"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.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What will it take for Hoosier teachers to stand up?

NO TEACHER PAY INCREASE

Yesterday the Indiana State House of Representatives passed a budget...without adding more money specifically for teacher pay.


The House included an increase for education funding of 2.1% for the first year and 2.3% the second year. Given the recent inflation rates, this will allow school systems to add next to nothing. The inflation rate for the previous two years, 2018 and 2017, was 1.9% and 2.1% respectively. Republican legislators have suggested that teachers could get more money in their pockets if school systems budgeted better...spent less money on administrators and other "frills."
Their criticism of school spending has raised the ire of superintendents and educators who say they have little left to cut after years of increasing costs and state revenue that has barely kept pace with inflation.
The test score bonus is still in effect, however, so those teachers who teach in low-poverty schools are guaranteed a cut from an extra $30 million. Perhaps we could cut the millions we waste on the "state test."

Not all of this paltry increase in education funding will make its way to public school classrooms, however. The House has chosen to spend more on school privatization. They decided that charter schools deserve an increase from $500 to $1000 per student, and have increased voucher costs by adding a new tier worth 70% of state tuition support.

...and we're still waiting for someone to evaluate the charter and voucher entitlements.

CHARTERS

Are students offered a better education in charter schools? That was the original selling point. Charter schools were supposed to improve all schools through competition.

Not anymore...now it's all about choice. Unfortunately for some children, however, the "best" charter schools refuse to "choose" them.

There’s a backlash against charter schools. What’s happening and why.
This country is nearly 30 years into an experiment with charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately operated, sometimes by for-profit companies. Supporters first described charters as competitive vehicles to push traditional public schools to reform. Over time, that narrative changed and charters were wrapped into the zeitgeist of “choice” for families whose children wanted alternatives to troubled district schools.

...Public support goes up and down, depending on the poll, and data suggest growth in charters is leveling off. Repeated financial scandals and other crises have tarnished the sector. While some charters are terrific schools that get better student outcomes than nearby district schools, others get similar or worse student outcomes. In cities with high concentrations of charters, such as Washington, where nearly 50 percent of students attend them, some parents complain that they can’t get their children into the “best” charters and the notion of “choice” is false.

VOUCHERS

Surely, having the choice of private schools yields higher achievement. The legislator has never evaluated the program, though...sinking more than half a billion dollars into mostly religious schools since its inception.

Students’ math scores drop for years after using a private school voucher in country’s largest program
Notably, the authors show that low-income students who used a voucher had slightly higher starting test scores than low-income kids who stayed in public schools. This gives credence to fears that a voucher program could concentrate the most disadvantaged students in the public school system.
But it's all about choice. If you're the "right" kind of person the voucher-accepting school might "choose" you.

Cost-benefit stats show failures of voucher plan
And the child must also fit the school. Some of the faith-based schools limit admission on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and gender identity. Instruction in science and social studies can be colored by religious beliefs. As the Huffington Post reported in a joint project with The Journal Gazette last fall, some taxpayer-supported schools use materials that teach only creationism or that homosexuality is immoral and environmentalism is spiritually bankrupt.

Meanwhile, the voucher program continues to drain money from the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Cumulative effect
The voucher program has essentially created Indiana's second-largest school district without the oversight found in public school districts. Most of these students have never attended a public school before using a voucher, and this year only 274 vouchers were used to leave an F-rated public school.

If the $150 million from Tuition Support used for vouchers this school year were redistributed to the public schools as part of each district's basic tuition grant, Fiona's Logansport School district would have received an additional $619,000 this year.

The Budget bill now goes from the House of Representatives (67% GOP) to the Senate (80% GOP). Any chance they'll change the bill to favor public schools?

RALLY ON MARCH 9

Indiana teachers, do you think that the March 9th rally for public schools is going to convince the members of the Senate to add a 3% pay raise for teachers?

Are the Senators going to change the law so that we quit sucking tax dollars from public schools to send to religious institutions?

Do you think that the GOP members of the Senate even care about the teacher shortage?

Bangert: Indiana teacher pay raises: What your lawmakers say they will, and won't, do
“My understanding is we have a shortage in the state of teachers, and teachers are lasting fewer than five years,” Campbell said. “The latest legislation to pass is to allow non-certified teachers to teach in our schools because they’re so desperate to find teachers. If we’re having to resort to these measures, we’re not doing what we need to do to make sure children in Indiana are receiving a quality education.”

What will it take for Indiana's teachers to stand up for themselves and their students? (Teachers, who did you vote for in the last election?)

What will it take for Indiana to get fully funded public schools...with qualified teachers in every classroom...with reasonable class sizes...with competitive salaries...

The legislature isn't going to help.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

A Year of Reporting on Child Gun Deaths


12 months

1,200 American kids killed by guns

1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country

Fatal shootings of children have been on the rise, government data show. But as the deaths mount, the toll is bigger than what numbers can capture.

Working with The Trace, Miami Herald, and McClatchy, student reporters set out to measure the void left in homes and classrooms that have lost young people to the pull of a trigger.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

2019 Medley #3

Third-Grade Flunk Laws, NCLB, School Libraries, Second Amendment, First Amendment, Segregation in Indiana, Losers in the White House

THIRD GRADE FLUNK LAWS

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

States (and schools...and teachers) continue to retain children in third grade (and in other grades) simply because they can't read at an arbitrarily determined "level."

Retention in grade doesn't help children "catch up." It doesn't give kids "another year to grow." It doesn't help and often hurts

This post by Nancy Flanagan discusses the unintended consequences of using an "intervention" strategy that doesn't work.

[For more information on Retention in Grade, click HERE.]
Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason, from learning in a second language, an identified disability or merely being a late-bloomer? Teachers, of course.


NCLB: DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE

How NCLB is Still Destroying Reading for Children 

NCLB gave us Reading First and testing, testing, testing. This was followed by Race to the Top which continued to punish schools for societal failures. Bill Gates jumped in with Common Core, a reverse programmed curriculum forcing developmentally inappropriate instruction on students in the early grades.
This hypervigilant push for children to read before first grade is not working.

Bring back kindergarten! Quit repetitively testing children! Get those play kitchens and sand tables out of the closet!

Don’t only say that kindergarten shouldn’t be the new first grade! Bring back kindergarten! Get rid of NCLB once and for all!

SCHOOL LIBRARIES SUFFER FROM UNDERFUNDING

U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% Of Their Librarians Since 2000

Here's one more way that we're shortchanging our future.
The shortage in public school librarian employment — which saw the most dramatic drop following the Great Recession of 2008 and hasn't recovered since — has hit districts serving minorities the hardest. Among all the districts that have retained all their librarians since 2005, 75% are white, Education Week reports. On the other end of the scale, student populations in the 20 districts that lost the most librarians in the same time comprised 78% students of color.

In other words, while U.S. employment rates are back up in the wake of the Great Recession, the public school librarian sector has not rebounded, and the nation's collective failure to rebuild its public information infrastructure is hitting minorities the hardest.


WE CANNOT AFFORD PARALLEL SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Charter Schools Are Pushing Public Education to the Breaking Point
When striking Los Angeles teachers won their demand to call for a halt to charter school expansions in California, they set off a domino effect, and now teachers in other large urban districts are making the same demand.

Unchecked charter school growth is also bleeding into 2020 election campaigns. Recently, New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait berated Democratic Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren for having opposed a ballot initiative in her home state in 2016 that would have raised a cap on the number of charter schools. “There may be no state in America that can more clearly showcase the clear success of charter schools than [Massachusetts],” declared Chait.

But while Chait and other charter school fans claim Massachusetts as a charter school model, the deeper reality is that charters are driving Boston’s public education system to the financial brink.

As the Boston Globe recently reported, the city is experiencing an economic boom, but its schools resemble “an economically depressed industrial center.” The state’s unfair funding formula is part of the problem, but an ever-expanding charter school industry also imposes a huge financial drain.

WHAT KIND OF COUNTRY KILLS ITS OWN CHILDREN...

Since Parkland

It's time for commonsense gun laws. The Second Amendment is no more important than the First Amendment. We freely accept accommodations and exceptions to the First in the form of libel and slander laws. It's time we tweak the Second Amendment so that our children can grow to adulthood.
12 months
1,200 American kids killed by guns
1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country


NON-CHRISTIANS DON'T MATTER TO JUSTICES

With Alabama Execution Case, Supreme Court Declares That Only Christianity Matters

...and speaking of the First Amendment, we have some educating to do. We need to teach certain members of the Supreme Court that religious accommodations are not only for Christians. Perhaps they believe that America is a Christian Nation (hint: it's not). In any case, the five "conservative" justices ruled that a Muslim was not allowed access to his preferred spiritual leader before he was executed. You would think that the First Amendment mattered as much to "conservatives" as the Second...
I’m not asking you to feel sympathy for a man who raped and murdered a child. I’m asking you to be outraged by a Supreme Court blatantly and publicly stating that only Christianity matters. This decision spells disaster for minority religious believers and non-believers alike. Our heartfelt beliefs, our core values, are without value to the majority of this Court. Where exemptions are granted, it will be to Christians. Their beliefs are important enough to the right wing majority that they warrant protection. The equally strongly held moral values of Muslims, or Hindus, or Jews, or atheists are to be dismissed if they cause even the slightest inconvenience to the state.

We knew we were facing a tough battle with this Supreme Court. We had no clue just how hard it would become so quickly.

SEGREGATION IN INDIANA

1920s decisions shaped racial landscape

Blogger Steve Hinnefeld provides an excellent history lesson on segregation in Indiana.
But Indiana schools are still segregated by race, ethnicity and family income, according to a 2017 study and data visualization by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University. The legacy of the 1920s lives on.


LOSERS ARE AS LOSERS DO

Finally, the President's eldest son has about as much verbal self-control as his father. Speaking at a Presidential rally against black and brown immigration, the "first son" called teachers "losers" who indoctrinate their students in socialism.

My response to that are the following socialist benefits Americans enjoy: the U.S. Military, oil subsidies, farm subsidies, social security, Medicare, public roadways and waterways, municipal water systems, public libraries, police and fire departments, the postal service, public trash pickup and landfills, congressional health care, veterans' health care, public parks, the court system, state and city-run beaches, unemployment insurance, the national weather service, and NASA. [For more see HERE.]

Here are two excellent responses to Junior's idiocy.

Commentary: Trump Jr., losers are as losers do
We have a trust-fund baby like the president’s son, one not even smart enough to stay away from meetings where people planned lawbreaking, calling other hard-working Americans losers.

That by itself is enough to trigger a gag reflex.

Then there’s the gratuitous nonsense about socialism. Coming from a guy whose family members are soaking up millions of tax dollars as they vacation every third day at one Trump property after another and leave the nation’s citizenry with the bill, that’s so rich it’s gooey.

Finally, there’s the muddle-headed and mean-spirited goofiness of whining about indoctrination at a Donald Trump rally.

Young Trump complained about indoctrination at an event where a Trump supporter assaulted a BBC cameraman and where anyone who doesn’t chant agreement with everything the leader says or shouts is threatened, beat up or kicked out.

But that’s the way it is with folks like Trump Junior.

Diary Of A Socialist Indoctrinator
Principal McBossface held me over a minute after the meeting to let me know that he's aware I'm running behind on my Socialist Indoctrination and to remind me that it's super-critical that I get up to speed. I'm really feeling the pressure.
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Monday, February 11, 2019

Winning the War for Science Education

With about a dozen Democrats running for president (and a few more still "undecided"), there's no doubt that the race for the 2020 presidency has begun. What are their goals for public education? What are their goals for returning us to science-based policies? Before we look to the future, however, let's take a quick look at the past...

THE CAMPAIGN: 2016

During the last presidential election campaign, the candidates rarely discussed science and education beyond, a few topics; The Republican candidates were in favor of school choice and didn't "believe in" climate change; The Democratic candidates were in favor of expanded early childhood education, ending the student debt crisis, and gave lip service to "doing something" about climate change. Once the candidates were chosen, however, this discussion effectively stopped, and we were treated to a daily media deluge of insults and invective.

SCIENCE AND EDUCATION: NO CHANGE

Just like in 2016, the positions of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates on America's public schools and climate change are vague, though supportive. The Republican incumbent, along with his party-mates, is continuing to call for school privatization and to take an anti-science position on nearly everything except the "space force."

In his 2019 State of the Union Speech, the President was too concerned with investigations and with ignoring U.S. intelligence organizations to even mention climate change.

More Trump fantasyland as the world fries
Just as scientists are raising alarms about the disintegration of Antarctica’s massive ice shelves and ice sheets, Trump said nothing about global warming. Maybe that’s for the better: Whenever he addresses the issue, it is usually to mock those who care about the planet’s already well-documented, rapid environmental changes. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is dying before the world’s eyes, and the leader of the Earth’s most powerful nation has nothing helpful to say about modern society’s complicity in the catastrophes to come, let alone how to lower climate risks.
He did, however, discuss education -- for all of about 10 seconds. He spoke a mere 15 words about education, and used those words to call for school "choice." He said, 
To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.
[For an excellent discussion of how the "reformers" have co-opted the word "choice" see Curmudgucation's Reclaiming Choice]

THE WAR ON SCIENCE EDUCATION

The current administration's anti-science policies are nothing new and have emboldened and strengthened the decades-old attack on science education.

Florida, for example, is just one of several states where an attack on science education is strong. [See also IndianaArizona, and elsewhere.] The Florida Citizens' Alliance is working to bring "conservative values" to public schools. It is interesting that among those "conservative values" is the denial of anthropogenic climate change. One would think that "conservation" of our planet would be a value that "conservatives" support.

Florida Citizens’ Alliance Is Brainwashing Kids to Think Climate Science Is Fake
Prominent on the group’s expanded menu of concerns was climate change, and humanity’s presumed role in driving it. The Alliance’s members began line-reading school textbooks for violations of their beliefs, creating carefully detailed reports on how many times, and in what context, elementary and high school students were learning about rising seas, or melting ice in Antarctica. “Unfortunately, what it’s become is indoctrination and not education. That’s our major problem,” Vernon said, echoing a prevailing concern among members of the Alliance and like-minded conservatives everywhere: the unchecked power and control over social institutions by perceived liberal elites. “We’re really concerned,” he added, “that our kids are not being educated, [but] simply indoctrinated in the philosophy of the academic aristocracy.”

With the ascension of the Alliance, the Sunshine State has become ground zero for an intensifying ideological battle taking place across the nation—one that has conservative groups wrestling for control over how climate science will be taught to American students. The science classroom, after all, remains the dominant venue in which those students first encounter the topic, and it greatly informs how students eventually square-up to the veracity of climate change—either as something they believe to be happening and worth responding to politically, or as a phenomenon of nature, undeserving of public funds and political action.
Two members of the Alliance have been chosen by Florida's new governor to serve on his education advisory team.



[Take a look at the above video's YouTube page for additional links.]

The video above makes passing reference to the idea that humans used to believe that the Earth is flat. Sadly, the belief in a flat Earth has been growing lately...

Science Behind the Fiction: the Flat Earth Movement is Growing. It's Very Scary.
It might be tempting to dismiss globe skeptics as a lunatic fringe, supporters of an idea as antiquated as ancient Mesopotamia, where belief in a disk Earth covered in a dome was common. But the documentary makes a compelling case — not for their ideas, but for compassion and calm discussion. The subjects on screen are painted, not as charlatans or kooks, but as genuinely inquisitive folks who have been misled either by themselves or others. And, according to a recent study, they may not be as fringe as you might think.

Published on April 2, 2018, the study asked more than 8,000 adults in the United States whether or not they believed in a flat or globular Earth. A surprising 16 percent expressed some degree of skepticism. If these results are representative of the U.S. population as a whole, then nearly one in six adults are, at the very least, unsure about the nature of our world.
It's clear that science education based on actual science has a challenging future.

LONG TERM GOALS

With the help of Mitch McConnell and the current White House, the right-wing has successfully reshaped America's federal courts. This has been a long term goal of conservatives and the Religious Right. They have framed elections in terms of America's judicial system while liberals have generally been oblivious to the takeover. This tranformed judicial system will shape our national policies for decades to come.

Meanwhile, some of the same members of the right-wing have set their sights on the future of America...our school-aged children...and their knowledge of science.

Voucher programs in dozens of states allow public funds to go to schools teaching fake science. Legislatures are adopting anti-science curricula (often without the help of education professionals). Informational articles such as Revamped 'anti-science' education bills in United States find success, New wave of anti-evolution bills hit states, and What the latest assaults on science education look like, have documented the attack on science education. [See also A Baker's-Dozen-Plus-One of Half-Baked Measures.]

The long term goal of anti-science supporters is to raise up a citizenry ignorant about how our world works. Instead, some of them want voters who won't question the appointment of cabinet members in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. Others want to train a generation of taxpayers who are so ignorant they won't complain when entire ecosystems are destroyed in the search for more gas...more coal...more oil. And still others fear that the truth of science will destroy their religious world view and postpone their dreams of theocracy.

To ensure our future, our children need real science instead of misinformation. To do otherwise is to risk the economic, cultural, and environmental losses such ignorance will bring.

Humanity Needs Science To Survive And Thrive
Science is what's led our society to the present day, where food is plentiful, abundant and safe. Where diseases can be treated, cured or even prevented outright before you ever get sick. Where we can quantify the threat that dirty air, contaminated water or a hole in the ozone layer has on humanity. And where new advances lead to new technologies, enhancing our quality of life to levels that humans, even just a hundred years ago, couldn't possibly have foreseen. If we want this to continue, we absolutely need to listen to, accept, and value what science has to offer in all of these regards.
Those of us who understand the importance of science must focus our attention on a long term goal as well. We have to teach science truth to the next generation of Americans.

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