"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, August 27, 2007

Children's Health...

What? Children's Health Has Something to Do With Academic Success? You're kidding!

Thursday, August 23, 2007 7:55 PM

by Gerald Coles

from The Pulse

While governor of Texas and initiator of the so-called "Texas education miracle" aimed at helping poor and minority children succeed academically, George W. Bush had an opportunity to use a large budget surplus to provide affordable health care for 250,000 poor children. Instead, he called a special legislative session. Declaring "people are hurting out there," Bush pushed through a $45 million tax break for oil well owners.

Fast-forward to 2007 and we find the No Child Left Behind president responding similarly to poor children's needs by threatening to veto a bipartisan bill, the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), that would extend health insurance to millions of uninsured children. Bush worries that the program would be too expensive and (worry of worries!) that it would "encourage more people to go on government health care." Instead, he proposes a federal plan that would remove about one million children currently receiving health insurance and increase the number of uninsured children from nine to ten million. While proclaiming to be making education policy that keeps "a historic commitment to our children," the president apparently sees no connection between children's academic achievement and their health.

Of course the connection is no news for teachers, who see its critical importance everyday in their classrooms, or to researchers who have studied it. For example, Stephanie M. Spernak and colleagues examined health and academic achievement in former Head Start children. They found that children's health status when beginning school predicted third grade achievement scores and "children in poor general health had significantly lower achievement scores than children in good general health in third grade." Similarly, Brenda Needham and colleagues found that self-reported physical health problems were associated with school failure, mostly because health problems contribute to school absenteeism, trouble with homework, and student-teacher bonding. Asthmatic children in the United States miss approximately 14 million days of school, but the rate of school absenteeism is twice as high among poor and minority asthmatic children living in urban areas.

And health insurance makes a difference! A California study showed that after obtaining health care, children who had been in poor health improved their school attendance, attention in class, and the extent to which they kept up with school activities. Of course these changes contributed to improved academic performance. A University of Missouri study found that children who enrolled in the state's health insurance program had 39% fewer school absences. Uninsured children with asthma miss more school days.

Bush's threat to veto the SCHIP legislation illustrates what is often omitted in discussions of NCLB and its chief instructional mandate, Reading First. Besides being an attempt to wreck the public schools, replace a full education with mindless skills training, and increase control over teachers' work and power, NCLB serves as cruel ideological instrument by which to focus the nation on a pretense of helping poor and minority children while making war on them by slashing every federal policy initiative critical to their lives and educational success.

Again, a look back at Texas reveals the template for this policy. While focusing on the so-called "Texas education miracle," which has been soundly debunked by several independent studies, Bush was indifferent to poor children. For example, while he was governor, Texas ranked second highest among states in the percentage of people - especially children - who went hungry. Yet he vetoed a minimal step to help the malnourished, i.e., a bill to coordinate hunger programs in Texas. As governor he slashed the state's food stamp payments, support essential for poor children, by $1 billion. When a reporter asked him about hunger in the state, the governor answered, "Where?" As president, he has cut or attempted to cut federal support for countless programs, such as affordable housing, food stamps, lead decontamination, urban pollution reduction, and Head Start that would better poor children's lives and contribute to their academic success.

Right now educators can make a difference in taking one important step to help poor children's health and education. Go to the Campaign for Health Care at http://www.childrenshealthcampaign.org/. There you'll be able to sign a petition to Congress and the President that calls for health coverage for all children. You'll also find information on how to call your senators and urge them to support SCHIP and how to recruit family and friends in this effort. Both the House and Senate bills would provide additional funds to provide health insurance for millions of poor children. These bills are inadequate in that they would not cover all uninsured children, but are the best the Democrats can do right now in order to get sufficient Republican support to override a presidential veto.

Given the grim realities of current domestic policy, both bills and the final compromise bill will be a critical victory for many poor children. By voicing support for these bills, educators can help defeat one aspect of the war on poor children's education.
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Friday, August 24, 2007

A liar or a fool...you decide

Where does President Bush stand on student loans and Pell Grants? During the last presidential campiagn he promised to increase the amount of money for Pell Grants so the US could "stay competitive for the 21st century"...but let's look at what actually happened:

Student Loans: On Dec. 21, 2005, the Senate passed $12.7 billion in cuts to education programs — “the largest cut in student college loan programs in history.” Vice President Cheney cast the deciding vote in favor of the cuts. The bill also fixed the interest rate on student loans at 6.8 percent, “even if commercial rates are lower.” Despite Bush’s claims, students will be left off the program.

Pell Grants: Pell Grants have been frozen or cut since 2002; they are now stuck at a maximum of $4,050. In his 2000 election campaign, President Bush promised to increase the maximum Pell Grant amount to $5,100. “From 2004 to 2005, 24,000 students lost their Pell grants, according to a report pre-pared by the Congressional Research Service. This was the first drop in the number of students receiving the grants in several years; the number had been growing steadily since 1999.”

Recently a college student asked some pointed questions of the president. He is obviously not used to answering the type of question which deals with facts. Maybe the Washington press corps needs to take a lesson from this 19 year old...

Q: My name is Tiffany Cooper. I’m a sophomore here at Kansas State and I was just wanting to get your comments about education. Recently 12.7 billion dollars was cut from education. I was just wondering how is that supposed to help our futures?

Bush: Education budget was cut — say it again. What was cut?

Q: 12.7 billion dollars was cut from education. I’m wanting to know how is that supposed to help our futures?

Bush: At the federal level?

Q: Yes.

Bush: I don’t think we’ve actually — for higher education? Student loans?

Q: Yes, student loans.

Bush: Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren’t going to be cut off the program. We’re just making sure it works better as part of the reconciliation package I think she’s talking about? Yeah — It is a form of the program to make sure it functions better. In other words, we’re not taking people off student loans. We’re saving money in the student loan program because it’s inefficient. So I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don’t think so.

Secondly, on Pell Grants, we are actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget. Great question. The key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century, and I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world. But I think i’m right on this. I will check when I get back to Washington, but thank you for your question.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Recovery Receives Top Marks in Federal Research

From Schools Matter

Six years ago when Margaret LaMontagne (Spellings), Reid Lyon, and Doug Carnine loaded the Reading First review panels with their direct instruction stooges and cronies, they set back reading instruction by decades, who knows how many. As ED's own Inspector General's reports have shown, states that applied for Reading First grants were manhandled into choosing reading programs aligned with the Lyon and Carnine back-to-brutality phonics orthodoxy. And if grantees ended up off the direct instruction reservation, Reid Lyon's Reading First Director, Chris Doherty, could simply pull the plug, as he did in Rockford, Illinois:
Mr. Doherty then directed the state to freeze the district’s funding, and ultimately to withdraw the grant. Those actions prompted another e-mail from Mr. Lyon: “wow – Talk about a guy with smarts, integrity AND balls,” he wrote. “I am talking about you Chris.”
The Lyon and Carnine Cabal's most hated reading program was the balanced literacy methodology of Reading Recovery, a holistic and humane literacy approach grounded by empirical research. It is suitably ironic, then, that Ed Week reports that Reading Recovery has emerged in the latest federal research from Spellings's own shop as the only program "found to have positive effects or potentially positive effects across all four of the domains in the review—alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement:"

A long-awaited review of beginning-reading programs by the federal What Works Clearinghouse found few comprehensive or supplemental programs that have evidence of effectiveness in raising student achievement. But what is missing from the review may be even more telling: None of the most popular commercial reading programs on the market had sufficiently rigorous studies to be included in the review by the clearinghouse.

“Some of the very prominent, full-year reading curricula weren’t prioritized for this review,” said Jill Constantine, the principal director of the review. “They tended not to have studies with randomized-control trials or with experimental designs that met the clearinghouse’s evidence standards.”

Most of the programs deemed to have “positive effects” or “potentially positive effects” in the review were supplemental or intervention programs, not core reading series. Moreover, those results were based on just one or two studies that met the clearinghouse’s standards, and just a handful were found to be effective in several areas studied.

Just one program was found to have positive effects or potentially positive effects across all four of the domains in the review—alphabetics, fluency, comprehension, and general reading achievement. That program, Reading Recovery, an intensive, one-on-one tutoring program, has drawn criticism over the past few years from prominent researchers and federal officials who claimed it was not scientifically based.

Federal officials and contractors tried to discourage states and districts from using Reading Recovery in schools participating in the federal Reading First program, citing a lack of evidence that it helps struggling readers. . . .

How sweet it is!! It's just too bad that so many states are now stuck with the McGraw-Hill Open Court parrot reading system that they were force fed by hacks and crooks in order to get Reading First grants.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Dentist Left Behind

Saturday, August 11, 2007

No Dentist Left Behind

I found this old posting that is still as relevant today as it was a few years ago when it was first posted:

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget Check-ups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth. When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.

"Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said. "No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?" "It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice."

"That's terrible," he said. "What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?" "Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry." "Why not?", I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."

"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can't control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don't get to do much preventive work. Also, more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well water which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"

"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. "I can't believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn't fear a little accountability."

"I am not being defensive!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most."

"Don't get touchy," I said. "Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious! In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse. The few educated patients I have who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating is an actual measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the most needy patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"

"I think you are overreacting," I said. "'Complaining, excuse-making and stonewalling won't improve dental health'...I am quoting from a leading member of the DOC," I noted. "What's the DOC?" he asked. "It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved. "Spare me," he said, "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.

The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?" "Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes." "That's too complicated, expensive and time- consuming," I said. "Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottom line.

It's an absolute measure." "That's what I'm afraid my parents and prospective patients will think. This can't be happening," he said despairingly.

"Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some."

"How?" he asked. "If you receive a poor rating, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly. "You mean," he said, "they'll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? BIG HELP!"

"There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all." "You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score made on a test of children's progress with no regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools."

I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. "I'm going to write my representatives and senators," he said. "I'll use the school analogy. Surely they will see the point." He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I, a teacher, see in the mirror so often lately.

If you don't understand why educators resent the recent federal NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT, this may help. If you do understand, you'll enjoy this analogy, which was forwarded by John S. Taylor, Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County, PA, School District.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Children Deserve Veterinary Care Too

Children Deserve Veterinary Care Too

By Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbaraehrenreich.com
Posted on August 11, 2007, Printed on August 14, 2007

This year, Americans will spend about $9.8 billion on health care for their pets, up from $7.2 billion five years ago. According to the New York Times, New York's leading pet hospitals offer CT scans, MRI's, dialysis units, and even a rehab clinic featuring an underwater treadmill, perhaps for the amphibians in one's household. A professor who consults to pet health facilities on communication issues justified these huge investments in pet health to me by pointing out that pets are, after all, "part of the family."

Well, there's another category that might reasonably be considered "part of the family." True, they are not the ideal companions for the busy young professional: It can take two to three years to housebreak them; their standards of personal hygiene are lamentably low, at least compared to cats; and large numbers of them cannot learn to "sit" without the aid of Ritalin.

I'm talking about children, of course, and while I can understand why many people would not one of these hairless and often incontinent bipeds in their homes, it is important to point out that they can provide considerable gratification. There's a three-year-old in my life, for example, who gives me many hours a week of playful distraction from the pressures of work. No matter how stressed I am, she can brighten my mood with her quavering renditions of the ABC song or "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

She has health insurance, as it turns out, and generally high quality care. But you can never be too sure. So I went to the website of VPI Pet Insurance, one of the nation's largest animal companion health insurers, to see what kind of a policy I could get for her. In the application form, I listed her as a three-year-old mixed breed dog -- a description made somewhat plausible by the fact that her first words, spoken at the remarkable age of 10 months, were "ruf ruf" and "doggie outside." When I completed the form and clicked to get a quote I was amazed to see that I get her a "premium" policy for a mere $33 a month.

But, you may be wondering, could a veterinarian handle common children's ills? On the hopeful side, let me cite the case, reported in June by Bob Herbert of the New York Times, of Diamonte Driver, a 12-year old boy who died recently from an abscessed tooth because he had no insurance and his mother could not afford $80 to have the tooth pulled. Could a vet have handled this problem? Yes, absolutely.

Or there's the case of 14-year old Devante Johnson, also reported by Herbert, who died when his health insurance ran out in the middle of treatment for kidney cancer. I don't know exactly what kind of treatment he was getting, but I suspect that the $1.25 million linear accelerator for radiation therapy available at one of New York's leading pet hospitals might have helped. The Times article also mentions a mixed breed named Bullwinkle who consumed $7,000 worth of chemotherapy before passing on to his reward. Surely Devante could have benefited from the same kind of high quality pet care, delivered at a local upscale animal hospital.

It may seem callous to focus on children when so many pets go uninsured and without access to CT-scans or underwater treadmills. But in many ways, children stack up well compared to common pets. They can shed real tears, like Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. They can talk as well as many of the larger birds, or at least mimic human speech. And if you invest enough time in their care and feeding, they will jump all over you when you arrive at the door, yipping and covering your face with drool.

The Senate Finance Committee has approved a bill that would expand state health insurance coverage for children (S-CHIP) to include 3.2 million kids who are not now covered (but leaving about 6 million still uncovered.) Bush has promised to veto this bill, on the grounds that government should not be involved in health coverage. If Bush does veto the bill, the fallback demand should be: Open up pet health insurance to all American children now! Though even as I say this, I worry that the president will counter by proposing to extend euthanasia services to children who happen to fall ill.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harpers, and the Progressive, she is a contributing writer to Time magazine. She lives in Florida.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/59483/
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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Who is buying No Child Left Behind?

George Miller is the cosigner of the NCLB document and the head of the House Educational Committee that is in charge of reauthorizing NCLB.

According to http://abcnews.go.com and Megan Reichgott of The Associated Press, NCLB testing industry is dominated by four companies:

CTB/McGraw-Hill, Monterey, CA
Riverside Publishing
. Itasca, Ill
, San Antonio, Texas
Pearson Educational Measurement
, Iowa City, Iowa

Note also how many of the companies represented below are for-profit educational corporations, online schools, or conservative "think tanks." These are the people who have contributed to Congressman Miller's campaign. These are the people who Miller is beholden to when it comes time to review and reauthorize No Child Left Behind. Is he going to do what is best for children?

Business Week calls the for-profit education market "red-hot." It is...millions of tax dollars which should be going to improving public schools are being funneled to for-profit companies whose bottom line is profits...not the education of children.

Jerald Barnett

Education America / Owner

Thomas Bishop

University of Phoenix / VP

Deborah Blackwell

Touro University / Provost & Dean

Cynthia Braddon

McGraw-Hill Companies / VP

Eli Broad

Broad Foundation / Founder

Kathryn Costello

Pearson Education Publishing

Larry Diamond

Hoover Institute

William Etheridge

Pearson Education, CEO

Lawrence Goodman

School Link Technologies, President

Henry Howard

US Education Finance Corp., President

John Isley

Pearson Education / Publisher

Richard Jerue

Education Mgmt Corp / VP Govt. Relat.

William Jordan

McGraw-Hill Companies / Senior Director

Joseph Kakaty

Student Loan Consolidation Center

Hendrik Kranenburg

McGraw-Hill / President Higher

Bonnie Lieberman

John Wylie & Sons Publishing / SVP

Patricia McAllister

Educational Testing Service / Govern

Lowell Milken

Knowledge Universe Ltd. / Business

Arnold Mitchem

Council for Opportunity in Educ/PR

Jacqueline Pels

Hardscratch Press / Editor / Publisher

Richard Robinson

Scholastic Inc. / President & CEO

John Sargent

Holtzbrinck Publisher / CEO

Larry Snowhite

Houghton Mifflin Company / VP Govern

FOLLOW UP...why has no newspaper taken up the story of how NCLB is NOT benefiting children as reported on this blog on July, 31 in the article, New Research: Achievement slows after implementation of NCLB, below?

Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking on the link on the side.
More than 30,000 signatures so far...