"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, August 16, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance and other Random Thoughts


KUSHNER

I'd like to ask Jared Kushner, the grandson of holocaust survivors, how he handles the cognitive dissonance of a father-in-law who won't distance himself from nazis.

American Jews (ought to) feel some reaction to nazi and racist symbols. I remember vividly the anger in my Hebrew teacher's voice when he told us that "their symbol" represented "the death of six million Jews."

Jews can't stand idly by while people are being denied their human rights...not after what happened to us. We, among all people, should know that to deny one group their rights is to deny us all.

I'm a child of the generation of Jews who survived the nazi attempt at "the final solution." I'm glad my parents and grandparents aren't alive to see what's happening.

THE PRESIDENT

It’s Getting Harder To Ignore
Trump’s loyalists are America’s White Nationalists, Nazis and racists. We’re about to see just how many of these despicable people there are.



When the President Is Un-American
Whatever role foreign influence may have played and may still be playing, however, we don’t need to wonder whether an anti-American cabal, hostile to everything we stand for, determined to undermine everything that truly makes this country great, has seized power in Washington. It has: it’s called the Trump administration.

FOUNDING FATHERS

Racism and bigotry have been part of the American consciousness since its founding.

Except for the John, and John Quincy Adams, every one of the first 12 American presidents were slaveholders. Every. Single. One.

Forty-one of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence were slave holders at some time during their lives.

Jefferson, who owned slaves throughout his life, wrote,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Humans have an amazing ability to compartmentalize their thoughts.

POLITICAL CORRECTNESS

For a long time it was socially unacceptable to be a public bigot...to show your face as a nazi or klansman. Now, that seems to be just another "political correctness" that Trump has ended.

Other things that used to be taboo because of political correctness...

grab women by the genitals, because you're a star
make fun of someone who is disabled
tell your supporters to "knock the crap out of" someone who disagrees with you
chant, "Jew will not replace us."


ADDENDUM

A Letter from the President of Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville
This is 2017 in the United States of America.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Listen to This #10: Charlottesville


ANOTHER TERRORIST ATTACK

...this time by an American fascist.

People destroyed by terrorism – and here I include the perpetrators as well as the victims – are victims of one of the oldest problems faced by humans – tribalism.

Whether it's religious tribalism (the Crusades), nationalistic tribalism (Aryan "race" vs. the "other"), or idealogical tribalism (the Union vs. the Confederacy), it is a large and apparently permanent part of human society.

Tribalism is pervasive, and it controls a lot of our behavior, readily overriding reason.

In ancient times, when danger threatened, we would gather in our tribal group for safety...there is strength in numbers...and defend ourselves against the enemy – the other tribe(s). They were to blame for our hardships. They took our land, stole our livestock, and threatened our children. They were "different" and threatened "our way of life."

In the modern world, especially during difficult economic times, the tendency is to blame the "others" for our hardship. In 1932, in Berlin, it was the Jews. In 1950 it was the Soviet Communists. In 1964 it was the Chinese Communists. In 2000 it was the "radical islamists."

And it's always the "immigrants."

WE ARE ALL AFRICANS

Evolution teaches us that homo sapiens first arose in Africa...all of us, therefore, originate from Africa.

Every white person in America is a descendent of European immigrants (or is, herself, a European immigrant).

Yet, Conservative Republicans, without a hint of irony, argue for more stringent or more limited immigration. Indeed, the ancestors of many current administration members, including both the President and Vice-President, would have been turned away at the gate under their own proposed immigration rules. Other white Americans trace their ancestry back to European immigrants who violently and ruthlessly ejected or eliminated the native American population. In other words, no "white" Americans can claim ancient ancestry on this land. We're all immigrants.

The racists who marched in Charlottesville fight, they say, for the survival of the "white race" and "white civilization." Yet, biologically, we're all connected. All our ancestors migrated from Africa. Our DNA is the same. We are one species. Our genetic differences are unimportant.

It's tribalism. Primitive. Fear of "the other." Ignorance.


REACTIONS TO CHARLOTTESVILLE

What follows is a small sampling of the outrage, venting, and emotion-laden posts by both education and non-education bloggers.

Faced with the domestic terrorism at Charlottesville, Betsy DeVos fails another test

What should Betsy DeVos have said?

From Andre Perry at the Hechinger Report
[DeVos's] generic and woefully insufficient statement effectively sanitized the hate that Nazis, Klan members and so called “alt-right” demonstrators put on full display as they shouted Nazi slogans such as “Sieg Heil” and waved Confederate flags, while carrying military gear. DeVos, the nation’s top teacher (clearly symbolic), failed the basic test of providing leadership to teachers, education officials, as well as counselors on how educate students out of bigotry, white supremacy and violence.

The Battle of Charlottesville

From Diane Ravitch's Blog
H.G. Wells long ago wrote that “civilization is more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” On a day like today, it seems that catastrophe is leading the race.

Addressing Mental Illness in Children During Trying Times

In this post, Nancy Bailey doesn't deal with the specifics of the Charlottesville violence...however, she brings up important questions and thoughts about how we, as teachers, deal with children's mental health issues.

From Nancy Bailey at Nancy Bailey's Education Website
Until there is a school shooting, a suicide, a bullying incident, or a student is arrested for outlandish behavior, and these days that can include very young exasperated children in kindergarten, school officials do little to address the real mental health needs of children. When they do, it is usually in a punitive manner. The incarceration rate of youth is high and the draconian zero tolerance laws leave students with mental health issues lost in a world that cares little about them.


Both Sides

From Doug Masson at A Citizen's Guide to Indiana
...it’s no surprise that these guys (and it seems to be almost entirely male) had an event that came to violence. White supremacists like to talk tough and invoke violent metaphors. Judging from the things you see out of the broad overlap between “Men’s Rights” activists and white supremacists, you see a toxic view of masculinity that regards nonviolent responses to challenges as emasculating. Their beliefs and fragile egos make them almost uniquely unable to co-exist with other ideas or turn the other cheek when confronted.

Consciously Ignorant

From Rob Miller at A View From the Edge
Let’s not try to fool each other. Racism is alive and well in America. To say otherwise would be ignorant of reality. Sometimes it is subtle and unintentional like the examples cited above. Other times it reveals itself as a group of white men parading swastikas, burning torches, and making Nazi hand symbols. Anyhow it reveals itself, it is a stain on our nation.

Far-right protesters gather at University of Virginia

from Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer
Everyone has a right under the First Amendment to express their opinion peaceably, so here's mine: not only as the Mayor of Charlottesville, but as a UVA faculty member and alumnus, I am beyond disgusted by this unsanctioned and despicable display of visual intimidation on a college campus


Thoughts on Yesterday’s Fascist Rally at UVa

Ed Brayton suggests we read Richard Hofstadter...I concur.

From Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars
This is the inevitable result of the ignorant, populist nationalism that is promoted by Bannon, Gorka, Miller and Trump. When you tap that vein, this is what comes flowing out. Right-wing populism is inextricably tied to fascism, not just in Germany but here too. Every time it has broken out in America, the result has been the mass deaths of racial minorities. Read Richard Hofstadter.

Richard Hofstadter Explains Trump and the Populist Right

...and then he gives us a specific.

In the early 60s, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Hofstadter traced the tribalism that wended its way through American history. The enemy was always there, he said. Brayton explains...
Immigrants in particular are always a target. Each new wave of immigration brings about a reaction of nativism, bigotry and xenophobia. Irish, Polish, German, Chinese, now Mexican and Latino, or Muslim, all make convenient scapegoats. Demagogues skillfully push the buttons of fear in the minds of those given to such emotions, something that study after study shows maps almost exactly with conservative political ideology. This is just the latest incarnation.

At best, it results in bigotry and violence — at best. At worst, it results in passing laws that allow certain groups to be murdered with impunity and in official state violence, as against Native Americans, Mormons (at one time in at least two states, it was actually legal to kill Mormons), the Chinese and others. It results in throwing people in prison for being anti-war or for protesting for equality and justice, something the constitution was supposed to protect against.
Brayton includes a link to Hofstadter's 1964 piece, The Paranoid Style in American Politics...a must read.


Dear White Supremacists: There Will Be No Race War

Faced with an uprising of hate and fear Steven Singer (gadflyonthewallblog) writes a blog poem to white supremacists. Here's an extended quote...
The face of America is changing. And it’s increasingly brown.

It’s got curly hair and unexpected features. It’s fed by different foods and nourished by different beliefs and customs. And it’s often called by a name that doesn’t derive from Europe.

People are starting to speak up. They’re starting to call you out.

And you don’t like it.

More than that you’re scared. Terrified.

It’s all going to end. The lie you told yourself about being special.

So you huddle together with others just like you, shivering and crying and blowing snot onto each others shoulders pretending that it’s a rally for white pride. It’s really just the world’s biggest pity party for boys too scared to be men and own up.

Addressing Charlottesville In Class If School Met Tomorrow

How did you greet your class this Monday morning? How do you talk to children, of any age, about the divisions in our society? How do you handle hate, bigotry, and prejudice in your classroom?

It's no longer possible to close your classroom door and ignore racism in America – if it ever was. Pretending it doesn't exist doesn't help your students.

From Caffeinated Rage
...I would not field any comments or invite discussion until I had the class do one thing.

On a piece of paper that I would not take up or force them to read in front of the class (unless they wanted to), I would ask them to define the word “HATRED” – its connotations, denotations, and actions associated with it.

Then we would start class.


The People We Are Supposed to Be

NEA's Lily Eskelsen Garcia on talking to children about race – resources included...
Do not shy away from talking about this terrible topic with the young, I beg you. There is, perhaps, nothing harder than a conversation on race. But do it, because how we feel about race; how we react to racism informs how we feel about and react to all other forms of bias and prejudice. Children of all races, religions, all gender attractions and gender identities, of all cultures and social classes must have a safe space to speak and ask questions and wonder and think and be angry and be comforted.

Teaching about race, racism and police violence: Resources for educators and parents

This post from the Answer Sheet was published in July 2016. Need help with the topic of racism in your classroom?
Teaching Tolerance was founded in 1991 as a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center and is dedicated to reducing prejudice and supporting equitable school experiences for all children in America. It provides free educational materials, and its magazine is sent to nearly every school in the country.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

2017 Medley #24: "Government Schools"

The War Against 'Government Schools',
The Myth of Failing Schools

THE WAR AGAINST "GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS"

The War Against America's Public Schools by Gerald Bracey, published 2001. The war continues...
What the ‘Government Schools’ Critics Really Mean

In a New York Times op ed, Katherine Stewart reminds us that the phrase "government schools" carries a negative connotation. She then goes on to connect the phrase to radical market guru Milton Friedman, and before him, Jim Crow.
...in certain conservative circles, the phrase “government schools” has become as ubiquitous as it is contemptuous.

What most people probably hear in this is the unmistakable refrain of American libertarianism, for which all government is big and bad. The point of calling public schools “government schools” is to conjure the specter of pathologically inefficient, power-mad bureaucrats.


To Defend Public Schools, the Hard Left Puts On the Tin Foil Hat

David French, writing in the conservative National Review, responds to Stewart's article and says that the right calls public schools "government schools" because that's what they are.
Public schools are government schools...Too many Americans are stuck in a time warp, believing that the local school is somehow “their” school. They don’t understand that public education is increasingly centralized — teaching a uniform curriculum, teaching a particular, secular set of values, and following priorities set in Washington, not by their local school board. The phrase is helpful for breaking through idealism and getting parents to analyze and understand the gritty reality of modern public education. The phrase works.
Technically, French is correct. Public schools, like any public service, is, by definition, a branch of the "government." That's why governments at most levels have departments of education. That's why school boards are (or should be) elected. That's why teachers can't engage in religious proselytization while they are working and are "agents" of the government.

But it's the negative connotation Stewart wrote of that French promotes in his condescending attempt to support the privatization of public education. While disingenuously claiming that public schools are indeed government schools so the name doesn't mean anything negative, he goes on to use the phrase negatively. He claims that, since public school supporters can't defend the "failing" public schools, we take to name-calling to support our argument.
Even worse for the government-school loyalist, the fight takes place on unfavorable ground. Public schools are failing large segments of the public. They’ve been failing for decades. So rather than defend public schooling on its meager merits, all too many ideologues fall back on the old insults. “Racist!” they cry. “Theocrat!” they yell.
What could be more democratic than choice, he claims, falling back on the old argument that poor children ought to have the same "choices" that wealthy children have...without noting that...
  • It is often the schools which do the choosing while feeling perfectly comfortable in denying "choice" to students who are difficult or expensive to teach.
Ignoring these facts he begs us not to deny private school excellence over public school failure.
...Spend much time with America’s wealthier families, and it’s not uncommon to see parents with three kids in three different schools. They made choices based on each child’s unique needs. They give their children the best possible chance to succeed. Why deny these choices to poor kids? Should we punish them for their parents’ economic performance? Faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system and limiting parental choice, all too many defenders of government schools fall back on name-calling, conspiracy theories, and their own anti-Christian bigotries. But they can cite Rushdoony all they want. It doesn’t make him relevant. It doesn’t make public schools better. And it certainly doesn’t invalidate the good and decent effort to use greater competition to improve education for everyone — white and black alike.
Three kids in three different schools? What poor family would have the transportation resources for this situation, unless French wants vouchers to cover the cost of taxis, time off work to transport children, or extra cars for kids to transport themselves. Why not? Should we punish those children "for their parents' economic performance?"

Are public schools failing "large segments of the public?" Public schools struggle to effectively educate the shamefully high number of high-poverty students in America because they don't have the money or resources to support them in the way they need to be supported. There aren't enough counselors, nurses, and social workers in high-poverty schools. There aren't enough librarians, books or materials. There isn't enough science equipment. There aren't enough learning specialists. School buildings are in disrepair. And the budget proposed by the current administration in Washington will guarantee that there won't be enough after school programs. [For a good discussion of the needs of public school students see The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools by the Chicago Teachers Union.]

Public school advocates are not "faced with the difficult task of defending a failing system." Instead we're faced with the difficult task of responding to the misinformation, deflections, and lies coming from privatizers who deny that poverty has anything to do with low school achievement and that it's the politicians and policy makers who have failed to fully support public education. Policy makers ought to be held responsible by their constituents to provide full public school funding based on the needs of the community. Policy makers ought to be held responsible for relieving the pressures of our society's economic inequality, rather than blaming the victims who are relegated to understaffed, and under-resourced institutions.

And we're not faced with the task of defending a failing system. America's public schools are not failing.

Public schools, when statistics are corrected for demographics, perform better than private schools. The University of Chicago Press reviewers of The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, by Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, write,
Private schools have higher scores not because they are better institutions but because their students largely come from more privileged backgrounds that offer greater educational support. After correcting for demographics, the Lubienskis go on to show that gains in student achievement at public schools are at least as great and often greater than those at private ones. Even more surprising, they show that the very mechanism that market-based reformers champion—autonomy—may be the crucial factor that prevents private schools from performing better. Alternatively, those practices that these reformers castigate, such as teacher certification and professional reforms of curriculum and instruction, turn out to have a significant effect on school improvement.
Instead of accusing public school advocates of "anti-Christian" bigotry because we refuse to approve of mixing public tax dollars with religious school education, French ought to get his facts straight.


The Right Wing in America Has Long Tried to Destroy 'Government Schools'

Another discussion of the "government schools" phrase. The people who are working to privatize public education hate government, and because public schools are government sponsored public services, they hate public education, too. This isn't new.

Do they also hate public libraries? public parks? and public water systems? Do they hate the government run military?
...these people are working with a completely different ethical system than the rest of us and a different philosophy, but it's a coherent one and they are pursuing their goals with very strategic, calculating tools.” That's also why the right is so focused on the teachers' unions. It’s not because they are only concerned about the quality of education and think that teachers are blocking that. First of all, this is a cause that hated public education—what they would call government schools; they don’t even want to say public education—before there were teachers' unions.


THE MYTH OF FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Challenging the myth that public schools are failing is one of the greatest obstacles facing public school advocates. Some selected responses to that myth...

What the numbers really tell us about America’s public schools
What I have suggested for ameliorating the low performance of low-income children, on all our assessments, are characteristics of schooling and the provision of health and other supports for children now present in wealthier communities. Perhaps, then, we should rely on John Dewey to help low-income students succeed, instead of putting our faith in vouchers, charters, test preparation, teacher accountability and the like. To paraphrase just a little, Dewey said:
“What the best and wisest … 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.”
The Myth Behind Public School Failure
In the rush to privatize the country’s schools, corporations and politicians have decimated school budgets, replaced teaching with standardized testing, and placed the blame on teachers and students.
U.S. Public Schools Are NOT Failing. They’re Among the Best in the World
...why do we believe that American public schools are doing such a terrible job?

Because far right policymakers have convinced us all that it’s true.

It’s not.

Let me repeat that in no uncertain terms – America’s public schools are NOT failing. They are among the best in the world. Really!
The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools
The problem that DeVos and others don't understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don't weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested...

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don't achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty.
The Myth of Public School Failure
But when schools are doing better than ever before, the best way to encourage continued improvement is not a concerted attack on school governance and organization. A more effective approach would be praise for accomplishment, provision of additional resources to programs whose results justify support, and reforms on the margin to correct programs and curricula shown to be ineffective. 


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Friday, July 28, 2017

I Haven't Seen it, Therefore it Does Not Exist

ABNORMAL PSYCHICAL CONDITIONS IN CHILDREN

ADHD is real. The fact that it first appeared in the DSM in 1968 doesn't mean it was somehow invented out of thin air. It has been identified, though called by other names, as far back as the 18th century. Modern names (post 1900) include "minimal brain damage", "minimal brain dysfunction", "hyperkinetic impulse disorder", and "learning/behavioral disabilities."

Interview: Russell Barkley
...there is no controversy among practicing scientists who have devoted their careers to this disorder. No scientific meetings mention any controversies about the disorder, about its validity as a disorder, about the usefulness of using stimulant medications like Ritalin for it. There simply is no controversy. The science speaks for itself. And the science is overwhelming that the answer to these questions is in the affirmative: it's a real disorder; it's valid; and it can be managed...


RESTRICTIVE DIAGNOSIS

The DSM-5 is very clear. Normal, age-appropriate inattentiveness or activity does not mean that a child is ADHD. In order to correctly diagnose ADHD symptoms must...
...have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level...
Inappropriate for developmental level means that the average child's normal impulsiveness, distractibility, and restlessness are not criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD.

Additionally, the condition must be present in more than one area (for example, home AND school), and other conditions, such as childhood depression, must be ruled out first. The condition must also create "significant" life issues in those two (or more) areas. A child who is "very active" but has no problems related to his "activity" should not be diagnosed with ADHD.

MIS-DIAGNOSIS?  OVER-DIAGNOSIS?

In his blog post, Is ADHD A Fraud?, teacher Tom does not come out and deny that ADHD is a real condition, but he doesn't acknowledge that it's real either.
I'm not a psychiatrist, but I know the symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) and I can honestly say that of the hundreds of children that have passed my way over the past couple decades, I've never met one upon whom I would hang that label.

Now, I admit to be completely unqualified to make that diagnosis, but you would think that by now I would have run across at least one child who set off my alarm bells. Or perhaps there is something about our school that attracts non-ADHD kids, or maybe I'm looking right at the symptoms and just see normal behavior, or it could be that the folks performing the diagnoses are wrong more often than they are right.
Is ADHD over- and mis- diagnosed? Very likely, but that doesn't mean that the condition doesn't exist. As Teacher Tom said, he's not qualified to answer that question.

A German study found that most diagnoses do not meet the DSM criteria for ADHD. The study also found that, given the same symptoms, boys were diagnosed with ADHD more than girls.

Do these erroneous diagnoses mean that the condition does not exist? Diagnosing ADHD isn't easy. The idea of what constitutes appropriate developmental behavior is not as easy as looking at an x-ray to identify a broken bone. But, the difficulty of the diagnosis is, by itself, not sufficient to deny that the condition exists. The anecdotal fact that Teacher Tom never "ran across" an actual case of ADHD as a teacher for several decades might be unusual, but it doesn't mean that the condition is non-existent.

He suggests the possibility that the condition was created by "big pharma" in order to increase profits. It's true that the over-diagnosis of the condition might be a product of pharmaceutical salesmen putting ideas in doctors' heads about how easy it is to "treat" the condition, but since the condition has been identified for more than 2 centuries, making the claim that it was created in order to cash in is questionable (I also expect that many doctors would object to being characterized as that easily swayed by pharmaceutical salesmen).

Is ADHD Overdiagnosed or Underdiagnosed? Looking at Evidence.
The problem with misdiagnosis is that it undermines the legitimate condition that is ADHD. Some people that are severely affected by this condition may be overlooked and/or not properly treated. Some would argue that the most successful individuals with ADHD tend to be those who find ways to cope with and manage the symptoms on their own.

Although there are drawbacks associated with ADHD, some people are able to channel their hyperactivity towards being productive. Keep in mind that there are many different types of ADHD that a person could be dealing with. According to the DSM-5 there are 3 types, but according to others there are 7 types. Therefore individuals that don’t know much about this subject may be prone to making a misdiagnosis.


ON THE OTHER HAND...

All that being said, Teacher Tom is right about several things. First, journalist Thom Hartman has written about the evolutionary aspects of ADHD...and why the condition is, in his opinion, not a disorder. Hartman makes a good argument, and I agree that the possibility exists that the condition is more a product of civilization than an inherent disorder. [Unfortunately, we live in a society built upon certain social norms. The societal conditions which combine to make ADHD a "disorder" must be considered. This, however, is a conversation for another time. Please see Hartman's work...]

Teacher Tom is also correct in implying that the problem "belongs" to the adults. It's our job as teachers to accommodate our students, not vice versa. ADHD, is real, but teachers shouldn't use it as an excuse to ignore a child's academic, social, and emotional needs.

On the other hand, denying the existence of the condition – or in Teacher Tom's case, a "denial-not-denial" – isn't helpful. Neither is blaming it on inferior teachers or schools, which he does as well.
Traditional schools emphasize paying attention, sitting still, and concentrating on one thing at a time and children who struggle with that simply show up as a problem. I mean, that's tough for any kid, let alone one with a highly energetic brain and body. In contrast, when we don't place those artificial expectations on kids, like in a play-based curriculum, the "problem" disappears.
and
I suspect that for the most part, ADHD is mental health disorder that largely only exists under certain, unnatural circumstances, namely in traditional schools...
Essentially, he's saying, "I haven't seen ADHD because my school and the way I teach is the 'right' way, and other people, who are doing it wrong, are 'creating' the condition by their unnatural circumstances and inferior teaching." Unfortunately, the fact is that even in developmentally appropriate school conditions, ADHD doesn't "disappear."

Let me be very clear...

I agree that a play-based curriculum is developmentally appropriate and preferable for pre-schoolers and kindergarten.

Adults are responsible for creating a learning environment which fits children's needs, not the other way around. Forcing children to accommodate adult preferences is counter productive to educational progress. It's up to us to accommodate ourselves to our students' learning needs.



ACCURATE DIAGNOSIS

However, Teacher Tom's statement indicates that he really doesn't understand what an ADHD diagnosis is. Perhaps that's why he hasn't seen it in his years of teaching. Check out the diagnostic criteria again. Read carefully...

Notice first, the DSM-5 requires that the behaviors in question are inappropriate to the development of the child. It would be (and is) completely appropriate for children attending pre-schools in which they were forced to sit still for long periods of time, be unable to concentrate, to fidget, and to act out. The same is true for schools which require long periods of sitting in kindergarten and primary grades. Developmentally appropriate means that the developmental age and needs of children are taken into consideration when a curriculum and means of delivery are chosen.

Second, the DSM-5 is very clear in its requirement that ADHD symptoms must be present in two or more settings. As a teacher, he wouldn't be able to diagnose a child with ADHD because he is, most likely, with his students in only one setting - the school. That's why an accurate and complete diagnosis requires input from teachers, parents, and others who have contact with the child. Neither should doctors diagnose children just on the parent's say-so.

Third, the behaviors must interfere with a child's functioning. They must "get in the way" of a child's learning, or social development. If they don't, then the diagnosis of ADHD can not be made.

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS

Teacher Tom seems to accept common misconceptions about ADHD. Not every child who runs around yelling has ADHD. Not every child who is distractible has ADHD. A true diagnosis of ADHD is not easy to make, and shouldn't be made on the basis of seeing a few symptoms and then slapping a label on a child. Like any other medical diagnosis, ADHD must be done carefully and by experienced professionals. Unfortunately, there are many cases where care is not taken and undiagnosed or untreated ADHD can result in emotional and academic damage which can last a lifetime.
The problem with misdiagnosis is that it undermines the legitimate condition that is ADHD.
ADHD exists, whether Teacher Tom has seen evidence of it or not. And, like other conditions affecting children in school (e.g. poverty, divorce), ADHD affects every aspect of a child's life. It must be considered when creating a child's educational program. Ignoring it, or claiming ADHD doesn't exist – even with the half-hearted qualifiers that Teacher Tom included in his piece – is irresponsible.


This is a revisit of a topic I wrote about in a post titled, The Task of Your Life.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 Medley #23

De-Professionalizing Teachers,
Anti-Intellectualism, Vouchers,
The Destruction of Public Education in Indianapolis

DE-PROFESSIONALIZING TEACHERS

The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching

De-professionalizing teaching is just one front of the war on public education. Nancy Flanagan addresses the confusion of privatizers claiming that becoming a teacher is too easy through the traditional routes...colleges and university schools of education. She talks about the difficulty of the new Florida test that teachers must pass in order to become a licensed teacher...and then goes on to remind us that the same privatizers want to allow anyone to teach in private and charter schools...easier paths to teaching.

Here in Indiana, for example, the EdTPA which pre-service teachers must complete, requires intense attention to, and hours of investment in, teaching and planning lessons...and at the same time, REPA III allows anyone with a content area degree to start teaching in a high school with no experience in actual teaching.

The point? De-professionalize teaching. End the existence of the career teacher who has the best interest of the students at heart. Instead, fill classrooms with idealistic young college graduates on their way up the corporate ladder, who don't really know anything about teaching and will accept minimal pay for parroting direct teaching scripts...and who will leave after two years, thereby making room for other minimal pay teachers.

Drive out the career oriented teachers by making the requirements for teaching onerous and expensive. Bring in the unqualified and inexperienced who won't ask for benefits or pensions.
The policy goal here is de-professionalizing teaching, establishing it once and for all as a short-term, entry-level technical job designed to attract a revolving door of "community-minded" candidates, who will work diligently for cheap, then get out because they can't support a family or buy a home on a teacher's salary.

Emphasis on the word cheap. This is about profit and control, not improving education.

In addition to shutting out promising candidates by stringent testing or changing policy to allow virtually anyone with a college degree in the classroom, policymakers, spurred by ALEC and a host of education nonprofits, are also de-professionalizing by:
  • Messing with pension, retirement and insurance packages to encourage young teachers to move in and quickly out of a job that has no financial future.
  • Bringing community-based artists, musicians, sports trainers and library aides into classrooms that used to be staffed by certified teachers.
  • Confiscating teachers' professional work--instruction, curriculum, assessment, collegial mentoring, etc. Decisions that were once a teacher's prerogative are now outsourced to canned curricula designed to raise test scores, or standardized assessments that don't take knowledge of students and their context into consideration. Who should determine the curricular frameworks, design lessons and set goals for students? Teachers and school leaders who know the students and community where they work? Or a Gates-funded, agenda-driven organization?
  • Defunding the schools where the vast majority of professionally prepared teachers are working.
  • Borrowing from the success universities have had, by designing "part-time" jobs (think: K-12 "adjuncts") with pro-rated benefit packages, a lure to get good teaching for even less money than base pay.


Do You Think Every Child Deserves a Qualified Teacher?

New York is considering allowing anyone to teach...because, after all, it really doesn't require any special skill set to stand up in front of a class of 30 kids and drill them on test prep materials.
The charter school committee of the State University of New York will soon decide whether charter schools will be allowed to hire uncertified teachers.

Forbes Says 18 Dumb Things

The Forbes article, Teacher Certification Makes Public School Education Worse, Not Better, by University of Chicago Law Professor, Omri Ben Shahar, announces that certified teachers are actually a detriment to our education system.

Peter Greene takes him to task on 18 of his statements which make no sense...to someone with any K-12 teaching experience, that is. Before you read Greene's breakdown of Bar Shahar's ignorant pontificating on a subject he knows nothing about, consider this...

Ben Shahar has three law degrees and two economics degrees. He's spent his more than 20 year professional career working in higher education as a professor of law and economics. One look at his CV gives one a picture of a man who has spent decades perfecting his understanding of economics and law.

But nowhere in his experience has he spent time living and working with K-12 students and teachers. His claim that teacher certification makes public school education worse, is based on standardized test scores. One wonders if he would allow himself to be judged by the bar exam success rate of his students. He wrote...
...America has excellent higher education. Yet primary and secondary school students have long performed poorly on tests compared with students from many industrialized countries.
His understanding of what goes on in a traditional public school is based on what? His own experience? His children's experience? What he reads in the media? It seems obvious that he based his entire argument on the fact that "many industrialized countries" have higher test scores than we do. The very fact that he uses test scores as the measure of K-12 public education success or failure underscores his ignorance. There are several reasons why the average test scores of American students are below those of some other OECD nations...and none of them have to do with teacher certification.

For example...
In other words, if you want to compare the achievement of America's public school students to students in other countries, standardized test scores are probably the worst way to do it.

When Bar Shahar can match my 40 plus years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher, and volunteer in K-12 schools, then I'll listen to his reasons why teacher certification doesn't work...
This is the final line of the article, and nothing in it has been proven in any of the lines that came before. Great teachers are somehow born and not made, and they alone can fix everything, and they are apparently distributed randomly throughout the population. Somehow by lowering standards, lowering pay, destabilizing pay, and removing job security, we will attract more of them and flush them out.

That's 18 dumb things in one short article. I suppose Forbes could get better articles if they paid less and let anybody write for them.


ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN AMERICA

Elevating Ignorance

It seems to be a source pride among some Americans, to be ignorant.
It's irrational.
What is worth thinking about, however, is what has been termed “America’s Cult of Ignorance.” An article addressing that issue began with my favorite Isaac Asimov quote:
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

VOUCHERS DON'T WORK, BUT THAT DOESN'T MATTER

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care About Negative Results of Vouchers

Here are some reasons that Indiana's legislators don't care about the negative results of vouchers.
Legislators don’t care. They want to send more money away from public schools. The results don’t matter. They have stopped claiming that vouchers will “save” poor kids from failing schools. No one was saved.

They don’t care. They want to do harm to the schools that enroll the vast majority of students.

Why? I don’t know. What do you think can explain their determination to throw more money into vouchers now that they know they are ineffective?


Betsy DeVos Is Not My Secretary of Education

There's no academic reason for vouchers. Politicians and policy makers ought to quit pretending that they're pushing the privatization of public education "for children."
Then there is DeVos’s promotion of tax cuts for the wealthy under the guise of vouchers. Vouchers are another avenue for school choice. Students take the money allotted to educate them in a public school and move it to a private school in the form of a scholarship. Yet even voucher supporters must reckon with research showing vouchers don’t work. If the most recent studies show that vouchers don’t work, how does that create equity for our students? If equity isn’t the goal, then why the need to pretend we need vouchers for our most marginalized families?

INDIANAPOLIS: THE "DESTROY PUBLIC EDUCATION" (DPE) MOVEMENT

A MUST READ! Think National, Fight Local: The Story of Indianapolis and the DPE (Destroy Public Education) Movement

This excellent post by Diane Ravitch explains how the Indianapolis public schools are being destroyed and privatized. The quote below is from a commenter...

Comment from "Retiredteacher
Privatization is like a creeping virus that slowing erodes the immune system and the ability to fight the infection. We have seen similar patterns at work in numerous cities. Privatization is the result of collusion between the local government and a variety of foundations backed by dark money, and it is supported by members of both major political parties. Supporters of public education must organize to fight back in the media, the courts and the voting booths. We should remind people that no system of privatization has ever solved society’s problems. The big byproducts of privatization are destruction of public education, increased misuse of local tax dollars, loss of democratic power, and increased segregation. Privatization is a massive shift of wealth from the working class to the wealthy.


Recognized charter school shuts down two Indianapolis locations

The last sentence below clearly states the bottom-line for charter schools...
According to charter school admission documents, the Shadeland Carpe Diem's funding was composed of the following:

$245,000 Philanthropic Donation
$90,000 Federal Start-up funds (1st year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
$240,000 Federal Start-up funds (2nd year)
The charter also gets $500/student from the Charter School Grant Fund. (This is a property tax replacement fund. Charter schools do not get property tax dollars.)

Like Indiana public schools, the Charter also received funds from the Common School Loan Program.

"In retrospect, it was really too fast, too soon," said Carpe Diem Board President Jason Bearce. "We just weren't able to get the enrollment to make the budget balance."

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

I Lift My Lamp

Emma Lazarus, born on this day in 1849...
After returning from Europe, Lazarus was asked for an original poem to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the building of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Though she initially declined, Lazarus later used the opportunity to express the plight of refugee immigrants, who she cared greatly about. Her resulting sonnet, "The New Colossus", includes the iconic lines “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," and is inscribed on a plaque on the pedestal of the monument.


"The New Colossus"

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


– Emma Lazarus, 1883



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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Listen to This #9

THE BEST IN THE WORLD

Sometimes They’re Right

America's public schools are not "failing." However, that doesn't mean that they can't improve. After reminding us how the nation's public schools are the best in the world, Rob Miller goes on to remind us that many criticisms of public education are true. It's up to us to make public education the "unequivocal BEST choice for America’s children."

From Rob Miller
...public education is an absolute right for every child in America, not just the privileged. No other school system anywhere in the world exceeds the United States in providing free access to education for everyone. And that, alone, makes us exceptional.



CHOICE

I got to choose private schools, but will vouchers really help other kids make it?

Indiana's voucher program began as a way to "save poor children from 'failing' schools." It was restricted by income, and parents had to try the public schools before they could get a voucher to send their child to a private school. It didn't matter that it was the state, not the schools that was "failing" the students. All that mattered was that privatizers rationalize a way to give tax money to private schools and churches.

Once it was clear that private and parochial education didn't provide better services for poor children, the argument changed.

The voucher program has been expanded to include middle class students, and students who have never set foot in public schools. Public dollars are being used to pay for religious instruction.

The call is now for "choice." There's no attempt to claim that private and parochial schools are better. The entire reason for the voucher program is now "choice."

From Emmanuel Felton in The Hechinger Report
School choice by its very nature uproots its customers from their communities, increasing the proportion of Americans without any stake in what’s going on in public schools, the schools that will always serve the children most in need of attention.
GRADING SCHOOLS IN INDIANA

Board members favor counting test scores more than growth

From Christopher Tienken quoted by Steve Hinnefeld
Whether you’re trying to measure proficiency or growth, standardized tests are not the answer...
ESSA INDIANA

Diploma rule a setback for Indiana schools, students

Federal law requires that students with special needs have an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. It's required that the IEP describe a modified program appropriate to the student. Yet, now we find that the same Federal laws which require those accommodations for special needs students, requires that they, along with their teachers and schools, be punished for those accommodations.

Since charter schools and schools accepting vouchers enroll fewer special needs students than public schools, it is the "grade" of the public schools which will suffer because of this loathsome and abusive practice. It is the students who were told what they needed to do, and who did it, who will be told, "your diploma doesn't really count."

From Steve Hinnefeld
...students who struggle to earn the general diploma and likely wouldn’t complete a more rigorous course of study, the change seems to send a message that their efforts aren’t good enough. About 30 percent of students who earn a general diploma are special-needs students.



TRUMP-DEVOS

After Six Months, What Has Trump-DeVos Department of Education Accomplished?

The sooner this administration is history, the better.

From Jan Resseger
To summarize—Betsy DeVos has said she intends to “neutralize” the Office of Civil Rights, which can only be interpreted as weakening its role. DeVos is delaying rules to protect borrowers who have been defrauded by unscrupulous for-profit colleges. While DeVos promotes school accountability through parental school choice, her staff are busy demanding continued test-and-punish accountability from the states. And finally, the D.C. voucher program remains the only federally funded tuition voucher program, despite that DeVos has declared the expansion of several kinds of school vouchers to be her priority.
DEVOS ON SPECIAL EDUCATION

The deep irony in Betsy DeVos’s first speech on special education

From Valerie Strauss, in the Answer Sheet
We should celebrate the fact that unlike some countries in the world, the United States makes promises that we will never send any student away from our schools. Our commitment is to educate every student. Period. It’s but one of America’s many compelling attributes.
The irony in this statement is that it is the traditional public education system in the United States that promises a free and appropriate education for all students. There is no question that many traditional public schools don’t meet this promise, but the goal is aspirational and seen as a public good. And it is the traditional U.S. public education system that DeVos has labeled a “dead end” and a “monopoly,” while the alternatives to these traditional public school districts that she promotes don’t make the same promise.
PUNISHING THIRD GRADERS

FL: Third Grade Readers Lose

The attack on public education, and on eight year old children in particular, continues. Florida uses a "third grade reading test" that students must pass, else they face retention in grade. Just like Indiana...
Just like Ohio...
Just like Mississippi...
and Oklahoma...
and Arizona...
and Connecticut...
California...
Michigan...

Another abusive "learn or be punished" policy.

From Peter Greene in Curmudgucation
What sucks more is that the final outcome maintains Florida's power to flunk any third grader who refuses to take the test, regardless of any other academic indicators. In fact, the whole mess of a ruling would seem to suggest that Florida intends to ignore the part of ESSA that explicitly recognizes parental rights to opt out.

...the state had to explicitly declare that it doesn't believe in the grades on report cards and that it values test-taking compliance above all else AND that it fully intends to ignore the opt-out portion of ESSA. So the face of education policy continues to be ugly, but at least they were required to show it without any mask or make-up.



TEACHER SHORTAGE: PAY

Teacher Pay Penalty Driving Educators Away From Profession

8 steps to destroy public education...
  1. Schools are labeled "failing."
  2. Teachers are demonized for not raising test scores.
  3. Tax money is diverted to private and charter schools creating a public school funding crisis.
  4. Funding crises yields a drop in teacher salaries.
  5. Fewer young people choose a career in education creating a teacher shortage.
  6. Fewer teachers means larger class sizes.
  7. Larger class sizes means lowered achievement, especially for poor students.
  8. Lowered achievement means more schools will be labeled "failing."
This quote deals with step 5 in the process.

From Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.
“We are moving into a world where fewer people are trying to enter teaching, in part because the profession has been degraded by misguided accountability measures and also because of the erosion of pay,” says Mishel.

TEACHERS UNION

Blaming Unions for Bad Schools

From Walt Gardner
It's so easy to scapegoat teachers' unions for all the ills afflicting public schools ("State of the Teachers Union," The Wall Street Journal, Jul. 6). The charge is that they are more interested in protecting teachers than in teaching students ("This is what teachers unions really protect," New York Post, Jul. 6). Critics point to the success of charter schools, which are overwhelmingly non-union, as evidence.

But what these critics don't admit is that states like Massachusetts and Minnesota, which have strong teachers unions, also post high test scores. Is that merely a coincidence or is it evidence that the critics are wrong? (Correlation is not causation.) Moreover, not all charter schools post positive results by any means.


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Monday, July 17, 2017

2017 Medley #22 - ESSA, A-F, and DAP, oh my!

ESSA, Private Schools, A-F, SBOE, DAP

FEDS MAKE A-F WORSE, STATE FAVORS PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Grad rates, grades to fall

A decision by the U.S. Education Department will result in thousands of Indiana students' diplomas not being counted in graduation statistics causing dozens of schools to score lower on the A-F Grading System.


The fact that the USED can, with the backing of the federal ESSA law, lower the value of diplomas and thereby a school's grade without any change in the actual achievement of the students is an indication that there is something wrong here.

The A-F grading system in Indiana has been wrong from day one. It's been riddled with confusion and corruption. The original metrics weren't adequate, said the State Board Of Education, so they "fixed" them. A former State Superintendent, Tony Bennett, manipulated them to increase the scores of favored schools. The mathematical manipulations have done nothing to improve student achievement or give patrons a better understanding of a school's effectiveness. It has simply become a way to label schools and neighborhoods as "failing" (read "poor").

This time, however, it's the USED which is screwing things up.

As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the U.S. (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) seems hell-bent on making it more difficult for teachers and schools to do their jobs, and for students to learn. The only goal seems to be to humiliate students, schools, and neighborhoods where students struggle.
Local schools will see a drop in graduation rates – and related controversial A-F school grades – under a new interpretation by the U.S. Department of Education.

...McCormick lamented that the new Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to be more flexible yet the feds aren't bending.

She warned that some schools might see their graduation rates drop into the 30 percent to 40 percent level.

...[NACS Superintendent, Chris] Himsel said, “I don't even pay attention to the A to F stuff. It's so not related to what we do for kids it doesn't mean anything anymore.”

While...many have lost confidence in that system it is still reported in the media and can cause harm to districts - especially along borders with competing schools allowing transfer students.
But, of course, we can't let those nasties at the USED damage Indiana's favored private schools. They'll still get public tax money for teaching religious doctrine, fixing church steeples, and expanding parochial school buildings, even if their students don't "measure up."

After unsuccessful first attempt, private voucher schools use new Indiana law to win reprieve from A-F consequences
Four private schools with repeated years of D and F grades from the state will get to accept new voucher students next fall.

The Indiana State Board of Education today approved Central Christian Academy, Turning Point School, Lutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School’s requests for waivers after a failed vote last month would have denied them.

The requests take advantage of a new Indiana law passed in April that allows the state board to consider such waivers for private schools that can still show their students have improved academically.

Today, six board members voted in favor of the waivers. Gordon Hendry and Steve Yager were still opposed. State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, who also voted no last month, was out sick.
[Note: This method of ignoring "failure" for private schools while punishing the same "failure" in public schools is not unique to Indiana or voucher schools. It happens with charter operators, too. For another example, see Philadelphia: KIPP Gets Whatever It Wants, Despite Poor Performance.]


AND THE STATE DOUBLES DOWN

Test scores could get more important as state board looks to reverse course on A-F grades

To make a bad situation worse, the State Board of Education (SBOE) has decided that getting the right answer is more important than learning.

In an educationally indefensible reversal, the SBOE has chosen to give more weight to "proficiency" than to "growth" in figuring a school's grade. The discussion was reminiscent of Betsy DeVos's Confirmation Hearing (although at least the members of the SBOE appeared to understand the concepts), and members of the SBOE agreed with board member David Freitas who said that “Proficiency is more important than growth.”

This means that inadequate standardized tests, which are biased, advantage the wealthy, provide minimal feedback to classroom teachers, penalize non-standard thinkers, and use arbitrary, subjectively-set pass-fail cut scores, will become even more important leading to more teaching to the test, focusing on "the bubble-kids," and outright cheating.

[emphasis added]
Board members Thursday, though, said they think it's more important to know how students are doing on the ultimate goal: performing on grade level.

“Growth, to me, is much less important than proficiency,” said B.J. Watts, a sixth-grade social studies and science teacher in Evansville.

Board members Tony Walker, Byron Ernest and Kathleen Mote said they, too, would like to see more emphasis on achievement. Walker said that if schools receive an A letter grade, the public should be confident they are already high-achieving.

"Right now, you can be on the road to high-performing and get an A," he said.
GRADE LEVEL, DAP, AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

I challenge those members of the SBOE to define grade level. Anyone who has been teaching for more than a few years has seen the definition of grade level change. What was third grade in 1997 isn't third grade in 2017.

It's perhaps beneficial that expectations for what students can do should rise as humans grow and knowledge increases and changes. However, there is such a thing as "development." Students develop at different rates. Humans are not the same. Using a measurement to help identify a student's strengths and weaknesses is different than using that same measurement to classify a child as "successful" or "failing."


Meeting students where they are, academically and physically, and helping them reach challenging, yet achievable goals, is called Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP).

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) defines DAP as
...an approach to teaching grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn and in what is known about effective early education. Its framework is designed to promote young children’s optimal learning and development.

DAP involves teachers meeting young children where they are (by stage of development), both as individuals and as part of a group; and helping each child meet challenging and achievable learning goals.
This applies to older children as well, since the human brain doesn't reach full development until sometime in the 20s.

Our obsession with testing...our obsession with trying to make all students learn at the same rate is not developmentally sound and it's a statistical impossibility.

Punishing students, their teachers, or their schools, for not being "developmentally equal" to others is insane. Stop it!

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Charlatans Are Here


[Part 2 of 2: A followup post on the recent increase of anti-science and anti-intellectualism in America. Click HERE here to read Part 1, Standing in Denial, Rising to Power.]

GOOD TEACHERS RETEACH

What can we, as actual educators (not the Betsy DeVos kind), do to change the country's direction when it comes to science, and to learning in general?

1. When students don't learn the first time, good teachers reteach. As teachers, we can take it upon ourselves to reteach history, including scientific innovations and developments, to the American people. Even the know-nothings like Pruitt and Perry use science every day with their cell phones, their cable and satellite TVs, and their kitchens. It's important to remember how those advancements came about. This, of course, won't deter those who deny science or are "reforming" schools in order to enrich themselves. However, it might help support regular citizens who are interested in planning for the nation's future.

As teachers, we must become active lobbyists. We should lobby parents, local, state and federal legislators and policy-makers to do what needs to be done to Make America Smart Again.


Teachers need to speak out, write to legislators, support public education advocacy groups like the Indiana Coalition for Public Education or the Network for Public Education, and educate their friends, neighbors, and relatives.

TEACH THE COMMUNITY

Specifically teachers should lobby for the following.

2. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

3. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 57th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Slovakia, Cuba, Singapore, Canada, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do...we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

4. The next step in countering the effects of poverty is to invest in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

5. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,
...including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.
6. Support students by lowering class sizes.

7. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, and vouchers for private and parochial schools.

8. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can't overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. See .

9. End the scourge of high-stakes testing. See #2.

10. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.
Research-based strategies and proven models for improving the teaching profession should guide the maintenance and growth of a dedicated, experienced, and multi-racial teaching staff...In Finland, a country known for high-performing students, teaching is a respected, top career choice; teachers have autonomy in their classrooms, work collectively to develop the school curriculum, and participate in shared governance of the school...They receive strong professional support throughout their careers and ample time for collaboration with colleagues built into their workday. They are not rated; they are trusted.
11. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option. See #7.

12. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It's time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.
More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, federal education policies still implicitly accept the myth of “separate but equal,” by attempting to improve student outcomes without integrating schools. Policymakers have tried creating national standards, encouraging charter schools, implementing high-stakes teacher evaluations and tying testing to school sanctions and funding. These efforts sought to make separate schools better but not less segregated. Ending achievement and opportunity gaps requires implementing a variety of desegregation methods – busing, magnet schools, or merging school districts, for instance – to create a more just public education system that successfully educates all children.
[Editorial aside: I disagree with one part of the above quote. It's clear to me that federal education policies explicitly accept, and in fact, encourage, "separate but equal" schools in America.]

13. Acknowledge "that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good."✩
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must 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 expense of the people themselves. -- John Adams
These suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, "How can we afford that?" Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won't cover everything.
A better question might be: how can we afford not to have these schools? Where else is public money being spent? We must invest in our children.


SCIENCE TEACHERS (AT ALL GRADE LEVELS)...
  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. "evolution is just a 'theory'").
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as your are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field...groups like
○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education
  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.
○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?
CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won't be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today's students...tomorrow's leaders.

In his last interview (go to 3:55 for this quote), Carl Sagan warned (1996),
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.
The charlatans are here...it's time to step up.


[The numbered list, above, is taken from ✩Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools, by Diane Ravitch and ✪The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals to Strengthen Elementary and Secondary Education in the Chicago Public Schools from the Chicago Teachers Union. Quotes from those sources are noted either ✩ or ✪. Other quotes are linked.]

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