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

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

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Myth of America's Failing Public Schools

Betsy DeVos, who recently bought the office of U.S. Secretary of Education, spouts the same myth that's been going around for decades...that American public schools are "failing."

The Answer Sheet, in DeVos: Outcomes at U.S. schools are so bad, they probably can’t get much worse, reported
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said on Wednesday that U.S. public schools nationwide are in such bad shape that she isn’t “sure how they could get a lot worse.”
And, like other myth-spouters in the "education reform" movement, she invoked international tests, adding,
“I’m not sure how they could get a lot worse on a nationwide basis than they are today. I mean, the fact that our PISA scores have continued to deteriorate as compared to the rest of the world...
She's wrong.

The U.S. is regularly in the "middle of the pack" when it comes to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international test administered by the OECD. In 2015 U.S. students were 31st, 20th, and 19th in Math, Reading, and Science respectively. This score, and previous, similar scores, have been used by politicians and policy makers to claim that America's public schools are failing.

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. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren't achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

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.

PISA

Putting PISA Results to the Test
According to a 2015 report by UNICEF, the U.S. has the second-highest child poverty rate (23.1%) among industrialized nations from the European Union and OECD; only Romania’s is higher (25.5%).

...the majority of children attending U.S. public schools – 51% – are growing up in low-income households, the highest percentage since the federal government began tracking the figure.
Poverty matters when it comes to achievement. Students who live in poverty in the United States come to school with issues that don't affect wealthier students. Stress, for example...
Children growing up in poverty often experience chronic stress…chronic stress can affect the developing learning centers of the brain, with impact on attention, concentration, working memory and self-regulation.
In other words, the simple fact of growing up in poverty affects a child's ability to learn. In addition, there are factors outside of school which contribute to low achievement.

David C. Berliner examined the impact of out-of-school factors on achievement. In Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, Berliner wrote,
OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.
These factors include conditions having an impact on developing fetuses, such as the medical care given to the mother, the mother's general health, and any toxins ingested by the mother either through drug or alcohol abuse, or through environmental toxins in the environment. After the child is born things like low birth weight, inadequate medical care, food insecurity, environmental pollutants like lead poisoning, family stress, and other characteristics of high-poverty neighborhoods all have an impact on a child's ability to learn.

To place all the blame for low achievement on public schools serving large numbers of students living in poverty is unfair to the schools, teachers, and students.


TEST SCORES REFLECT ECONOMIC STATUS

Mrs. DeVos probably doesn't know that low test scores correlate exactly with high poverty (see here and here). Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.

We can show these results using graphs from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’.

The first graph shows where schools with various percentages of students in poverty would fall if only those schools were compared to other countries in the OECD.


This graph compares schools with various percentages of students in poverty to countries in OECD with similar poverty levels. The left side, for example, shows how students from schools with a poverty rate of less than ten percent compare to nations with a poverty rate of less than ten percent.


These two charts from PISA: It’s Still ‘Poverty Not Stupid’ clearly show the impact that poverty has on American students' test scores. In every case, students who attend schools with a given percentage of children in poverty 1) score higher than students who attend schools with lower percentages of children in poverty and 2) score higher than countries with similar rates of poverty.

At the very least we can say that the child poverty rate, over which schools have no control, has an impact on student learning. In his blog post, Why Invest in Libraries, Stephen Krashen, USC Professor Emeritus, wrote,
Poverty means, among other things, inadequate diet, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a powerful impact on achievement (Berliner, 2009; Krashen, 1997). The best teaching in the world has little effect when children are hungry, undernourished, ill, and have little or nothing to read (emphasis added).
FINDING SOLUTIONS

Can schools do nothing to overcome the impact of poverty on student lives? Not alone. However, with the help of legislators, taxpayers, and parents, support for students struggling to succeed can help.

Here are some suggestions – most of which cost money – to help raise student achievement. These ideas come from various sources, including The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids, Identifying and Implementing Educational Practices Supported by Rigorous Evidence, and The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve.

Legislators should help by fully funding public education in order to
  • Develop age-appropriate Pre-K programs
  • Reduce class sizes
  • Provide a well rounded, age-appropriate curriculum
  • Include the arts, recess, and physical education in the curriculum
  • Eliminate unnecessary testing (this one saves money)
  • Recruit experienced and diverse staff including classroom teachers and specialists
  • Include non-teaching staff when needed, such as nurses, counselors, and social workers
  • Maintain high quality facilities
  • Introduce parental support programs
THE CHALLENGE TO POLICY MAKERS

When she looks at the U.S. international test scores, Secretary DeVos, and other policy makers see "failing schools." This is wrong. The low average scores, and the even lower scores aggregated for low income students, indicate that economic inequity is overwhelming the infrastructure of our public school systems. Instead of blaming public schools, politicians and policy makers must take responsibility for ending the shameful rate of child poverty and inequity in America.

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.


Special thanks to Meg Bloom, Phyllis Bush, and Donna Roof, all members of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, for their help in preparing the presentation from which this blog post was adapted.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Listen to This (Random Quotes) #4

A FOUNDER'S VIEW: USING TAX MONEY TO SUPPORT RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists

Thomas Jefferson, as many free market conservatives will tell you, was in favor of strong states and a weaker, smaller, federal government. However, on one thing he was firm...the influence of religion on government. The legal gymnastics used which allows tax money to flow from public coffers into religious schools in the form of education vouchers is something Jefferson would have objected to.

We don't "give vouchers" for other public services. Taxes support local police departments, fire departments, parks, libraries, road commissions, and water services. Federal taxes are used for national parks and military services. There is no widespread call for vouchers in those areas. How far do you think someone would get if they demanded a "voucher" for their portion of tax money that goes towards the public library so that they could buy books from Amazon?

Public education is no different.

From Thomas Jefferson
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State (emphasis added).

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS


School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right

Where are all the "failing" public schools in the U.S.? Almost exclusively, America's "failing" public schools – and by "failing" we mean schools populated by students with low achievement test scores – are in poor and poorly financed school districts. The economic inequity of America is reflected in its public schools, not caused by it. The schools are not failing. The American system of greed has failed the nearly one-fourth of our children who live in poverty. The legislatures of the various states have compounded that failure by underfunding public schools in areas of high poverty. Children who come to school from impoverished backgrounds need more services than other children...and that support is either hit-or-miss, or nonexistent altogether.

From Russ Walsh
So why the push for vouchers? Because vouchers are very good for the rich. If the rich can sell vouchers as the cure for educational inequality, they may be able to get people to ignore the real reason for public education struggles – income inequity.


No matter what they’re called, vouchers won’t improve public schools

From the Austin American-Statesman
As the saying goes, a rose by any other name still smells as sweet.

Similarly, vouchers by any other name still stink.


(LACK OF) SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Which Choice Would You Choose?

Why are we spending money on vouchers and charters instead of just fixing the public schools we have? In the following quote, "Option A" is a well-staffed, well-managed, well-maintained, well-funded, public school, something children in wealthy areas get without a second thought.

From Peter Greene
...if we want all students to be able to choose the school in Option A, why not do what it takes to transform every public school into Option A? Option A actually offers more choice, more flexibility, but most of all, more of the things that families actually want. Once upon a time reformsters made noises about charters developing great ideas to create great schools, but we already have a plethora of model public schools-- why not use them as a template? Why not muster the sort of "War on Poverty" or "Get To The Moon" or "Endless Battles in Other Countries" willpower we've mustered before and direct it toward making all schools great schools?

Detroit parents steered to ‘better’ schools — that don’t actually take Detroit kids

What community of middle-class or upper middle-class white Americans would stand for this sort of treatment? We are closing the very public schools which most need to remain open – those in high-poverty neighborhoods. Support public schools. Fix them. Don't close them.

From Chalkbeat
“You are receiving this letter because the school your child attends is at risk of being closed by June 30, 2017 due to academic failure for many years..."


TESTING

We enter the darkest days of education.

It's that time of the year again. Schools all over the country have stopped teaching and learning in order to fulfill the insanity that is standardized testing. In Indiana the standardized tests are used for evaluating students, grading schools and school districts, and evaluating teachers. The tests themselves are barely valid as a student achievement measure. They are completely invalid as a measure of an entire school's value, the value or a school system, or a teacher's competence. Time to end this mess.

From Rlratto at Opine I will
...this is institutional child abuse! I have written about this and about how this is the time of year that I am ashamed to be a teacher. We all should be ashamed, when we make these children take these tests to fulfill a political agenda and provide absolutely no valid data that helps children excel.

THEY'RE GIVING US WHAT WE WANT

In this video John Green talks about American health care, and inadvertently (or perhaps not), says something insightful about American politics in general. At 6:57 in the video he says,

From John Green
...because when we allow ourselves to be pandered to, our elected leaders seem more than happy to oblige us.



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Thursday, March 23, 2017

2017 Medley #10

Vouchers, Public Education,
Early Childhood Education, Recess, Poverty

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

Adding Insult to Injury

Tensions rise as vouchers pick up traction across Wisconsin

Here's an outrageous twist on how a state pays for vouchers. The levy for the voucher schools in Wisconsin is included in the property tax bill where it is labeled for public schools! The local public school district is charged with raising funds for students using vouchers to go to private schools!
Starting last year, state law called for districts to raise taxes to pay for local students using vouchers — whether they were already enrolled in a private school or not. The cost shows up on a homeowner's property tax bill as part of the public school levy. There's no separate line item telling taxpayers the cost of the voucher program in their district.

"We've been put in the unenviable position of middleman," said Colleen Timm, the superintendent of the Mishicot School District.


School Vouchers: Welfare for the Rich, the Racist, and the Religious Right

Everyone who has a stake in public education – and that's really all of us – ought to save this post by Russ Walsh. Print it, along with the articles and videos to which it links, and bind it carefully. Refer to it often.

Walsh takes the topic of vouchers and explains where it came from, and what it's purpose is.

And that purpose has little to do with educating children.
...vouchers are very good for the rich. If the rich can sell vouchers as the cure for educational inequality, they may be able to get people to ignore the real reason for public education struggles - income inequity. If the rich really want to improve schools, they need to put their money on the line. If the rich are really interested in helping poor school children they need to invest - through higher taxes (or maybe just by paying their fair share of taxes), not unreliable philanthropy, in improved health care, child care, parental education, pre-school education, public school infrastructure and on and on. This will be expensive, but we can do it if the wealthy would show the same dedication to the "civil rights issue of our time" with their wallets as they show to harebrained schemes like vouchers.

So vouchers are good for the rich, but they are also good for the racist. Voucher schemes were born in the racist south in the 1950s right after the Brown v. Board of Education struck down school segregation. After that ruling, many states passed voucher schemes to allow white parents to send their children to private schools and take taxpayers money with them. Many children, black and white are still feeling the negative impact of this racist response to desegregation. Today, vouchers have similar effects on schools. Vouchers may not provide enough money for low-income and minority students to attend private schools, but they may well provide enough money to subsidize attendance for their slightly more affluent white neighbors.

Another Study: Vouchers are not improving education

Yet another review of the studies showing that vouchers are for diverting tax money to religious schools, not helping children.
The report suggests that giving every parent and student a great “choice” of educational offerings is better accomplished by supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools with a menu of proven policies, from early childhood education to after-school and summer programs to improved teacher pre-service training to improved student health and nutrition programs. All of these yield much higher returns than the minor, if any, gains that have been estimated for voucher students. (Emphasis added)


SUCCEEDING SCHOOLS

Public Schools: Who Is Failing Whom?

Call it lies, misunderstanding, or whatever you like, the idea that America's public schools are failing is false.

In truth, it is politicians and policy makers who have failed. They have always found public education to be a convenient scapegoat at which to toss the blame for whatever failures of public policy they don't choose to accept responsibility for.

Say it often enough and people will believe it is true, even if it is not. It's time to change that narrative.
If the same words are repeated over and over again, they begin to be taken as true. “Failing public schools” are such words. I see them written and hear them spoken by legislators, journalists, and commentators who probably have not been in a public school in the decades since they attended one or never because they were educated in private schools.

...It is not the schools that are failing our children. It is the adults with political power who are failing our schools.

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION

Littles-- More Than a Score (A Film You Should See)

This post by Peter Greene contains a video which I have embedded as well, below. Kindergarten has lost its developmental appropriateness. The Common Core (and in Indiana, the new standards based on the Common Core, but not called the Common Core) has brought us to this place where we have chosen standardization over development, and our children will be the worse for it.
Marie Amoruso has been a teacher, an author and adjunct professor at Teachers College Columbia University, and Manhattanville College. She runs a consulting agency, and she has created a short film about this very subject. Yes, "More Than a Test Score" is not exactly a groundbreaking title, and yes, her delivery is at times a little over-fraught and yes, she kind of muddies Common Core in with other issues. But when she turns her camera on the classrooms of young children, she cuts right to the heart of what is so deeply wrong with the test-centered school movement. In seventeen minutes, with the help of several interview subjects, she addresses what children need and what they aren't getting, and she takes us right into the classrooms to see the effects.

Teachers know what to do-- the issue, as she lays it out, is getting the freedom to let them do it. In the absence of that, students learn to hate school.



PRIVATIZATION: RECESS

Privatizing Recess: Micromanaging Children’s Play for Profit

Along with the developmentally inappropriate Common Core and other standards-based intrusions on public schools, there is the continuing overuse and misuse of testing. The Big Standardized Test (to share Peter Greene's description, the BS Test) has been the driving force behind corporate education "reform" over the last couple of decades. This has led to teaching to the test and spending inordinate amounts of instructional time focused on test prep. Physical Education and recess have been among the casualties of this debate. There's no time any more for children to just play and recess has been disappearing from schools around the nation. Physical Education isn't covered on the test, so it has been scaled back to minimal levels.

Enter an entrepreneur who wants to make some money teaching kids how to play. Schools, whose students are starved for physical activity, have jumped on this newest bandwagon...the privatization of Physical Education classes substituting as recess.
Recess is such a simple concept. It’s freedom for children. It’s adults saying “ We trust you to create your own fun. Make-up stuff, run and jump, play tag, swing or slide, climb, play kick ball, or soft ball, or jump rope. Or, sit by yourself and feel the sun on your back. Look at an anthill. Chase a butterfly!

Recess, done right, energizes children! There are no rules other than not hurting anyone. And teachers are always observing how children socialize on the playground and will step in if children display inappropriate behavior.

Why are so many adults not willing to let children be children for a short time each day at school?

POVERTY

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

The United States is one of three industrialized nations who spend more money to educate the children of the wealthy than to educate the children of the poor.

We know that the effects of poverty have an impact on a child's achievement. Other nations understand that more is needed to provide support for children who come from high-poverty backgrounds. Indiana used to be an exception to that rule (see this article from 2015), but has since changed it's plan and is moving to invest more in wealthy districts than in poor ones - a step backwards.
The state budget bill approved last month by the Indiana House continues a trend that we’ve seen for several legislative sessions: School districts that primarily serve affluent families are getting decent funding increases while high-poverty school districts are losing out.


Poverty and Its Effects on School Achievement Are Forgotten in the President’s Budget

Test and punishment doesn't change the fact that children from poor families don't achieve as well as children from wealthy families. The President's new budget proudly expands school privatization, but ignores 90% of American children who attend public schools, half of whom are low income or worse.
In the list of programs for the Department of Education, there are three different expansions of school school choice and privatization—Title I Portability, some kind of pilot of federal vouchers, and expansion by 50 percent of the Charter Schools Program that underwrites grants to states for the launch of new charter schools. The K-12 education budget cuts after-school programs, two programs that help students prepare for and apply to college, and teacher preparation. There is nothing in Trump’s new education budget to expand the opportunity to learn for America’s poorest children in urban and rural public schools.

For fifteen years the United States has had a test-based accountability system in place supposedly to close achievement gaps, raise school achievement, and drive school staff to work harder. There is widespread agreement that No Child Left Behind (now to be replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act) has failed to close achievement gaps and significantly raise overall achievement for the students who are farthest behind.

Poverty is indeed the problem in education

Stephen Krashen posted this on his blog along with the corresponding studies. Unfortunately, if you click the link above, the studies are all that are left on the blog. Somehow the following, which I retrieved (and can still retrieve) through my Feedly account, has disappeared.

Krashen is right...the problem with American education – like the problem with a lot of social issues in America – is poverty and inequity.
To the editor:

Missing from David Denby's "Stop Humiliating Teachers" is a mention of the overwhelming research supporting his claim: Poverty is indeed the problem in education. Martin Luther King suggested this in 1967: "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" and research has confirmed that Dr. King was right again and again.

Studies published in scientific journals show that when researchers control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world on international tests. Our overall scores are unimpressive because of our unacceptably high rate of child poverty, now around 21 percent. In some urban districts, the poverty level is 80%. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is around 5%. The problem is poverty, not teacher quality, not unions, not schools of education, not a lack of testing and not low standards.

As Denby notes, poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care and lack of access to books. Studies confirm that each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance, and that when we remedy the situation, school performance improves.

As Susan Ohanian puts it, our motto should be "No child left unfed, no child without adquate health care, and no child without easy access to a good library." The best teaching in the world will be ineffective if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Until we eliminate poverty, let's at least protect children from its effects. This would cost a fraction of what we cheerfully spend on expensive "innovations" that have no strong scientific evidence backing them, such as frequent high-stakes testing, and the current trend to replace teachers with computer modules for basic instruction (competency-based education).

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Now is a Good Time to Learn From History

Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.
Timothy Snyder's new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century tells us that history does not repeat, but it does instruct, invoking half of Santayana's warning – that we would do well to learn from history.

Snyder's twenty "lessons" relate to the Nazis in Europe during the 1930s and 40s, the Soviets throughout most of the 20th century, and America in 2017. The two former are the examples of tyranny from which we must learn. If we don't, we risk following them down the road to fascist self-destruction.

IT CAN HAPPEN HERE

In both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, tyranny succeeded because "average" people easily slipped into the role of oppressor in order to support the national tyranny. Austrians who were not Nazis in 1938 looked on in amusement as Austrian Nazis forced Jews to
scrub the streets to remove symbols of independent Austria.
Ordinary people disregarded the obvious signs of tyranny.
On February 2, 1933, for example, a leading newspaper for German Jews published an editorial expressing this mislaid trust:
We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of crucial factors hold powers in check...
The Checks and Balances of society would hold them back, the editorialist believed, but that didn't happen.


TRUTH

The death of truth...Lesson Ten teaches a subject with obvious parallels to today's tweets and news reports.
...the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.
Sound familiar? Just think about one and a half million attendees at the inauguration, the largest electoral victory since Ronald Reagan, the highest homicide rate in 47 years, the Bowling Green massacre, the terrorists in Sweden, and so on. Falsehoods abound in the attempt to create a fictional world.
The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction.
How is the President able to reconcile the promise of lower taxes for everyone, increased health coverage in which everyone will be taken care of, and increased spending on social programs as well as national defense? Where will the money come from? As we've seen with the recent budget, the promises based on magical thinking had to be altered.
The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.” When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience.


CLEAN UP THE INTERNET

Snyder urges us to learn the truth for ourselves, to recognize propaganda, and be responsible not to pass it on through social media, to our friends and neighbors.
It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society. The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes the investigators is a potential tyrant.
Promoting propaganda harms all of us.
...although we may not see the other person in front of his or her computer, we have our share of responsibility for what he or she is reading there. If we can avoid doing violence to the minds of unseen others on the internet, others will learn to do the same. And then perhaps our internet traffic will cease to look like one great, bloody accident.

PATRIOTISM

Finally, patriotism is not the same as nationalism.
It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families...It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay...

It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election...It is not patriotic to appoint as secretary of state an oilman with Russian financial interests who is the director of a Russian-American energy company and has received the “Order of Friendship” from Putin.

The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.

The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best...

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals...
Living up to the Enlightenment ideals of the Founders has been a difficulty for the United States since its beginning. "All men are created equal..." was tainted from the first moment of the Republic by the "three-fifths clause" and "manifest destiny." The founders themselves had trouble living up to the ideals enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution (ten of the first twelve U.S. presidents owned slaves -John and John Quincy Adams were the exceptions). We're still working on giving every American full citizenship. We're still working on ways to "promote the general welfare."

America is a work in progress and the ideal should be to follow the lead of the nineteenth century Senator from Missouri, Carl Schurz who said,
My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.
Our goal should be to "set right" the country.


THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR

In an interview with Steven Rosenfeld on Bill Moyers and Co., Snyder compares the President's
attacks against Muslims to the Nazi anti-semitism of the 30s.
...if you can pick some group and make them stand in for some international threat, then you can change domestic politics, because domestic politics then is no longer about compromises and competing interests, domestic politics is about who inside the society should actually be seen and outside the society.
Fear is the catalyst that changes freedom to tyranny, and right now, a lot of Americans are fearful.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

2017 Medley #9 – I Have No Words

Poverty, Lead, Public Education, PreSchool, Funding,
Food vs. Testing, Vouchers, Retention, Hate Crimes

Well...I have few words. Luckily, others have more...

YOUR BRAIN ON POVERTY

Jennifer Garner urges Congress to fund early-childhood education: ‘A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you.’

Let's start with poverty since it's from poverty that nearly all the major problems with American education begin.

Actress, Jennifer Garner tells Congress what they should already know, that poverty affects a child's life. Will they accept their share of the responsibility for the embarrassingly high rate of child poverty in the U.S.?
“A brain in poverty is up against it. I’m telling you. A child who is not touched, who is not spoken to, who is not read to in the first five years of his or her life will not fully recover.

“Neglect can be every bit as harmful as abuse.

“When many of these children enter kindergarten, they don’t know their letters or numbers. They don’t know how to sit in a circle and listen to a story. They don’t know how to hold a book — they may have never even seen a book!

“That’s shocking, isn’t it? That 1 in 5 children in this country live in the kind of poverty that they could enter kindergarten never having seen a book.

“It’s easy to escape responsibility for disgrace like that by blaming the parents.

“Who doesn’t talk to a child or sing to a child?

“I’ll tell you who: parents who have lived their whole lives with the stresses that come with food scarcity, with lack of adequate shelter, with drug addiction and abuse. Parents who were left on the floor when they were children — ignored by their parents who had to choose — as one-third of mothers in this country do — between providing food or a clean diaper.

“Poverty dulls the senses, saps hope, destroys the will.

How lead poisoning affects children

HOW MUCH IS THE FUTURE OF THE NATION WORTH

Lead Task Force Launches as Milwaukee Poisoning Levels are Higher than Flint

A year ago I might have said, "If a foreign power had poisoned the number of American children who currently live in lead infested environments we would consider it an act of war." In today's  political climate of antagonism towards anything which would benefit the "have-nots", however, I don't know if I can truthfully say that.
The most recent data shows over 25,000 children were tested in Milwaukee. More than 2,000 had lead poisoning.

"That's 8.6 percent of the children tested. In Flint, Michigan, it was 4.9," said Senator LaTonya Johnson, District 6 (D - Milwaukee).

THE FALSEHOOD OF "FAILING" SCHOOLS

Media Consensus on ‘Failing Schools’ Paved Way for DeVos

The delegitimization of public education began before Betsy DeVos...

...George W. Bush, Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings, Barack Obama, Arne Duncan, John King...
The language of “school choice” turns students into customers and schools into the marketplace. It turns public education into an oppressive, vaguely Soviet bureaucracy. In this framing, charters and vouchers represent freedom from oppression.

The papers that print these arguments don’t provide a definition of what they mean by “failing” schools—they don’t need to. Years of amplifying the pro-reform movements rhetoric has made “public schools” synonymous with “failing schools” when poor students of color are the subject. The words “failing schools” appeared in the New York Times 611 times between 2002 and 2014.

The rhetorical work of delegitimizing public education has already been done. While DeVos may be far to the right of the bipartisan vision of corporate education reform, the path towards privatization has already been paved.


PRESCHOOL PROBLEMS

The New Preschool Is Crushing Kids

What should the focus of preschool be?
Conversation is gold. It’s the most efficient early-learning system we have. And it’s far more valuable than most of the reading-skills curricula we have been implementing: One meta-analysis of 13 early-childhood literacy programs “failed to find any evidence of effects on language or print-based outcomes.” Take a moment to digest that devastating conclusion.

...One major study of 700 preschool classrooms in 11 states found that only 15 percent showed evidence of effective interactions between teacher and child. Fifteen percent.

...It’s become almost a clichΓ© to look to Finland’s educational system for inspiration. As has been widely reported, the country began to radically professionalize its workforce in the 1970s and abandoned most of the performance standards endemic to American schooling. Today, Finland’s schools are consistently ranked among the world’s very best. This “Finnish miracle” sounds almost too good to be true. Surely the country must have a few dud teachers and slacker kids!

And yet, when I’ve visited Finland, I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it. Having rejected many of the pseudo-academic benchmarks that can, and do, fit on a scorecard, preschool teachers in Finland are free to focus on what’s really essential: their relationship with the growing child.


SCHOOL FUNDING FOR HIGH-POVERTY SCHOOLS

State funding lags for high-poverty schools

Just because Mike Pence moved to Washington D.C., doesn't mean that Indiana isn't fully complicit with the new administration's goal of stripping funds from anything which would support low income families.

The state legislature is continuing previous years' process of transferring funds from poor public schools to rich ones...all in the name of "equality."
For over 20 years, Indiana has used a school funding device called the Complexity Index to direct more money to high-poverty schools, which face more complex challenges in educating students. The House budget reduces Complexity Index funding by 15 percent, or $136 million.

The result: High-poverty school districts, those that rely for extra funding on the Complexity Index, could face financial challenges in the two-year period covered by the budget. The legislation is now being considered by the Senate, which could make changes in the House-approved school funding formula.

According to data from Libby Cierzniak, an attorney who represents Indianapolis and Hammond schools at the Statehouse, average per-pupil funding would increase three times as much for the state’s 50 lowest-poverty school districts as for the 50 highest-poverty districts under the House budget.

FEDERAL EDUCATION FUNDING

Trump’s Proposed 2018 Budget for K-12 Education: What It Means

Apparently "drain the swamp" means getting rid of anyone in the federal government who still tries to support anything or anyone other than wealthy nationalists.
Here are just some of the percentage losses reported by the NY Times for departments whose programs are likely directly to affect children and families: Education, -14 percent; Health and Human Services, -16 percent; and Housing and Urban Development, -12 percent. The cuts are likely to affect public housing and subsidies for housing vouchers, may affect support for homeless shelters, and will eliminate after-school programs. Being erased altogether are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps very poor people pay gas bills in the winter and the Legal Services Corporation. School lunch, school breakfast and summer feeding programs have been made into mandatory spending and are not covered by this budget. We’ll have to watch for a later, more detailed budget to observe these programs, and we can hope they will be spared. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is slightly reduced from $6.4 billion to $6.2 billion in Trump’s proposed budget. There are also significant cuts to health programs and much debate currently about the future of the Affordable Care Act.


FUNDING

It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death.
It’s not just public schools that are being defunded to death. Betsy DeVos is the tip of merely one crumbling iceberg. Dismantling America’s essential social services is highly profitable for an oligarchy of corporate billionaires and their political cronies. Shock and Awe methods assure that multiple targets are hit fast and hard to keep people divided, to avoid mass resistance for a single cause. Ask Naomi Klein how this works.

For 24 million American men, women and children, a death panel looks like President Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – with the smiling approval of the majority of Congress. “Healthcare” that condemns 24 million Americans to slow and painful premature deaths is NOT healthcare. If a third world country’s leaders did this while dismantling public education, America would invade it and overthrow its corrupt governing officials.

FOOD OR TESTING? WHAT'S IMPORTANT?

Food Is Overrated

The first sentence in this post from Peter Greene hits the nail on the head. We still focus almost exclusively on test scores. Anything that doesn't improve test scores – as if a raise in test scores was actually evidence of "improvement" – isn't worth doing, apparently.
There is no evidence that food helps raise test scores.

Mind you, this is from the administration that wants us to believe that three million votes were cast illegally, that Obama wiretappppped Trump Towers, that microwaves can be used to spy on us-- all this and more, without a shred of evidence. But children doing better in school because they have gotten food to eat-- that is some wildass crazypants conspiracy nutbaggery. You think being able to eat food helps children do better in school?? Woah-- just let me check you for your tin foil hat.

Reformsters, this is at least partly on you. This is the logical extension of the idea that only hard "evidence" matters, and only if it is evidence that test scores go up. We've dumped play, understanding of child development, and a whole bunch of not-reading-and-math classes because nobody can prove they help raise test scores to the satisfaction of various reformsters. It was only a matter of time until some literal-minded shallow-thinking functionary decided that there was no clear linkage between food and test scores.


FED'S VOUCHER PLAN

Here’s The Skinny: Trump’s Trying To Push A Voucher Plan On Us
This morning, President Donald J. Trump revealed his skinny budget, and it’s both skinny on details and in its support for public education. The Trump plan would cut the Department of Education’s budget by 13.5 percent, which according to The Washington Post, would be “a dramatic downsizing that would reduce or eliminate grants for teacher training, after-school programs and aid to ­low-income and first-generation college students.”

At the same time, the budget would funnel $250 million of taxpayer dollars into a private school voucher program and use an additional $1 billion to fund a reckless experiment called “portability” that could be a stepping stone to even more voucher plans.

There are so many reasons to oppose Trump’s $250 million voucher program. Vouchers divert desperately needed resources away from the public school system to fund the education of a few voucher students. They are ineffective, lack accountability to taxpayers, deprive students of rights provided to public school students, and threaten religious liberty, among other things.

SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY

Opinion: Georgia won’t improve its schools until it stops teacher blame game

Politicians and policy makers need to step up and accept their share of the responsibility for fixing the problems which beset America's public schools. Closing schools, diverting funds, or punishing students and teachers, won't help to relieve the high rate of poverty in the U.S. It's time to face the facts. Poverty impacts a child's ability to learn and numerous out-of-school-factors can't be controlled by teachers no matter how good they are. The best teachers in the world can't help children learn if they are hungry, sick, or lack access to books.
The rhetoric about “fixing” failing schools is only political posturing until the real discussion about what is happening in the communities and homes of those students is addressed. EVERY CHILD should have access to equitable education – that was the intent of the Education and Secondary Education Act originally authorized in the 1960’s (now called Every Student Succeed Acts), and that is the belief of EVERY TEACHER I ever met. However, there are many influences impacting schools that are not being considered by these tests. The teachers cannot fix all of the societal issues plaguing these schools.


RETENTION HASN'T AND DOESN'T WORK

Keep Flunking the Little Brats!

Invest in preschool and early intervention instead of wasting time and damaging children with the failed "intervention" of retention-in-grade.
Students who struggle with reading in third grade are more likely to get into issues down the road, like academic failure, discipline issues, poor attendance, drop-outs, etc. These problems might be connected to reading issues, or both the problems and the reading issues could be related to some other factor like – oh, let’s just go out on a limb and say … poverty.

...As Stanford researcher, Linda Darling Hammonds, has written:

“We have had dozens and dozens of studies on this topic. The findings are about as consistent as any findings are in education research: the use of testing is counterproductive, it does not improve achievement over the long run, but it does dramatically increase dropout rates. Almost every place that has put this kind of policy in place since the 1970s has eventually found it counterproductive and has eliminated the policy. Unfortunately policy makers often are not aware of the research and they come along years later and reintroduce the same policies that were done away with previously because of negative consequences and lack of success.”

THE STATE OF THE NATION

With hate crimes against Jews on the rise, one community grapples with how to respond

Hate crimes against Jews (and Muslims, Latinos, other immigrants of color, the LGBT community) continue to rise. Nationalism rears its ugly, bigoted head. Those who say, "It's not me because I'm not [insert ethnicity]," do so at their own peril.

My grandparents came here to escape the Tzar's pogroms in the early 20th century. This could be their cemetery.
“The thing that’s most painful, the thing I keep thinking… is, they came to America, they had so much hope,” she said. “And I just keep thinking about the shattered gravestones and the shattered hopes.”


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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hard Times Ahead for the American People – Einstein

Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#138) of Albert Einstein.

Einstein came to the U.S. because,
...the rise of the Nazi party and anti-Semitism made it increasingly difficult for him to work and in 1932 he took up the offer of a post at Princeton. He became a citizen of the United States, but retained Swiss citizenship.
The quotes below are from Wikiquote.


ON FACTS AND THINKING

Einstein couldn't remember the speed of sound. This response to someone who questioned that is an argument in favor of learning how to learn instead of rote memorization. Intelligence, after all, is know what to do when you don't know what to do.
[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. ...The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.

ON BALANCE
If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.

ON INTUITION AND INSPIRATION
I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.


ON USING MATH

In a letter to a high school student, Einstein wrote,
Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

ON POLITICS

Einstein's response to, "Dr. Einstein, why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom we have been unable to devise the political means to keep the atom from destroying us?”
That is simple, my friend. It is because Politics is more difficult than physics.


ON THE POWER OF ONE PERSON
A man's value to the community depends primarily on how far his feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. We call him good or bad according to how he stands in this matter. It looks at first sight as if our estimate of a man depended entirely on his social qualities.

And yet such an attitude would be wrong. It is clear that all the valuable things, material, spiritual, and moral, which we receive from society can be traced back through countless generations to certain creative individuals. The use of fire, the cultivation of edible plants, the steam engine — each was discovered by one man.

Only the individual can think, and thereby create new values for society — nay, even set up new moral standards to which the life of the community conforms. Without creative, independently thinking and judging personalities the upward development of society is as unthinkable as the development of the individual personality without the nourishing soil of the community.

The health of society thus depends quite as much on the independence of the individuals composing it as on their close political cohesion.

ON SURVIVING TYRANNY

The Einsteinian equivalent of Martin NiemΓΆller's poem.
Zionism gave the German Jews no great protection against annihilation. But it did give the survivors the inner strength to endure the debacle with dignity and without losing their healthy self respect. Keep in mind that perhaps a similar fate could be lying in wait for your children.


ON WISDOM
Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.

ON LEARNING, TEACHERS, AND EDUCATION

Einstein's experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.
School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn't worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave. This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system? . . . from the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy. The more I read, the more puzzled I was by the order of the universe and the disorder of the human mind, by the scientists who didn't agree on the how, the when, or the why of creation. Then one day this student brought me Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. Reading Kant, I began to suspect everything I was taught. I no longer believed in the known God of the Bible, but rather in the mysterious God expressed in nature.

ON AMERICA

Einstein's foresight, sixty-eight years ago, was accurate. America has hard times ahead.
America is a democracy and has no Hitler, but I am afraid for her future; there are hard times ahead for the American people, troubles will be coming from within and without. America cannot smile away their Negro problem nor Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are cosmic laws.


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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Food for Thought

A collection of memes and cartoons from around the internet about public education.

BASEBALL

The national metaphor for hope...a new season.


MARCH MADNESS

No, not basketball – the Indiana General Assembly.

We're in the midst of the annual attempt by "reformers" in Indiana to
  • extend the misuse and overuse standardized testing
  • expand the voucher program
  • increase funds to charter schools
  • decrease funds to public schools
  • deprofessionalize teachers
  • bust the teachers union
Winners: private and privately run schools, corporate donors, Republican campaign war chests.

Losers: Indiana public school students and their teachers, public school corporations, the future of Indiana.


IMPROVE THE GARDEN, DON'T PLOW IT OVER

Repair our public schools and the neighborhoods they occupy. Don't close them.


STANDARDIZATION

Teachers are required to differentiate curriculum because all children are different, but give a standardized test which all children have to pass.


FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?
If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.


TESTING

Now that we know better can we just stop the overuse and misuse of standardized tests? How many instructional hours are wasted for teachers, support staff, and students?


POLITICS

Nothing new for Indiana...


VOUCHERS

A voucher vs. public school comparison.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

2017 Medley #8 – Vouchers Come Up Short

Vouchers Come Up Short

VOUCHERS IN THE NEWS

The latest research on the efficacy of school vouchers shows that receiving a voucher does not guarantee a better education. One wonders, then, why Republicans (and some Democrats) are fighting so hard to impose more vouchers on the public to the detriment of public schools?

The current administration, under Trump, Pence, and DeVos, is pushing vouchers nationwide despite the mediocre showing of private schools compared to their public counterparts (see The Public School Advantage as well as here, herehere, and here). This is not to say that private and parochial schools are all inferior to public schools. On the contrary, some elite private schools have excellent programs unburdened by teach-to-the-test policies. However, when you consider the economic status of the students the advantage disappears.

In Indiana, vouchers began as a way to help high poverty students "escape" from "failing" public schools. The truth is that the "failing" public schools were often struggling due to the state's neglect of the economic conditions in the school communities. Children in East Chicago, for example, have been combatting the effects of lead poisoning for years. "Failing" schools in Indianapolis are due, at least in part, to a child poverty rate of 33% and an overall poverty rate of 20%, both well above the national average. Vouchers wouldn't help all those students even if private and parochial schools were "better." Public schools can and should try to improve, of course, but improvement requires support from the larger community, in this case, the state legislature and governor's office. Until politicians accept their share of responsibility for the high rate of child poverty, schools – public, charter and private – will continue to "fail."

The Indiana voucher plan began in 2011 with the promise of saved money and increased achievement. Under the Republican-led legislature and Governors (Daniels and Pence), the program has been expanded significantly. Once it became clear that private and parochial schools can't overcome the effects of poverty any better or more cheaply than public schools can, the argument has changed from "improved achievement and money saved" to "parental choice." Should parents have the "choice" to spend public tax dollars, earmarked for a public institution, at a religious or private location?


REASONS FOR VOUCHERS

Vouchers do not improve education

Vouchers in Indiana don't save money...and don't improve education. Doug Masson provides three "reasons" for vouchers that hits three nails right on the head.
In Indiana, the motivating impulse for voucher enthusiasts seems to be a combination of: a) undermining the influence of teachers’ unions; b) subsidizing the preferences of those who would want a private religious education; and c) providing access to that sweet, sweet education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher proponents.

STUNNING NEWS ABOUT VOUCHERS

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers

The LA Times reports that vouchers and school privatization doesn't really work. The reporter, a Pulitzer Prize winning business reporter named Michael Hiltzik, apparently needs more education when it comes to education reporting.
...DeVos's patron, President Trump, proposed during his campaign to shovel $20 billion to the states to support magnet and charter schools in voucher programs.
The sentence should end, "...$20 billion to the states to support magnet, charter schools, and voucher programs." Do vouchers pay for school system magnet programs and charter schools? I don't think so, but perhaps I'm wrong. It's my understanding that vouchers pay for tuition to private schools, while magnet schools are part of public school systems, and charter schools are privately run publicly funded schools. Feel free to correct me on this in the comments.

Hilzik continues, reporting the news that recent research has voucher students scoring lower on standardized tests than public school students. The claim that "education experts" are stunned by the results is, in itself, stunning. Simply changing the venue of a child's education isn't sufficient to improve achievement if the child continues to live with the out-of-school-factors related to poverty.
...the latest findings, which emerge from studies of statewide programs in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana, have left education experts stunned. In a nutshell, they find huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs in those three states.


Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins

Kevin Carey in the New York Times, echoes the "surprise" over the results of the studies. The results, he says, are "startling."

In this piece, "well-regulated charter schools" refers to charters which are "open to all and accountable to public authorities."

The last sentence is the most important. [emphasis added]
The new voucher studies stand in marked contrast to research findings that well-regulated charter schools in Massachusetts and elsewhere have a strong, positive impact on test scores. But while vouchers and charters are often grouped under the umbrella of “school choice,” the best charters tend to be nonprofit public schools, open to all and accountable to public authorities. The less “private” that school choice programs are, the better they seem to work.

'REFORMERS' FIND THAT VOUCHERS DON'T IMPROVE LEARNING

I voted for school vouchers. Now I know I was wrong.

The pro-"reform" Thomas Fordham Institute studied the effectiveness of Ohio's voucher programs. Just like in Louisiana and Indiana, they don't help children achieve better than public schools and they strip public education of funding.

In this article a former North Carolina legislator concludes that tax money for vouchers would be better spent on the state's public schools.
So what did this report say that the Fordham Institute undertook, ostensibly to promote the expansion of vouchers in America? It said that vouchers have failed miserably. That’s right, a pro-voucher group had to put out a report that concluded that vouchers are failing our children. And keep in mind, this isn’t an outlier of empirical studies of vouchers’ effectiveness in educating our children. Two other recent studies (one in Indiana and another in Louisiana) came to the same conclusion.

...North Carolina is scheduled to spend over $1 billion in the next 10 years for a voucher system that simply doesn’t work. It’s time for the General Assembly to recognize this and correct course so that we can reinvest that billion dollars in public schools.


RELIGIOUS ENTITLEMENT

Vouchers a new entitlement to religious education

At first it was for poor kids to escape from "failing" schools. Now it's a way to provide public funds for religious schools and to increase the segregation of Indiana schools. [emphasis added]
When lawmakers created the program in 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels said it was a way to help children from poor families find a better alternative to failing public schools. But the program has evolved into a new entitlement: state-funded religious education for middle and low-income families.

Some 54 percent of students receiving vouchers this year have no record of having attended an Indiana public school, the report says. Voucher advocates initially insisted the program would save the state money, because it would cost less to subsidize private school tuition than to send a student to a public school. But increasingly vouchers are going to families that never had any intention of sending their kids to public schools; that’s an entirely new cost for the state to take on.

Also, vouchers are more and more going to students who are white, suburban and non-poor. When the program started, more than half of participating students were black or Hispanic. Now over 60 percent are white, and only 12.4 percent are African-American. It’s reasonable to ask if, in some cases, vouchers are a state-funded mechanism for “white flight” from schools that are becoming more diverse.

JOHN KUHN SPEAKS OUT

John Kuhn: Vouchers Serve Adults at Children’s Expense

Anthony Cody wrote this about John Kuhn.
John Kuhn is a Texas school superintendent and long-time advocate for public schooling. His essays have been read hundreds of thousands of times online, videos of his speeches have gone viral, and his book, Fear and Learning in America, has sold thousands of copies. He continues to advocate for teachers and fight for the constitutional promise of free public schools for all American children.
I've quoted Superintendent Kuhn quite a few times on this blog and included YouTube videos. He's an important voice for public education in America...not just Texas.

Superintendent Kuhn presented this speech on March 5 to the Association of Texas Professional Educators, an independent association of educators (i.e. affiliated with neither NEA nor AFT).
The great American experiment of free public schools, open to all children and overseen by locally-elected citizens—this bold vision is being challenged by an army of wealthy and interested parties who are dead set on dismantling the public education system and trading it for a voucher system...


John Kuhn at the Save Texas Schools Rally in 2011

Be sure to read John Kuhn's Alamo Letter.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017


ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana's testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education "reform" policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children's progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers' (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, "This is the best we'll get."


Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes...in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.


Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let's do this instead...
  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn't work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don't use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________


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