious time on her choice initiative, ignoring the most serious problems facing our young people in public schools. At a hearing the other day, she pushed many of these problems onto the states.

But I would argue that these difficulties still require thoughtful attention and research from an education secretary who should be engaged.

Instead of working to find solutions to such problems, she’s too busy planning how to destroy public education with her unproven choice ideology.

Children in crisis need help now! They can’t wait.

Is There a Point to All This Cruelty?
Betsy DeVos does not know anything about public education except that she doesn't believe in it as a concept. Free public education is one of the unquestioned triumphs of the American experiment, but it's a disposable commodity to a know-nothing fanatic who married into a vast fortune and dedicated a lot of it to wrecking public education.


THE PROBLEM WITH CHURCH-STATE ENTANGLEMENT

Annie Waldman: Betsy DeVos on Creationism and Intelligent Design

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has been a watchdog for the constitutional separation of church and State since 1947. As such, they understand that "school choice" was a tool originally utilized to support racial segregation. That hasn't changed. "School choice" programs in America are contributing to the increase in segregation. One might even think that was (one of) the goals from the beginning.

Americans United has also been on watch to prevent the entanglement of churches with the state. They have worked tirelessly to keep religious practices and content out of public schools. Betsy DeVos has a history of supporting the entanglement of church and state...as well as her obvious preference for parochial education.

[Full disclosure: I have been a member of Americans United for more than three decades.]
“DeVos and her family have poured millions of dollars into groups that champion intelligent design, the doctrine that the complexity of biological life can best be explained by the existence of a creator rather than by Darwinian evolution. Within this movement, “critical thinking” has become a code phrase to justify teaching of intelligent design.

“Candi Cushman, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, described DeVos’ nomination as a positive development for communities that want to include intelligent design in their school curricula. Both the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation and Betsy DeVos’ mother’s foundation have donated to Focus on the Family, which has promoted intelligent design.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

DeVos is Still Ignorant

Last week, when she unveiled her education plan and budget, Betsy DeVos said some things which only served to prove her ignorance of America's public education system and reinforce the belief that she is completely unqualified for the job which she blatantly purchased from Senate Republicans.

OUR CURRENT SYSTEM

Betsy DeVos Compares School Choice Critics To ‘Flat-Earthers’

DeVos said,
The defenders of our current system have been regularly resistant to any meaningful change. In resisting, these flat Earthers have chilled creativity and stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels.
For someone who has the job of overseeing the nation's public schools DeVos has no understanding of what our current system is.

In fact, DeVos's critics are very much against the "current system." The current system is actually one based on an overuse and misuse of testing which is manipulated in order to damage public schools and divert tax dollars to private and parochial schools.

For decades we've been holding our public schools hostage to standardized tests which measure a student's family income more accurately than their achievement. We've used the tests in invalid ways to judge school systems, schools, and teachers as well as children. The results have been used to close schools, force out experienced teachers, and demean public education as "failing." On the contrary, our public schools are generally excellent and successful despite the roadblocks being thrown up by policy makers, billionaires, and legislators.

She claims that critics are the one who have "stopped American kids from competing at the highest levels." Instead, it's a system that allows children from wealthy families to do just that – compete at the highest level. Our students who come from schools with poverty rates of less than ten percent achieve at levels higher than any other students in the world. The problem is that those who denounce public schools as failures have worked to segregate our children based on educational classification, economic status, and race. DeVos and the proposed federal budget only make the "current system" more inequitable

ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL TESTING

Education Department Faces Deep Cuts; DeVos Faces Tough Questions
"The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children's schooling and education decisions," DeVos said. "Too many children today are trapped in schools that don't work for them. We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach."
The one-size-fits-all approach she claims her critics favor is actually what her critics oppose. The fight against so-called "education reform" has been a fight against the system that judges all children based on a single standardized test. It's been a fight against a those who use tests to denounce public schools, and as an excuse to divert needed funds to privatization schemes like charter schools and vouchers.

If Secretary DeVos knew anything about public schools she would know that teachers work every day to differentiate programs for individual students. Most public school teachers understand that every child is different...that children need to learn based on where they are and how much they can accomplish, which is different for every child. But Betsy DeVos doesn't know this about public schools. She never attended public schools. She never worked in public schools. She never sent her children to public schools. She is completely ignorant of the excellent work that public schools and their teachers do every day.

Those children who are "trapped in schools that don't work for them" are mostly poor children of color, forced into underfunded schools in neighborhoods which have been economically abandoned by oligarchs like DeVos who work to cut taxes for the rich, and divert much needed resources from public schools to private and religious schools.

In addition, parents aren't the ones who have choices once they leave the public school system. That option belongs to the charter school or voucher accepting school which, more often than not, rejects the hardest and most expensive to educate children. The people best equipped to make choices for children's education are trained educational professionals with input from parents, working in well staffed and well resourced public schools.


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

2017 Medley #17: Privatization

Privatization: Choice, Bipartisanship, Testing

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Why Care About Other People’s Children

Since charter and voucher schools' test scores are no better than those of public schools, the privatizers had to change their argument for diverting public money into private and parochial pockets. The reason, they say, is for "parents to have choices." Most refuse to allow "choice" when it comes to opting out of a state's standardized test, but that's another story.

The idea behind "school choice" is that it should be up to a parent where his or her child goes to school and there are reasons other than achievement for choosing one school over another. This is a legitimate reason, except it's not up to the government to use public funds to pay for private educational choices.

No other public service provides "vouchers" to divert money to privatization. We can't choose to get a voucher for money paid to public libraries in order to shop at a commercial book store.

We can't choose to get a voucher for money paid to municipal park departments in order to fund membership in a country club.

We don't get vouchers to help pay for our cars instead of supporting local public transportation.

We don't receive vouchers in any other area, and we shouldn't receive them for education either. Public tax money is collected for the public good...for the community...for all of us.

Is the drive for "choice" in public education just another symptom of America's growing selfishness? It's framed in a selfish way focusing on "what's best for me no matter what it does to the community." I understand the desire to want the best for our own children, and I can't blame parents for trying to find a good "fit" for their child, but every citizen has a stake in the children of their community.

In a 1992 speech nominating Bill Clinton for President, Mario Cuomo said,,
They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either...They are our children.

And we should love them. We should, we should love them. That's compassion.

But there's common sense at work here as well, because even if we were hard enough to choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive, because they are the nation's future.
The selfishness of Americans will come back to haunt us when neglected, undereducated, undercared for children grow into adults. Pennsylvania teacher-blogger, Steven Singer, echoes Cuomo...
That’s why some folks champion privatized education – they only care about their own children. In effect, when a parent sends their children to a charter or voucher school, they are telling the community that they don’t care what happens to any one else’s kids so long as their kids are properly cared for and educated.

...So why should we care about other people’s children?

Because it’s better for ours. Because doing so makes us better people. Because all children are ends in themselves. Because they’re beautiful, unique sparks of light in a dark universe.


THE BIPARTISAN DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats.

Thank you, Diane Ravitch.

In this post Ravitch says what I (and many others) have been saying for a long time. Democrats, at least nationally, are not friends of public education. They might be slightly better than Republicans because they haven't been pushing as hard for vouchers, but support for education "reform" in the U.S. is definitely bipartisan.

The trend towards blaming teachers, closing schools, encouraging charters, and misusing and overusing tests, was part of the education plan of President Bill Clinton...took shape with the passage of NCLB supported by Edward Kennedy and George Miller...and doubled down with Barack Obama's Race to the Top...all Democrats. There's a myth that Democrats love public schools, partly because they nearly always get endorsements from teachers unions, but, while they love teachers unions, they don't actually love the teachers or the public schools they teach in.

Obama, for example: In 2007, candidate Barack Obama told the National Education Association Representative Assembly,
...Don't label a school as failing one day, and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test. We know that's not true...
President Obama's Race to the Top, unfortunately, did just the opposite of what the candidate said – it literally labeled schools as "failing" and then, by encouraging states to replace the bottom 5% of schools with charters, walked away from them. Yet, the NEA endorsed him. In the same speech, he endorsed merit pay for teachers. Candidate Obama said that he was against using an "arbitrary" test to link teacher pay to performance, and then President Obama, in Race to the Top, did exactly that.

Ravitch tells the Democrats to give up their "privatizing" ways and return to support for public schools, public school teachers, and the children of America.
Listening to their cries of outrage, one might imagine that Democrats were America’s undisputed champions of public education. But the resistance to DeVos obscured an inconvenient truth: Democrats have been promoting a conservative “school reform” agenda for the past three decades. Some did it because they fell for the myths of “accountability” and “choice” as magic bullets for better schools. Some did it because “choice” has centrist appeal. Others sold out public schools for campaign contributions from the charter industry and its Wall Street patrons. Whatever the motivations, the upshot is clear: The Democratic Party has lost its way on public education. In a very real sense, Democrats paved the way for DeVos and her plans to privatize the school system.

Two Privatizers: Democratic Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, with
Republican Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

PRIVATIZATION: TESTING

National and Urban NAEP Results: Neighborhood Public Schools 23, Charters 4

For years privatizers have decried the low test scores of American students as proof that our public schools are "failing." The fact that it's not true hasn't seemed to matter.

Here's a study showing that charter schools don't do as well as real neighborhood public schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the NAEP test. What will the "reformers" say to that? Perhaps they will claim that standardized tests don't tell the whole story when it comes to student learning...I have my irony meter ready for that one.

But, here in Indiana the change in tone has been obvious. We are no longer privatizing public schools just to save poor children from "failing" public schools. Now it's about "choice" for "choice's" sake...just because.
In conclusion, the school-level national and large city NAEP results drawn from the Data Explorer are informative for the public discourse as charter schools are presently being presented as a superior alternative to the public school system. These descriptive school-level results from the NAEP Data Explorer suggest that the relationship between charter schools and improved student performance is not being realized nationally and in large cities. As a result, the present conversations promoting outstanding overall success of charter schools clearly need to be reconsidered and reframed.


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