"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, September 22, 2008

Schools on Track for Failure

From Schools Matter.


In 2005, Ed Moscovitch published a study (Executive Summary: Facing Reality) that showed the guaranteed failure rate built into NCLB's hard racism of unachievable goals. Moscovitch projected a 75% failure rate for all Massachusetts schools by 2014.

And here is a clip from the story last week in the Globe showing Moscovitch pretty much on target with his prediction:
By David Abel, Globe Staff

Fifty percent of all Massachusetts public schools have been identified as needing improvement, corrective action, or restructuring, according to a report released today by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The figure, which included 102 schools in Boston, was up from 37 percent last year. . . .

. . . .Middle schools especially had troubles. Seventy-five percent of middle schools in the state were considered underperforming, compared with 25 percent of high schools and 45 percent of elementary schools. . . .
And here, once again, is the relevant chunk from the recent Time Magazine story in which Susan Neuman finally admits what she knew from the beginning: For the neocons who crafted this mess, NCLB was always about assuring failure of the public schools in order to usher in privatization. Any dots still need connecting?

There was always something slightly insane about No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the ambitious education law often described as the Bush Administration's signature domestic achievement. For one thing, in the view of many educators, the law's 2014 goal — which calls for all public school students in grades 4 through 8 to be achieving on grade level in reading and math — is something no educational system anywhere on earth has ever accomplished. Even more unrealistic: every kid (except for 3% with serious handicaps or other issues) is supposed to be achieving on grade level every year, climbing in lockstep up an ever more challenging ladder. This flies in the face of all sorts of research showing that children start off in different places academically and grow at different rates.

Add to the mix the fact that much of the promised funding failed to materialize and many early critics insisted that No Child Left Behind was nothing more than a cynical plan to destroy American faith in public education and open the way to vouchers and school choice.

Now a former official in Bush's Education department is giving at least some support to that notion. Susan Neuman, a professor of education at the University Michigan who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, was and still is a fervent believer in the goals of NCLB. And she says the President and then Secretary of Education Rod Paige were too. But there were others in the department, according to Neuman, who saw NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit," she says. "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."

Tensions between NCLB believers and the blow-up-the-schools group were one reason the Bush Department of Education felt like "a pressure cooker," says Neuman, who left the Administration in early 2003. Another reason was political pressure to take the hardest possible line on school accountability in order to avoid looking lax — like the Clinton Administration. Thus, when Neuman and others argued that many schools would fail to reach the NCLB goals and needed more flexibility while making improvements, they were ignored. "We had this no-waiver policy," says Neuman. "The feeling was that the prior administration had given waivers willy-nilly." . . .

Neuman does not explain why she continued to collect her check at ED while the most vulnerable children in America were ground up in the guaranteed failure machine of NCLB. Or why it took her six years to come clean on what she knew then? She and the rest of the "just following orders" paper pushers will forever remain part of W's perfect domestic example of industrial conservatism and its unholy war against democratic government. What other bombs have been laid for the remains of the Republic, we will just have wait until they go off to find out.

Read the Declaration of Independence From High Stakes Testing

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Struggling to learn the obvious...

Click on this link and read this blog entry first...Notes from a Knitter. Then come back here and read this...

My question is where is the district administration in this? You were asked to "please get along with" this principal. Why? Why are incompetent and, yes, dangerous, principals like this tolerated?

I've only been teaching for (good-god) 32 years, but I have seen enough to know that good principals beget good teachers. If you have a strong principal then even your "crappy" teachers will shape up, or leave. In my short career in public education I have worked with one...maybe two...good principals who:
  1. have the best interests of the students at heart...know and remember what it was like to be a child and feel powerless - AND
  2. have the decency to stand up to the central office when they do something that is obviously harmful to students...know how to support their teachers when appropriate to the administrators who are twenty miles away in the central office and out of touch with real, day to day, education - AND
  3. have had the strength to tell teachers who are crappy to shape up...at the same time knowing how to lead them to improve...aim for improvement not punishment - AND
  4. who put their money where there mouths are by jumping in and being a teacher along with their staff - AND
  5. who are expert teachers who keep up with the current trends and research in education.
I've worked for principals who have done one or two of those things (Usually number three, but then they don't know what to do to help the teachers become better), but it's the rare principal who can do all five.

So...maybe this post will become a critique of "the Principal's I've Worked For."

I won't mention any names...you can figure most of them out if you know me...and I'll tell you who they are if you want - but only in person.

A was a definite number 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and was a friendly, easy to get along with person. His big strength was in educational leadership. He knew what he wanted a classroom to look like, and while he was open enough to realize that teachers had different strengths and classrooms would not all look identical, he still had a vision that he promoted to teachers about the way interactions should take place in a classroom. He pushed having good, strong, relationships with students way before Ruby Payne and was fond of saying that "students learn best when they feel safe" a maxim which has since been proven to be true. He also was a strong advocate of his teacher, students and school to the central office. The school was on the outskirts of the district, but he made himself known and frequently stood up at school board meetings to talk about his students and teachers.

B was an interim...he was in way over his head, so I won't even begin to assign numbers to him. Luckily for all, he is retired now.

C was one of those principals who students loved. He was always doing things with them...playing in gym class or intermurals, sitting in the library with kids...sitting at the lunch tables. So he was definitely a number 1 and 4. Other than that, he spent most of his time typing memos. With him as principal the school secretary had an easy job.

D was one of my favorites to work for. Nice person...and had a good way of working with people. He was a number 1, 3, 4 and 5. He was the only principal I ever worked for who actually went on a field trip with some kids...on the bus! Sort of a wimp when it came to standing up to the central office, but he stood up for me to some nasty parents...and won my undying loyalty. He did bug me to wear a tie every day, but I have since forgiven him for that.

E...oy...I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assign him a number 1...though sometimes I was not sure about that. Also, a 2. He had no problem telling other people what to do...and by the time I worked for him, he had no qualms about disregarding the central office as well as everyone else who he disagreed with...or when he just felt contrary, which was often. I would have given him a number 3 because he was very good at telling bad teachers to shape up...but had no idea how to help them. Once in a while, though, he got it in his head that someone was no good, no matter what they did, and then he was vindictive, petty and mean. In at least one case, he overreacted so much that someone else had to come in to do the evaluation on a teacher because he was so antagonistic toward her and obviously unprofessional about it. Lo and behold, the teacher turned out not to be as bad as he said...and in fact had some very good results in her classroom.

F was another interim principal. An obvious 1, 2, 4 and 5. In the short time she was there she had a positive impact on the personality of the school. People were happy...staff and students. She was welcoming, professional, and open. Too bad she was only there for 3 months.

G was not the most popular, but had some very good points. Numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5. I originally wrote this without putting number 4 on. But then I remembered...this was a principal who I watched sit in the hall and read with children each year. She had a very good knowledge of what it means to be a teacher...and kept up on current research, sometimes with help from me :). There were some personality issues (as there are with any employee/employer) which did cause some problems. Some of the teachers did not like her...thought she was stern and unfriendly, but I found her to be fair and cooperative. More than that, she promoted her teachers (even the ones who didn't like her) to other principals, boasted of the good things which were happening in her building and, unlike other principals, did not take all the credit for herself.

The most important factor in the amount of progress a class makes in any given school is the classroom teacher, but the principal is the one who creates the atmosphere of the school in which teachers and students can either thrive or falter.

Obviously the principal at the middle school discussed in the other blog had no business being in education, let alone as the principal of a middle school.

It's time that the administration take charge of that building...and instead of asking you to "please get along" with an incompetent principal...get him away from children.

"If we don't stand for children, we don't stand for much." -- Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund

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 HERE.
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Monday, September 1, 2008

Random Quotes

"The biggest disappointment in 30 years of education work was the No Child Left Behind Act. It did (and does) more damage to schools and children than anything short of war. Indeed, in my opinion, it's a war on childhood. Created by lobbyists for the textbook-testing industry and a Congress that never sees the inside of a school except for photo-ops, it has driven out thousands of the most experienced teachers (who refuse to practice intellectual child abuse) while disillusioning thousands of the youngest teachers — all in the name of testing that makes hundreds of millions for the testing industry. Beyond profits, NCLB's only other accomplishment has been to create hundreds of thousands of school children who associate reading with dry-boned textbooks, boredom, pain, and the threat of failure. A strange way to create a nation of readers! Saddest of all, it was built on a hoax — there was no Texas education miracle. They cooked the books the Enron way and that's been documented time and again."

—Jim Trelease retirement letter, January 2008


"In his State of the Union address, the President asked Congress for $300 million for poor kids in the inner city. With the official count at 15 million children in America living in poverty, this comes out to $20 per child.

The President also demanded that Congress extend his tax cuts to the tune of $4.3 trillion over ten years. This adds up to $287,000 per millionaire. "

—from Greg Palast


"It may be time to reflect on the possibility that a nation of good test-takers is not necessarily a well-educated nation."

—Diane Ravitch, Huffington Post, 9/4/07


"I can't stand giving kindergartners timed standards tests and watching tears trickle down their cheeks. It's just not right."

—unidentified teacher who is quitting, Los Angeles Times

No Child Left Behind is leaving thousands of children behind!
Dismantle NCLB!
Sign the petition by clicking HERE.
More than 33,000 signatures so far...