"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

Monday, October 14, 2019

Let the Children Play

Pasi Sahlberg came to the U.S. as a visiting professor at Harvard to help American educators learn how the Finnish school system became the world's best. William Doyle won a Fulbright scholarship to move to Finland to study the Finnish system. Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is the result of the collaboration they formed.


THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

Let the Children Play begins with a discussion of the research into play and its benefit for children. Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control agree that play and physical activity are of critical importance to growing children, and are beneficial to their academics, and future skills.

Despite the science, however, play is disappearing from school due to so-called "education reform."
Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.
The authors discuss and analyze Finnish schools. What makes them so successful? How can we learn from them? How have they used play to help their children achieve?

FINLAND

The Finnish philosphy of education, which is based on American educational research (see Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg), is child-centered, something we in the U.S. have learned, but rarely practice.
In Finland, the main question isn’t “Is the child ready for the school?” but “Is the school ready for every child, and ready to accommodate each child’s differences?”


The child-centered school adapts to the child, not the other way around...and play is important. The seat-work style of American education is rejected. Children aren't required to start formal instruction until they're seven years old, and there are no standardized tests until the end of high school. What assessment there is, is also child-centered. During her visit to Finnish schools, Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, said,
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.
For several years, even without regular standardized tests, Finland led the world in student achievement as measured by the PISA tests. In recent years, however, their rankings have started to slip. Since they understand the limitations of tests, they didn't panic. They didn't start teaching to the test. They didn't label and retain students as "failing." They didn't fire or punish teachers. They didn't close schools or shame them with "F" ratings. Instead, they doubled-down on child-centered education.
In many other countries, politicians and bureaucrats would have pushed the panic button and declared a state of emergency. Common remedies would most likely have included teachers being penalized more for inferior standardized test data, and more academic pressure on children. But Finland didn’t do this. Instead, educators and government officials did something almost unheard of in the world of education reform. They talked to children. They then realized that one of the big overall problems was a lack of student engagement in schools and the fact that children feel their voices are not heard when it comes to their own learning and lives in school.


Throughout it all, there is play. Children in Finland aren't sitting at desks all day listening to their teacher or doing seat-work. Recess has all but disappeared in the United States, but the successful Finns, on the other hand, give their children fifteen minutes of unstructured free play time every hour because...
...learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren't the best way to build academic success for our children. Current research supports previous research. Play is children's work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they're made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. Bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.

Older children also benefit from unstructured free time.
In play, children gradually develop concepts of casual relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgments, to analyze and synthesize, to imagine and to formulate. Children become absorbed in their play, and the satisfaction of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion fixes habits of concentration which can be transferred to other learning.
OTHER IDEAS

Other good ideas from Let the Children Play...

On preparation for school
The lesson: If you want to get your young child ready for school, read to them—and play with them!
On ed-tech in the classroom


On data
School policy should be “data informed,” not “data driven.”
On standardized tests
...standardized tests alone don’t provide the correct, complete information needed to judge school quality—because they don’t fully account for income, family background, learning history, peer effects, access to proper out-of-school nutrition and intellectual enrichment, emotional life, conditions in the home, and a host of other factors that affect a child’s learning, development, and growth.
FIVE STARS

Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is not just for teachers of primary grades. Parents, upper grade teachers, secondary teachers, administrators, and everyone else interested in American education, will benefit from the information it contains.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Short on teachers? Import them.

The war on America's teachers has created an opportunity for teachers from other countries to come here on work visas to teach our children.

Desperate to fill teacher shortages, US schools are hiring teachers from overseas
When Joevie Alvarado became a teacher, she never expected to teach American students 7,600 miles away.

But a dire shortage of US teachers means some schools are taking drastic measures -- like hiring teachers from half a world away.
Alverado is from the Philippines...and is teaching in Arizona on a five-year J-1 visa. She makes more money here than back home...

The J-1 Teacher Program was meant to be a cultural exchange, but now it's being used because there aren't enough American teachers to fill all the spots available.


TEACHERS SALARIES: LOWER THAN OTHER COLLEGE GRADS, HIGHER THAN IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES

The war on American teachers has made the job of teaching less desirable and a job that Americans are turning their backs on. Experienced teachers are leaving. Young people are choosing other careers.

So some states, like Arizona, are importing teachers from other countries.

In the U.S. teachers are paid less than other college graduates. They work long hours, at least as long as those other college graduates, often with little support. But the salaries of American teachers are higher than in other countries, so foreign teachers, hoping to earn more money, are willing to come here to teach our kids for 3-5 years.
"The average starting pay (for teachers) in Arizona is about $36,300."

While that salary may seem paltry for many Americans, Filipino teachers like Noel Que say their jobs in the US are much more lucrative, allowing them to live better.

A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.

It's a temporary fix, however. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that by 2020 the United States will need about 300,000 new teachers per year. They estimate the 2020 supply of new teachers from teacher training programs to be under 200,000. Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2014 teacher education enrollments dropped by 35%.
Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.
It's clear that we aren't going to have enough teachers. We can't import hundreds of thousands of teachers each year.


EXODUS, WALKOUT, OR SHORTAGE?

Tim Slekar, Dean Of The School Of Education At Edgewood College in Wisconsin says that there's a teacher exodus, not a shortage.
When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It's not. Conditions would get better. They're not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It's declining. That can't be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don't support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that's why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren't they coming.

Peter Greene, a retired high school teacher who blogs at Curmudgucation and Forbes, also denies that we have a teacher shortage. Instead it's a...
...slow motion walkout, an open-ended strike that's hard to see because teachers are walking off the job one at a time.

There are plenty of people who are qualified to fill the positions, plenty of people who could enter a teacher prep program and join the profession if they were so inclined. I'm surprised to see that there's no good count of all the teacher licenses sitting unused, but simple math tells us that it is the number of people who have left, plus the number of people who gave up before they got a job, plus the people who graduated with a certificate but took another job and never came back, plus all the people who just decided not to even start down that path. Undoubtedly some of those people were ill-suited for the classroom and we are better off without them. But that can't be every person whose teacher papers sit gathering dust.

What can we do about the need for teachers besides importing them from other countries? Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute have some ideas.

First, offer teachers competitive and equitable salary packages. This must include incentives which make working at high-needs districts attractive. As long as teacher evaluations are tied to student achievement, and given the relationship between poverty and student achievement, then fewer teachers will want to teach in high-poverty districts. Giving teachers bonuses for high test scores, like we do in Indiana, isn't helpful.

Second, entice young people to become teachers. High salaries alone won't be enough. Things like housing subsidies, loan forgiveness, and student debt forgiveness will help. One of the most interesting ideas from the Learning Policy Insititute is a Grow Your Own program.
Create career pathways and “Grow Your Own” programs to prepare committed individuals from urban and rural school districts.
Third, improve teacher retention by improving working conditions including administrative support as well as a well maintained physical environment. This means that policymakers and legislatures must fully fund public education...as is required by the state Constitution...and end the drain of public funds to private (parochial) and privately run (charter) schools. We can't afford to fund three school systems.


SYSTEMIC IMPROVEMENT

Public schools need a systemic improvement in order to stem the teacher exodus and improve student learning.

The Chicago Teachers Union discusses this kind of school improvement in it's publication, The Schools Chicago Students Deserve 2.0.
The problem, as shown by decades of educational research, was not the teachers. The problems in education were the result of too-large class sizes, limited curricula, inadequate facilities, not enough support personnel, and lack of adequate funding.

All stakeholders must accept responsibility for school improvement. That includes federal, state, and local policymakers and legislators who control the flow of school resources.

Schools don't exist in a vacuum. Societal problems have an impact on our children, and our children bring those problems with them to school. Schools can't cure all of society's ills alone.


πŸ“šπŸŽ“πŸ“–

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

2019 Medley #20: Poverty and Testing

Poverty and Testing


IT'S POVERTY, STUPID

The connection between family income and school achievement has been well documented (see the links at the end of this post ) yet policymakers and the media continue to blame schools, teachers, and the students themselves for low achievement.

David Berliner notes that there are out-of-school factors to student achievement including medical care, food insecurity, family and community characteristics, and environmental pollutants. Included among the latter is lead poisoning, which contributes to low achievement levels and is more damaging to children of poverty.

Policymakers, however, have a vested interest in deflecting the blame for low achievement onto schools, teachers, and students. If poverty and its side effects are ignored, then those who are tasked with helping reduce poverty and, by extension, its side effects, are not to blame.

The articles in this post discuss the effects of poverty on student achievement. Achievement, in nearly all the articles, is measured solely by standardized test scores. Standardized test scores, aside from keeping testing companies in business, "measure what matters least." Alfie Kohn wrote,
What generally passes for a test of reading comprehension is a series of separate questions about short passages on random topics. These questions "rarely examine how students interrelate parts of the text and do not require justifications that support the interpretations"; indeed, the whole point is the "quick finding of answers rather than reflective interpretation."

In mathematics, the story is much the same. An analysis of the most widely used standardized math rests found that only 3 percent of the questions required "high level conceptual knowledge" and only 5 percent tested "high level thinking skills such as problem solving and reasoning." Typically the rests aim to make sure that students have memorized a series of procedures, not that they understand what they are doing.
It's been nearly two decades since the US Congress passed No Child Left Behind, yet we're still overusing and misusing standardized tests.

New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem

Core problems of poverty and underemployment are also discussed in this post...as well as how the federal share of funding for education has declined.
The correlation of academic achievement with family income has been demonstrated now for half a century, but policymakers, like those in the Ohio legislature who are debating punitive school district takeovers, prefer to blame public school teachers and administrators instead of using the resources of government to assist struggling families who need better access to healthcare, quality childcare, better jobs, and food assistance.

...child poverty affects academic achievement. Policy makers, however, in the spirit of test-based, sanctions-based school accountability, are instead determined to impose punishments on the school districts serving poor children. They imagine that if they shift the blame onto teachers, nobody will notice that they are themselves failing to invest the resources and power of government in programs to support the needs of America’s poorest children.


STANDARDIZED TESTING 101

New Test, Same Results: ILEARN Reflects Family Income

Indiana's new ILEARN test yields results similar to the old tests -- poor students score lower than more affluent students. The scatter-plot graph included shows the tendency towards high achievement and higher socioeconomic status.

The big news about ILEARN has been that local schools and teachers should not be held accountable for the low test scores. Implied by this is the assumption that schools and teachers, under different circumstances, should be held accountable for ILEARN test scores.

Student test scores should be used diagnostically -- to drive instruction. But because out-of-school factors have an impact on test scores, teachers should not be held solely accountable for student test scores. Because of those same out-of-school factors, schools should not be held solely accountable either. There are just too many outside variables that impact student test scores. Some of those variables, by the way, are the responsibility of policymakers. For example, are teachers responsible for the effect of lead on their students' learning because then-governor Mike Pence ignored lead contamination affecting East Chicago's children?

Additionally, student achievement tests have not been developed to evaluate schools and teachers. Doing so is an invalid use of the tests. The assumption that student test scores are the sole result of teacher or school quality is simply mistaken.

Among the [many] things that Indiana policymakers need to fix when it comes to our schools are 1), they need to assume their own share of responsibility for out-of-school factors affecting Indiana students' school achievement, and 2), they need to end the misuse and overuse of standardized tests.
Indiana’s new standardized test, ILEARN, may be new and even “computer adaptive,” but it has at least one thing in common with its predecessor ISTEP+. Scores on ILEARN correspond to socioeconomic status. Put simply: The poorer the families served by your school, the poorer your school will perform on the test. Shocking, we know.

Some news reports about the test talk just about the overall low scores. Others go skin deep by comparing the 
average scores of schools and districts  But scratch the surface, and you’ll find that this test—despite its price tag of $45 million—delivers more of the same. 


GAPS

Proficiency gaps deserve a look

How much money do we spend on our schools? Is there a difference between how much is spent on schools filled with black, Asian, multiracial, or Hispanic students? How much segregation is there in Indiana schools?
The disparities are stark. Statewide, 43.3% of white students were proficient on both the ILEARN math and English/language arts assessments compared to 14.8% of black students. Proficiency rates were 56.7% for Asian students, 31.8% for multiracial students and 24.2% for Hispanic students.

And yes, poverty matters. Just 22.9% of students who qualified by family income for free or reduced-price meals scored proficient, compared to 50.9% of students who didn’t qualify. (Gaps are similar, overall, for public, private and charter schools, according to my calculations).


Achievement gaps in schools driven by poverty, study finds

"If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps, you have to take on segregation." -- Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families.

“Racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools,” concluded the paper by academics, led by Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

...because race and poverty are so closely related, the only way to close the gap is to racially integrate schools. He pointed to those who advocate that schools think less about integration and instead try to improve all schools. That hasn’t worked, he said.

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps,” he said, “you have to take on segregation.”


MIT STUDY

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

I've included this 2015 report on an MIT study showing that poverty has an impact on children's brain development...which might account for a portion of the economic test score gap.
A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”

Relationship between SES and Academic Achievement

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Monday, September 23, 2019

"...you are still not mature enough..."

ADULTS GET A SCOLDING

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded the world's adults today at the U.N. Climate Action Summit.

Unfortunately, the American President didn't listen to Ms. Thunberg's speech. He dropped by the summit...but didn't stay. He also hasn't read the 2015 Department of Defense report on the national security risks caused by climate change. Instead, the current occupant of the White House has spent the last two and a half years dismantling the nation's environmental protections.

I doubt he would have understood why she was upset since he believes that "...the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese..."

MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AGO?

In her speech, Thunberg said that it's been more than thirty years since the science became "crystal clear." In 1971, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called, The End. In it, he wrote about the inevitable damage to the Earth from the use of fossil fuels.
If the present carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere were merely to double, the average temperature of the Earth would increase by 3.6° C. We might be able to stand the warmer summers and the milder winters but what of the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica?

At the higher temperatures, the ice caps would lose more ice in the summer than they would regain in the winter. They would begin to melt year by year at an accelerating pace and the sea level would inexorably rise. By the time all the ice caps were melted, the sea level would be at least 200 feet higher than it is and the ocean, at low tide, would lap about the twentieth floor of the Empire State Building. All the lowlands of Earth, containing it's most desirable farmland and its densest load of population would be covered by rolling waters.

At the rate at which fossil fuels are being increasingly used now, the ice caps will be melting rapidly about a century from now...
It didn't take a century...the ice caps are melting now...less than fifty years later.

Thirty years ago -- in 1989 -- Asimov again warned us about the Greenhouse Effect. This time he said there was a need for the world to cooperate and work together to solve what he saw as a threat to our civilization.

We didn't listen to the science in the 70s and 80s. We continued to play with our toys fueled by coal and oil. Now we have to face the consequences of our actions...the consequences our children and grandchildren will be forced to live with after we're gone. Are we mature enough yet to solve the problem?

SPEECH TO THE U.N. BY GRETA THUNBERG



This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Thank you.

ASIMOV ON THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT



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