"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, January 22, 2020

2020 Medley #2

Vouchers, Environmental Toxins interfere with learning, NPE, Why kindergarten teachers quit, NAEP, Reading aloud


SHOULD YOUR TAX MONEY BE USED TO EXPEL KIDS WHO LIKE RAINBOWS?

Louisville Christian school expelled student over a rainbow cake, family says

Kentucky has no plan providing vouchers for students to attend religious schools. Why is that good? As of now, private schools in Kentucky that expel (or force out) a child because they like rainbows, like the one in this article, cannot receive any state funding.

Depending on what happens with the case currently before the Supreme Court, however, this could change.

Public money for public schools!
A Christian school in Louisville expelled a student last week after her family said school officials discovered the girl had celebrated her birthday with a rainbow-themed cake.

Kimberly Alford told The Courier Journal that until Jan. 6, her 15-year-old daughter had been a freshman at Whitefield Academy, a private school at 7711 Fegenbush Lane that serves students in preschool through 12th grade.

That's when Alford said she received an email from Whitefield Academy's head of school, Bruce Jacobson, explaining how her daughter was being expelled "immediately due to a post on social media."

Alford had recently posted a photo on her Facebook page showing her daughter celebrating her birthday in late December at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. In the photo, the girl is wearing a sweater featuring a rainbow design and sitting by a colorful, rainbow-themed cake.
See also: Gerth: This just in ... God expelled from Louisville Christian school for creating rainbow

VOUCHER PROGRAMS DON'T HELP LEARNING

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

From last May...

More reasons not to divert public money to private/religious school vouchers.
More recently, evidence has shown that these programs are not effective at improving educational achievement. Recent evaluations of certain voucher programs have shown no improvement in achievement or a decline in achievement for students who use them. For example, a Center for American Progress analysis found that the overall effect of the D.C. voucher program on students’ math achievement is equivalent to missing 68 days of school. Voucher programs are also not a viable solution in many rural areas of the country because these programs can strain funding resources in communities that already have lower densities of students and schools. Public funding should be used to ensure that all students have access to a quality public education, but voucher programs divert funding away from public schools. There have been a number of reports detailing how voucher programs provide public funding to schools that can legally remove or refuse to serve certain students altogether.


POISONING OUR CHILDREN...CONTINUED

The learning effect of air quality in classrooms

Yet another environmental issue that interferes with student learning. We know that environmental toxins like mercury and lead can cause damage to students which impacts their learning. Recent research shows that air pollution can also cause problems.
We’ve known for quite some time that pollution is bad for your health but researchers are documenting how it affects our brains. A 2016 Israel study found that high rates of pollution on the day of an exam tamped down high school test scores. The same students scored higher on different test dates with cleaner air. Boys and low-income students were the most affected. A 2019 draft, working paper of a study on university students in London also found that exposure to indoor air pollutants was associated with lower exam test scores. Again, males were more affected than females and the mental acuity problems were triggered by particulate levels that were below current guidelines at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

FUNDING FOR NPE

The Dark Money Behind Union-Owned NPE: Time to Fess Up.

Just kidding...NPE doesn't take "dark money." In fact, NPE hardly has any money at all when compared to groups funded by billionaire privatizers.
The short answer is that NPE is not funded by the “dark money” effort of millionaires and billionaires doling out money to puppet-string a school privatization agenda.

However, let us see exactly who funds NPE and who (like Stewart) is rolling in the dough as a result.


TEACHERS ARE LEAVING

Kindergarten Teachers Are Quitting, and Here Is Why

Appropriate instruction is better for the children. Good teachers understand that...and many are leaving the classroom to avoid doing damage to 5- and 6-year-olds.
• “I had to retire in 2017 because I could not take the pressure of having to force my 5- and 6-year-old students to sit with books… no talking allowed. …. I taught for 18 years and in the last 3 years teaching this stuff to my sweet little kinders I heard students cry, talk about how they didn’t understand, say they hated reading time, and act out. We were basically regurgitating the curriculum script. It was awful. I hated going to work that last 2 years with all the stress of academic achievement expectations… All administrators want to hear is the exact same stuff from one room to another from school to school.

• “Teachers have been complaining about more testing every year. And every year we hear, ‘We’ll look into that,’ and every year someone higher up decides, ‘We need more data.’ That, in turn, means more testing, more seatwork, and less play. I personally couldn’t take it anymore and took early retirement.”

See also: Let the Children Play, by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle.

NAEP -- MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND LACK OF PROGRESS

We’re Pressuring Students to Read Too Fast, Too Much, Too Soon

First, the disclaimer: On the NAEP test, a score demonstrating proficiency does not mean "grade level." It means that the test taker can competently handle challenging material. There is some debate that the scoring levels are set too high. See Curmudgucation's post titled, The One And Only Lesson To Be Learned From NAEP Scores for a discussion of this.

Second, our scores on the latest NAEP moved very little from the previous test. Maybe it's because there's too much pressure on students. The main takeaway is that the "reformist" status quo isn't helping to improve children's learning or lessen any racial or economic "achievement gaps."
Recent reading tests report that students’ reading comprehension scores show that just over one-third of students in grades four, eight, and 10 are proficient at reading. Researchers and education policy makers ponder the significance of little to no improvement in reading scores for students as a whole and the widening gap between our high-performing and low-performing students. What many of these thinkers fail to consider is the way education has changed. The system ignores that developmental psychology says when we push students too much and too fast we do more harm than good. The reading pressures we put on students may be one major cause of the stagnant scores.


WANT TO IMPROVE READING SCORES? READ ALOUD

The Most Powerful Family Ritual? The Bedtime Story

As if we needed any more reason to read aloud to our children (and students), here's an article about the benefits of reading aloud at bedtime. One thing the author neglects to mention in his article is that reading aloud to a child is the "single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading..."

Teachers and parents, if you're not reading to your children every day for at least 15 minutes, you're not doing enough. It's never too early...or too late to start.

There is simply nothing more powerful than the bedtime story—especially in this age of continuous screen time. As we go deeper into the discussion, we start to see how the bedtime story is the perfect ending to the day. So let’s rethink and reclaim this special decompression time for both parent and child.

It is not just something we are doing for our kids—the benefits accrue to us as well. We don’t just read to our kids, we read with our kids. Here are five reasons why the bedtime story is the most powerful family ritual...

Setting Children Up to Hate Reading

This article is from February, 2014. I've added it here to help with the understanding of the article above.

The best way to teach children to read is to increase their interest and enthusiasm in reading.

The best way to get children interested and enthusiastic about reading is to read to them. Every day.
Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.

Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?


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Monday, January 20, 2020

Some words from Martin Luther King Jr.

ECONOMIC DISPARITY
A great nation is a compassionate nation. Who are the least of these? The least of these are those who still find themselves smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in an affluent society. Who are the least of these? They are the thousands of individuals who see life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. Who are the least of these? They are the little boys and little girls who grow up with clouds of inferiority floating in their little mental skies because they know that they are caught in conditions of economic depravation. Who are the least of these? They are the individuals who are caught in the fatigue of despair. And somehow if we are to be a great nation, we must be concerned about the least of these, our brothers.



A PEOPLE ORIENTED SOCIETY
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.


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Sunday, January 19, 2020

2020 Medley #1: Religious Freedom Day and Vouchers

Religious Freedom Day 2020, Prayer in school, Vouchers in Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Tennessee, Why vouchers anyway?


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY

January 16 was Religious Freedom Day.

In 1993 President George H. W. Bush declared January 16 to be Religious Freedom Day. On January 16, 1786, the Virginia House of Delegates, under the leadership of James Madison, passed Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In 1992, on that date, Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder signed the first proclamation to that effect for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Virginia Statute was the first document to prohibit a state-sponsored church in the new United States. The statute declared “that Almighty God hath created the mind free” and that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

It went on to state that “no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry...or otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.”

The Virginia Statute gave birth to the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom.

Meanwhile, 234 years later...

PUBLIC SCHOOL PRAYER GUIDELINES

Trump Administration Marks Religious Freedom Day By Mocking That Principle

...we find that the current administration, likely at the behest of its evangelical base, is doing all it can to blur the separation between church and state first expressed in the Virginia Statute.

Prayer in public schools has been a hot topic for decades, and the courts have consistently held that students may pray or express themselves religiously as long as the prayers or expressions do not interfere with the instructional process and aren't coercive. As Jefferson wrote,
...it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
The administration, however, suggests that non-interference is too much to ask and encourages "student-led" prayer as often as possible. It's true that some public schools may have overly restricted students' religious expression, which is the reason the administration gives for updating the rules. However, instead of dealing with those specific issues, the administration has instead chosen to loosen restrictions for all.
The school prayer guidelines look fairly innocuous on the surface, but when you go a little deeper, you see that they promote prayer at every turn and imply that certain types of supposedly “student-led” prayer can be woven into school-sponsored events, a dubious proposition to say the least.

More alarmingly, the guidelines require states to collect and investigate reports of alleged violations of the right to engage in religious activities from public school students and staff. States must forward all of these to federal officials – even the ones that have no merit. Trump’s increasingly theocratic Justice Department will undoubtedly use these stories to harass public schools that are upholding the separation of church and state all over the nation.

MONTANA VOUCHERS

On The Supreme Court’s Docket: Forcing Taxpayers To Pay For Religious Education And Discrimination

In a few days (Jan 22) the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will rule on a Montana voucher plan which the state courts have found to be unconstitutional based on the state Constitution. The new makeup of the SCOTUS, with two newly appointed right-wing justices, will likely result in a finding in favor of vouchers, but perhaps I might just be feeling cynical.

Indiana is, of course, the home of one of the nation's most expansive voucher programs. Our state supreme court, unlike Montana's, doesn't care if our tax money is given to religious groups that discriminate.
It’s clear what Big Sky lawmakers were up to: They wanted to subsidize private religious education, even though Montana’s Constitution contains a provision explicitly protecting residents from being forced to support “direct or indirect” tax aid for religious purposes.

The Montana Supreme Court correctly struck down the plan, calling it a clear violation of the state constitution. More than 90 percent of private school vouchers in Montana funded private religious schools, and 70 percent of all private schools in the state teach a religious curriculum.

The U.S. Supreme Court now will hear the case, which is troubling. The high court’s decision could set a dangerous precedent, eroding church-state separation not just in Montana, but in three-quarters of U.S. states. Voucher proponents have made it crystal clear that they want to pave the way for private school voucher schemes across the country by gutting the religious freedom provisions that exist in the constitutions of at least 37 states.

Not only do private school voucher programs force taxpayers to fund religious education, but they also force taxpayers to fund discrimination. Private religious schools have free rein to discriminate against children and families if they don’t share the school’s religious beliefs, if a student or parent is LGBTQ, if the child has a disability, or if they don’t follow a school’s religious tenets such as accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior or having premarital sex.


WISCONSIN VOUCHERS

Homeowners Fed Up Paying for Two School Systems

Just like Indiana, Wisconsin's voucher plan takes money away from everyone to pay for religious school vouchers, even in districts that have no voucher accepting schools. The money for vouchers comes out of the "school money" pot first, and then the rest is distributed around to the state's public school districts. The parents in this particular district are fed up...
“There are more and more people across the state talking about this issue,” Hambuch-Boyle said. “More people are becoming aware that their tax money is supporting private education at the expense of public school students, and they’re not happy about it.”

The first voucher program was instituted in Milwaukee in 1990. It grew to include the Racine school district in 2011 and was expanded across the state two years later. There is also a voucher program for special needs students.

Increased spending for voucher schools means less funding available for the state’s 421 public school districts. Every one of those districts is impacted to some extent because voucher school dollars come from the same state budget fund that pays public schools. Voucher disbursements are made first, before public school disbursements occur.

OHIO VOUCHERS

Two articles from Ohio...one with an interesting voucher twist...an Ohio district is forced to put a tax levy on the ballot in order to pay for increased funding to vouchers!

Ohio’s Budget Bill Multiplies School Vouchers, Leaves Local School Districts in Crisis
I wonder whether legislators have any real understanding of the collateral damage for particular communities from policies enacted without debate. Maybe, because our community has worked for fifty years to be a stable, racially and economically diverse community with emphasis on fair housing enforcement and integrated schools, legislators just write us off as another failed urban school district. After all, Ohio’s education policy emphasizes state takeover and privatization instead of equitable school funding. The state punishes instead of helping all but its most affluent, outer ring, exurban, “A”-rated school districts, where property values are high enough that state funding is not a worry.

What this year’s EdChoice voucher expansion means for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district where the members of my book discussion group all live is that—just to pay for the new vouchers—our school district has been forced to put a property tax levy on the March 17 primary election ballot. Ohio’s school finance expert, Howard Fleeter explains that in our school district, EdChoice voucher use has grown by 478 percent in a single year. Fleeter continues: “Cleveland Heights isn’t losing any students…. They are just losing money.’” “If this doesn’t get unwound, I think it is significant enough in terms of the impact on the money schools get to undermine any new funding formula.”

Education leaders battle over school voucher growth
Washington Local Schools Superintendent Kadee Anstadt said the measures used to designate schools as EdChoice eligible are fundamentally flawed. To illustrate this point, Ms. Anstadt pointed to a school in a neighboring district: Toledo Public Schools’ Chase STEM Academy. Chase is considered one of the most improved schools in the area in recent years, yet it’s still on the EdChoice list.

“So really improvement doesn’t matter so much,” she said. “The list is just ongoing. It’s almost a mathematical formula to include as many people as possible.”


TENNESSEE VOUCHERS

AP Exclusive: State Voucher Violations Leave Details Unknown

Tennessee vouchers are put on a debit card that parents can spend at the school of their "choice." Apparently, the state didn't stop to think that some parents might use the money for something else...
Some Tennessee parents were accused of misspending thousands of dollars in school voucher funds while using state-issued debit cards over the past school year, a review by The Associated Press has found, and state officials say they do not know what many of those purchases were for.

The Tennessee voucher program is currently modest in scale but is set to expand under Republican leadership over the next year. The state gives families of children with certain disabilities the option of removing their students from public school and then provides a state-issued debit card loaded with tax dollars to help cover their children's private school needs.

Privatizer's dictionary: "choice"
Parents can decide to enroll their children in a private school at the public's expense. The school, in turn, gets to "choose" whether or not to accept the child.

WHY HAVE VOUCHERS, ANYWAY?

No, private schools aren’t better at educating kids than public schools. Why this new study matters.

Private schools aren't better than public schools...as this article reporting on research published in 2018 reveals. Indiana's voucher program was begun -- supposedly -- to help students "escape" from "failing" schools. Now, after Mike Pence spent his four years as Governor expanding the voucher program, that doesn't matter. Nearly everyone who wants one can get a voucher for a religious school because... "choice." The tax money diverted from public schools doesn't go to religious schools because they're better, but just because parents want to avoid the public schools for one reason or another.

It's interesting that state legislatures don't provide vouchers to private country clubs, for example, for people who want to avoid public parks...or vouchers to book stores for people who don't want to use the public library. Only private schools get vouchers...the vast majority of them, religious schools.
Despite evidence showing otherwise, it remains conventional wisdom in many parts of the education world that private schools do a better job of educating students, with superior standardized test scores and outcomes. It is one of the claims that some supporters of school choice make in arguing that the public should pay for private school education.

The only problem? It isn’t true, a new study confirms.

University of Virginia researchers who looked at data from more than 1,000 students found that all of the advantages supposedly conferred by private education evaporate when socio-demographic characteristics are factored in. There was also no evidence found to suggest that low-income children or children enrolled in urban schools benefit more from private school enrollment.

The results confirm what earlier research found but are especially important amid a movement to privatize public education — encouraged by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — based in part on the faulty assumption that public schools are inferior to private ones.

Privatizer's dictionary: "failing school"
A school is considered "failing" when a large percentage of its students score too low, according to an arbitrarily determined cut-score, on a standardized test. This low "achievement" can be caused by poverty, hunger, joblessness, illness, violence and other outside influences that have a deleterious effect on student achievement over which schools have no control. To call a school which finds itself in such a situation "failing" is to abrogate the responsibility of government. To be sure, school leaders have the responsibility to keep order, hire qualified staff, and provide an appropriate curriculum, and in that sense, perhaps a school can be failing. However, if the outside environment in which students spend the bulk of their time is working in opposition to learning, then there's not much that schools can do without adequate resources.


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Saturday, January 11, 2020

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions: 5. Be an Education Voter

2020 Teachers' New Year's Resolutions
5. Be an Education voter!


It's a new year and as is our custom here in the USA, we make resolutions which, while rarely kept, can be redefined as goals toward which we would strive had we the strength.

[Updated and edited from 2018]

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #5
  • Be an Education voter.
Have you been teaching long enough to remember when
  • there was enough time in your day to do things with your class like reading aloud, learning about dinosaurs, developing a science project, or playing a learning game...just for fun?
  • standardized tests weren't administered in every grade level every year?
  • standardized tests were used to guide your instruction, not punish your students, you, or your school, or to use as a template for teaching to the test?
  • teaching experience was honored in the salary schedule for your school corporation? Each year you taught you received an incremental pay increase.
  • your teacher's negotiating team could bargain for class size, preparation time, and duty-free periods?
  • the push to learn to read was more appropriately assigned to first-grade instead of kindergarten?
Over the last four to five decades -- since I began my own teaching career -- things have changed for schools and teachers. Classroom professionals are no longer trusted to make curriculum decisions for their students. The state tests have taken over curriculum choices as well as teacher evaluations. Students have less time to play. Teachers' salaries have stagnated.

Since the beginning of the standards and testing craze which began in the last decade of the 20th century, we have let legislators strip the joy of learning from our classrooms. In 2001, No Child Left Behind, moved the wheel a bit further introducing punishment to schools which didn't "perform" (read: couldn't get enough students to pass "the test" despite the numbers of English language learners, the impact of child poverty, and students receiving special services). Then, in 2011, the Indiana legislature, under the direction of then-Governor Mitch Daniels and State Superintendent Tony Bennett, doubled down in their war against public education with laws providing for charter schools and vouchers, as well as other laws apparently intended to damage the teaching profession.

Since 2011 teachers in Indiana have lost...
  • seniority and the value of experience or advanced degrees on salary schedules
  • declining salaries (when adjusted for inflation)
  • the right to collectively bargain things like class size, prep time, and supervision time
  • the loss of due process
and, along with their students, administrators, and patrons, have had to endure...
  • a constitutional amendment that gives the state legislature complete responsibility for funding schools.
  • the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  • the diversion of public education funds to testing companies, charter schools and vouchers
  • teacher evaluations and school grades based on test scores
  • untrained laypeople taking teaching positions based on content knowledge alone
  • and, beginning in 2020, Governor-appointed majority (8 out of 10) on the state school board as well as a Governor-appointed state superintendent of public instruction.
The challenge to the public school teachers and schools of Indiana continues. Our state lags behind neighboring states in teacher salaries. The General Assembly, while making noise about the amount of money spent on education, continues to fund public education at below 2008 levels.

[For a detailed look at funding and teacher salaries in Indiana see Education Funding and Teacher Compensation In Indiana: Evaluation and Recommendations.]


YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR PROFESSION

You know what to do...
  • Write to or visit your legislators. Once you know the issues, tell your legislators how you feel about what they're doing.
Indiana residents use the links below to find your legislators.

State Legislators

United States Representative

United States Senate
  • Educate your friends, family, and neighbors.
  • Promote public education and supporters of public education on Social Media.
  • Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Write to national newspapers. Start your own blog and write about public education.
  • Let your local school board members know about your concerns for public education.
  • Testify at state legislative committee meetings and state school board meetings.
  • Work for candidates who promise to support public education. Once they're elected, hold them to their promises.
  • Run for public office.
Family and work responsibilities might restrict what you can do. Personal finances might restrict what you can do. Physical limitations might restrict what you can do. But, everyone can do something.

Once you have the knowledge, teach others.

Do Something.


YOU ARE THE VOICE FOR YOUR STUDENTS

Teachers, you are the political voice of your students. Their needs and interests, as well as your own, are in your hands when you enter the voting booth.
  • When you vote for candidates who skimp when asked to invest in public schools, then you vote against the interests of your students. 
  • When you vote for candidates who divert public school funding to private and charter schools, you vote against the interests of your students. 
  • When you vote for candidates who work to deprofessionalize teaching, exacerbating the shortage of qualified teachers, then you vote against the interests of your students.
This year, resolve to be a public education voter. Make sure you're registered to vote. Indiana voters, you can register or check your registration online, here: Indiana Voter Portal.

Your vote matters.

Resolution #5: Be an "education" voter. Support your profession and public education. Support candidates who support public schools without regard to party affiliation.


NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #1
  • Read aloud to your children/students every day.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #2
  • Teach your students, not "The Test."
  • Educate yourself.
NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #4
  • Focus on developing positive relationships.
🙋🏻🚌👨‍🏫