"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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mad as Hell...

The current legislative session in Indiana has cut teachers collective bargaining rights, begun a merit pay scheme based on student test scores, taken money from public schools to pay for school vouchers and increased the number of charter schools which will eventually open in the state.

Voucher programs have not been shown to increase student achievement. Merit pay and basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is inaccurate. Charter schools have not done better than regular public schools, and collective bargaining is not the cause of the shortfall in Indiana's budget.

The purpose for all these new laws in Indiana is, plain and simple, to break the Indiana State Teachers Association and push Indiana's schools one step closer to corporatization and privatization. The same thing is happening all over the country...in places like Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, and New Jersey.

Teachers are angry...and Angela Beeley, an English teacher at Alta Loma (California) High School has written to explain why.

In the Education Week article titled, This Teacher is Mad as Hell, Ms. Beeley wrote,
I am a public school teacher and a member of a union. Contrary to popular political rhetoric at play in Wisconsin and elsewhere, I am not, however, a leech on society, nor am I a lazy incompetent who shows up to collect a paycheck, not caring whether my students learn.
Cutting teachers salaries won't balance the budgets of the states. Taking away our collective bargaining rights won't reduce the deficits, especially when at the same time, states are granting huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations.
The outcry against unions and collective bargaining is a complete red herring. The unspoken message is: Let’s make the average American forget that Wall Street crooks set up our economy for a meltdown and that, not only are they not in jail, they made money on the deal. Let’s make them forget that the richest 400 people in the United States make more than the entire bottom half of all earners. Let’s hide the fact that CEOs today make several hundred times what their employees make, rather than the 20 to 30 times more they used to earn. Let’s snicker as the workers rip each other’s throats out, scrabbling for the privilege of going to the doctor when they’re sick.
Where are new teachers going to come from?
I love my students, but who on earth does the public—which is accepting these political shenanigans— think will choose to become a teacher now? No one in his or her right mind would go into this profession. After seeing teachers beaten up in the media for our society’s failings and being portrayed by our elected officials as lazy fat cats when we are working our butts off to having to “teach” to a test, no student with two brain cells to rub together is going to want to become a teacher. I would challenge anyone—including Wisconsin’s governor—who thinks that teaching requires little effort, no summer break, or no decent salary to spend a year in the classroom. Get in there, Governor Walker. You wouldn’t last a week.
Read more about it...


Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States

Charter School Study Shows No Significant Overall Impacts on Achievement

Obama's Charter Policy Built on "Sketchy Evidence"

Merit Pay

Thoughts on the Failure of Merit Pay

Teacher performance pay alone does not raise student test scores - New Vanderbilt study finds

Teacher bonuses not linked to better student performance, study finds


Updated: Vouchers Are a Failure, But That’s Not the Point

Senate Should Reject Calls To Revive Failed D.C. School Voucher Program, Says Americans United

Failed D.C. School Voucher Program Should Be Abandoned

Milwaukee’s school voucher scam

Vouchers Make a Comeback, But Why?



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Make sure they're not terrorists...

I usually avoid political issues which don't have anything to do with education, but sometimes there are things which (in my opinion) transcend politics.

Last December The Daily Show with Jon Stewart had a panel discussion of 9-11 first responders discussing why it is taking the US Congress so long to pass a bill which would provide medical care to first responders of the 9-11 attacks who developed illnesses because of their exposure to toxins.

You can see the original panel discussion HERE. It is about 9 minutes long and it's important to give you a background into this issue.

Last night, again on the daily show, Stewart discussed an amendment to the House version of the bill which requires that first responders prove they are not terrorists before they can get any money for their health care. It's in two parts...both below.

It's worth the 10 minutes it will take you to watch this. Be aware that The Daily Show is adult fare...and some language may be offensive. In my opinion, though, Jon Stewart's language is not as offensive as the language in the amendment....



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 18th of April...

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, "On the 18th of April..."

I knew immediately where it came from...maybe it's because I'm 62 and went to school during a time when the teachers weren't constantly making sure that we knew what was going to be on "the test."

Or maybe it's because my mother was a fan of the author...and I used to sit for hours looking at her book of poetry from which it came, wondering how on Earth anyone could write poems that long...

Whatever the reason, I knew it was Longfellow...and that it was about the "midnight ride of Paul Revere."

Nancy Flanagan knew as well and showed off that knowledge in one of her graduate classes. The point she makes is that there is more than one way to teach. We can teach with dry facts and lists. We can drill and kill for the test...or we can make school come alive with people like Longfellow helping to teach history.

She said...
Why aren't we using poetry to teach history?

Well, two roads diverged in a yellow wood...

And we chose easily measured standardized test questions.
When the so-called reformers -- the Gates's, the Broads, the Duncans -- rail against the status quo they're referring to nothing that exists today. The real status quo is a killing curriculum based on mindless bubbles on a test. That's today's status quo...and that's no way to educate children.

So, sound the alarm...tell the people...it's time to overthrow the Red Coats of the Educational Status Quo...
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!


Friday, April 22, 2011

2011 Medley #2: Lawmakers, Detroit, Florida, and more.

I did this before...on April 9, 2011. I had too much to write about so I just put links to articles and blogs and wrote a bit about each. For lack of something better to call it, and in deference to my musical past, I've labeled it a Medley. Since April 9 was the first, this is Medley #2.

Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers

by John Kuhn

John Kuhn, the Superintendent of Perrin Texas public schools has emerged as a national voice for real education reform. He writes and speaks about Texas, but his words ring true in other places as well.
...where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Michigan Emergency Manager Robert Bobb Issues Layoff Notice to All Detroit Public School Teachers

Yes. You read that right -- ALL teachers.
This is nothing short of a coordinated effort between the billionaire foundations pushing school reform and Tea Party conservatives intent on slashing benefits and ending collective bargaining rights. Public schools are under assault by the forces of privatization, and public school teachers face benefit and salary cuts while the very rich are promised tax cuts.

Why Become a Teacher Today?

If someone asked me if they should pursue a career in public education, and they hadn't already made up their mind, I would hand them this article.
By Walt Gardner
There was a time when teachers were respected, even though teaching was never a career for those who sought power, fame or wealth. What teachers had was pride. But rarely a day goes by when teachers are not subjected to another round of bashing. It's little wonder that their morale is at an all-time low. I wrote an op-ed about this subject that was published in The Christian Science Monitor on Apr. 6 ("The beatings will continue until teacher morale improves").

I'm not saying that no one will want to become a teacher in the years ahead. But teaching should not be a default choice. Instead, it should be the No. 1 choice for the most talented and inspirational in this country.

Resistance to test-based school reform is growing

Hope? This blog post has links to local groups fighting for public education.
By Valerie Strauss 
...judging teachers by student test scores is bad assessment and bad policy. It’s disturbing that the people who most need to understand this — the folks in Washington and state capitals who are making the laws, Republicans and Democrats alike — don’t.

Florida’s Testing Success: An Inflated Reputation?

Why doesn't it surprise me that politicians and business people, who know nothing about education yet insist on tinkering with it, would falsify and twist facts to fit their agenda? The bottom line in corporate America is money. That's what they're interested in...that's what they care about.
What was going on? In 2006, Haney found that Florida had suddenly started flunking large numbers of third graders. Because of the new retention policy, low-achieving third graders were still in third grade when the NAEP 2005 fourth grade math test was given. With only the higher-achieving students taking the test, the scores jumped.

What’s more, the state flunked a much higher proportion of Black than White students—no wonder the achievement gap shrank.

In Public School Efforts, a Common Background: Private Education

Do you know where people like John A. Boehner, President Obama, Michelle A. Rhee, Bill Gates, and Arne Duncan went to school? Would it surprise you to learn that they didn't go to public schools? Why do we assume that people who never attended or taught in public schools know how to "fix" them?
Does a private school background give them a much-needed distance and fresh perspective to better critique and remake traditional public schools? Does it make them distrust public schools — or even worse — poison their perception of them?


Teacher Bonuses



Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reasons to be Outraged

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for her continued advocacy for public schools and public school teachers.

Here's a post she has on her blog today from Kathie Marshall, a veteran public school teacher in California. She is a a member of the Teacher Leaders Network and the Accomplished California Teachers
Public school teacher: 13 reasons I’m outraged

By Kathie Marshall

In May 2005, I wrote an op-ed for one of our Los Angeles newspapers, in which I vented my frustrations about the state of education in my community. Here’s some of what I said:

“I’ve been an educator in the Los Angeles area for more than 30 years in grades two through eight, including general education, second-language learner, gifted, special-education and intervention students. I’ve taught some of the wealthiest families to some of the poorest, in both private and public schools. For the past four years I have been a literacy coach at a middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, working with teachers and students to improve instruction and learning. And I have to tell you, many things that have taken place in education over the last decade have me mad!”

Lately I’ve been feeling a powerful urge to vent again. Fellow teachers can probably relate. So here’s an updated version:

Nearly six years have passed, and I’m not just mad – I’m outraged. I’ve been an educator for nearly four decades now, and the current and continuing onslaught against public education is unprecedented.

I’m outraged that President Obama has so let down public educators by enabling the continuing rhetoric against bad teachers and failing schools, all the while neglecting to undo the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind. What happened to those campaign promises for meaningful reform?

I’m outraged that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan continues his laser-like focus on teacher evaluations and monetary rewards based on unreliable standardized test scores, without addressing ongoing problems of “teaching to the test” and the narrowing of curriculum—especially in low-performing schools. Where will Duncan position himself when the achievement gap widens even more?

I’m outraged that Michelle Rhee is still a media darling, appearing on CBS and Fox News to publicize her “Save Great Teachers” campaign and undo teacher seniority in layoffs, as though all or even most great teachers are among the recently hired. Why isn’t Rhee out there exposing the dire state of education financing and its impact on poor and minority children, campaigning for a return to budgetary sanity in public education?

I’m outraged that a handful of extremely wealthy individuals increasingly control the policy agenda and use their big bucks to force corporate solutions on schools where many students are suffering the consequences of poverty and Wall Street’s reckless raids on the economy. How can we continue to allow them to persist in their delusions that they know best what should happen in students’ lives?

I’m outraged that scores of media continue to exclude teacher experts and teacher leaders from substantive conversations about education reform. How do teachers morph themselves into media darlings?

I’m outraged that California politicians have so destroyed the eighth largest economy in the world that we are close to having a third-world educational system in place. Who’s going to want to educate my beloved grandchildren when they enter school?

I’m outraged that the workforce at my large high-needs middle school, where we accomplished the nearly unheard of goal of increasing the state Academic Performance Index score by 47 points last year, continues to be gutted. How are we to make do next year with two assistant principals instead of four? With four clerical workers instead of 12? With one custodian instead of five? No magnet school coordinator? No librarian? No literacy coach? No math coach? No nurse?

I’m outraged that 15 more of my school’s most talented, experienced teachers are going through the turmoil of Reduction in Force notices – informed that they may, in fact, be jobless after June. Who understands how valuable these teachers are to the future of public education?

I’m outraged that the tireless dedication of my principal is being rewarded with the continual spiraling down of paid days in which to perform her job well and the continual ratcheting up of pressures to demonstrate teacher effectiveness and student learning. How is she supposed to support us with so little support herself?

I’m outraged that my students, growing up in one of the poorest communities in Los Angeles, are expected to perform better than ever while being provided with fewer and fewer resources in and out of school during these dismal economic times. Who cares about students who’ve lost their homes? Lost a parent? Speak little English? Didn’t eat yesterday?

I’m outraged that after a decade of ill-informed rants against bad teachers and failing schools, now the pundits and politicians are coming after our pensions and health benefits. With the added insult that in 15 states, including my own, Social Security benefits will be reduced by approximately 40% because a partial teacher pension is considered “double dipping.” How is it that my 37 years in this important role now counts for so little as I near retirement?

I’m outraged that so few Americans attempt to understand the dedication and long hours that are required in the teaching profession and so easily accept media portrayals of teachers as being overpaid for their “cushy part time” jobs. Where, oh where is the public outcry against teacher-bashing and the decimation of school budgets?

Most of all, I’m outraged over the growing negative impact on teachers of all of the above. Across the country, teachers are feeling disrespected, unappreciated, threatened, demoralized, and defeated. Nonetheless, we appear daily before our treasured students with a smile and a new, important lesson for the day.

When will those in power and position finally understand that in order to have a strong, vibrant, economically sound future for America, we must give teachers respect, empower them to reform their profession, and support them with adequate finances to realize our dreams for all our students?


Local Control?

Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels has signed into law a new collective bargaining law which prohibits teachers and school boards from including anything beyond wages and wage-related benefits starting on July 1. Certain parts of the law, limiting contracts to one year, and removing evaluation procedures from contracts go into effect immediately.

The previous collective bargaining law had been in effect since 1973. Shane Grimes, area Uniserv director with the Indiana State Teachers Association said he doesn’t understand how dismantling that law, and taking away most items that are negotiated, helps local people have more control.

Tony Bennett, Indiana superintendent of public instruction, claims that this will give school boards more control. How will taking away the ability to discuss items and put them in the teachers contract give them more control? How will restricting teacher contracts to only one year give them more control?

How is this going to help students? How will eliminating evaluation procedures, class size and school calendars from contract discussions help students?

The truth is that this law is merely one more link in the chain holding Indiana's public schools in place which Daniels is trying to break. Like his counterpart in Wisconsin, Daniels is doing what he can to break the teachers union, whether it helps public schools and children in Indiana or not. This politically spiteful move is just one step towards eliminating teachers unions and eventually to privatizing public schools (Steps two and three in this attack on the public schools in Indiana are vouchers for private schools and increased charter schools -- neither of which have been shown to improve student achievement and both of which drain money from regular public schools).
Vigo County Schools Superintendent Dan Tanoos said he does not agree with the changes to the collective bargaining law. “We bargain very cooperatively with our teachers association,” he said. The new law “is a step backwards.”

“We have a great relationship and we want to maintain that working relationship,” Tanoos said. Even though the law has changed, “I still think we would want to have meaningful discussion” on issues affecting teachers.
Superintendent Tanoos knows that issues which effect teachers effect students.

Read the entire article HERE.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Teachers Rock!

There are 99 Reasons Teachers Rock! Here are a few of my favorites...
6. Nearly seven out of 10 teachers (68%) cite working with kids as the reason for remaining in the profession.

26. Teachers rock because we do our job, not because of the money, but because of the kids. ~ Sean Lovelace

30. “If a doctor, lawyer, or dentist had 40 people in his office at one time, all of whom had different needs, and some of whom didn't want to be there and were causing trouble, and the doctor, lawyer, or dentist, without assistance, had to treat them all with professional excellence for nine months, then he might have some conception of the classroom teacher's job.” ~ Donald D.

62. Teachers put up with everyone in the world thinking their job is easy with early days and a big fat summer vacation.

67. Teachers learn from their students.

71. Teachers know that what they’re really teaching aren’t facts, but rather they’re teaching children how to learn and teach themselves.

72. We rock because we live for "lightbulb moments"... ~ Myree Conway

89. "Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid." ~ Tracy Kidder

93. Teachers rock because, despite all the nonsense we have to put up with, we still love what we do and we strive to do it better. ~ John Blake, @geauxteach

98. Teachers rock because they spend their whole careers thinking of how they can make others better off, instead of themselves. ~ Lauren
Read them all HERE.


Cuts in Public Education...but the Enemy is Still Poverty

The excerpts from the article below have to do with the Indianapolis Public Schools, but the problem is nation wide. Public education is no longer a priority for Americans. The "reformers" and state governments, in cooperation with the federal government are defunding public education. Is this just another public sector institution being privatized...part of the larger privatization process outlined in The Shock Doctrine? Or is it something else, such as a misguided attack at schools because schools are an easy target and times are tough?

Whatever the cause, the nation will suffer in the long run. Cuts in services and programs hurt children more than adults, and with the highest poverty rate in the industrialized world, we in the United States have more than one-fifth of our children living in poverty.

As I've written before, poverty is the biggest problem facing schools today. Check these out if you still have doubts:

Change in Family Income-to-Needs Matters More for Children with Less

Blame for School Achievement Gap Misplaced

Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

If we don't address the growing poverty rate by any means other than cutting services and increasing tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy, we'll be hurting ourselves in the long run. Our children are our most important natural resource...all of them.
The Impact of IPS Cuts on Students
Tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts, hundreds of teachers let go and the state's largest school district dealing with a financial crisis some say is the worst in decades. It is going to have an impact on the students.

The job cuts announced by IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White are bigger than originally thought. 357 teaching positions, the majority of them layoffs, will occur before the start of the new school year. 23 administrators and the jobs of 19 social workers and non-teaching employees are also being eliminated.

All that adds up to more children in every classroom...

..."Those effects are going to be profound. Indianapolis already has the hardest children in the state to educate. We have more at-risk children. more children with needs. 87% of our kids come from free and reduced lunch. 85% of our kids come from single parent families. It makes it much more difficult to educate those children. They have a lot of needs and with cut-backs it is going to be more difficult because there are higher class sizes," said Ron Ellcessor, Indiana State Teachers Association.

Fewer teachers also means less individual attention.

"The teacher is not going to be able to give them the individualized time. Today there is something called differentiated instruction. A teacher is not supposed to teach the same thing to every student. Each student has special needs and each student's special needs then are supposed to be met by that teacher. Will those special needs be met if class sizes get larger? I certainly hope so, but I know it will be more difficult for a teacher to do that," Ellcessor said...

...Lawmakers say there will be no additional money for public schools. In addition, they are changing the formula that determines how much money each school system receives for each student.
You can read the entire article HERE.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Break Public Education All to Pieces.

Below are seven stories and a video about teachers, schools, communities and students in America...from a state legislator threatening to "break [public education] all to pieces" to an educator suggesting that we suspend all testing in order to save money.

These are just a few of the stories I have read in the last few days. I'm trying not to be pessimistic, but as one after another state legislature passes bills which cripple teachers (and other public sector) unions, take funding from public schools and transfer it to charters and private schools, and create more and more tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporate America, I'm having trouble keeping a positive attitude.

Schools across the country are in trouble. Instead of support, school systems and teachers are facing deep cuts to programs, staffing, and facilities. Instead of fixing schools, states are closing schools. Instead of increasing the tools teachers have to teach, states are taking money away from schools and pouring it into charter schools and vouchers for private schools, even when research continues to show these are no better than public schools.

The privatization of our public schools continues unabated. Despite large demonstrations in places like Madison, Columbus, and Indianapolis, legislatures are taking money away from the public schools.

The same is happening nationally through Race to the Top, a program designed to reward states who push for merit pay for teachers and privatization of public schools -- this doesn't help students in any way...research continues to show that. It's not about the education of children...and never has been. It's about money. America's public schools are a $500 billion industry in the United States. Privatizing it will make the already wealthy much richer.

As you read through the following keep in mind these words from my young cousin (who said she got it from a friend, who got it from a friend...) in California:
Remember when teachers, public employees, Planned Parenthood and PBS crashed the stock market, wiped out half of our 401Ks, took trillions in TARP money, spilled oil in the Gulf of Mexico, gave themselves billions in bonuses, and paid no taxes? Yeah, me neither.

-- Jill Gorman
Don't miss the video below...

Tennessee's tea party declares war on public education
From the floor of the state Senate, tea party Republican Jim Summerville recently warned Tennessee's teachers to mind their own business where education reform is concerned.

"Make no mistake,'' he said, "the final responsibility is ours — and we are warriors.''

Lest his point be missed, Sen. Summerville added, "We will bend public education to our awe, or break it all to pieces.''

Teachers, 'If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?'
I remain convinced that teachers and administrators are in the most vulnerable of positions during this destructive reform movement based on high-stakes testing and so called accountability. I remain convinced that any form of resistance to the market-based reform narrative being thrust on schools will be met with swift repercussions. However, I also remain convinced that if teachers and administrators remain silent, they are committing professional suicide.

Performance pay at schools Obama, Duncan picked for their children?
President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are also parents who naturally want the best for their kids. Obama enrolled his two children at Sidwell Friends, a private Quaker school in Washington, D.C., and Duncan enrolled his two children in the Arlington, Va., public schools, respectively.

Do these excellent schools evaluate or pay teachers on the basis of student standardized test scores?

Schools facing rise in homeless students
Experts say the economic recession has exacerbated youth homelessness, and schools serving this vulnerable population are now being challenged to keep up with the students and offer the unique services to which they are entitled under federal law. According to a 2009 report [PDF] released by the National Center on Family Homelessness, an average of one in 50 children in the United States has experienced homelessness, which is defined as not having a stable, long-term place to stay. This ranges from children temporarily living with extended family members to living in homeless shelters or inside cars.

The sad legacy under Rhee: a DC community speaks out

Shame on Michelle Rhee
Her celebrity results from the fact that she has emerged as the national spokesman for the effort to subject public education to free-market forces, including competition, decision by data, and consumer choice. All of this sounds very appealing when your goal is to buy a pound of butter or a pair of shoes, but it is not a sensible or wise approach to creating good education. What it produces, predictably, is cheating, teaching to bad tests, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests, and a narrowed curriculum.

Think teachers and other public sector employees don't need unions? Read this.
I Couldn’t Believe It Happened to Me
You’re a high school teacher. You work out with your students a rubric for grading a small-group project. One group, unfortunately, really blows this project off. According to the rubric, they deserve a D, which you deliver. Parents complain to the principal. He tells you to raise the grade. You say, no, and you point out that the students took part in designing the rubric that guided you in giving them the D.

Do you lose your job?

A not-so-modest proposal
Given present unwillingness to fully fund education, all 50 states should immediately cancel their contracts with testing companies. What teachers did for at least a century and a half before corporate interests and politicians took over education policy they can do again, at least for the duration of the present economic emergency.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's a Political Vendetta

John Young suggests that the current trend towards teacher bashing and teacher union bashing is a political vendetta from the party of Bush, Cheney, Limbaugh and O'Reilly. He also said to one of his readers that it was ok to copy his words because,
...The more people who read these thoughts, the better.
APRIL 18, 2010 12:18 AM
So, here goes.
Public Flogging of Teachers Continues

I blame my mechanic — the fact that I don't change my oil often enough, don't check my tire pressure regularly, and don't know my carburetor from my glove compartment.

I'm sure you will agree with me that my mechanic is solely to blame for any malfunction of my car. It can't be that I invest too little in it, or that I take only passing interest in its interests — that is, until it doesn't motor me to every chosen destination.

We need new accountability standards for mechanics. Assemble the lawmakers.

I'm serious here. Just about as serious as some policy makers are about education.

Those policy makers, and the citizens for whom they posture, blame teachers for all the ills of the schooling machine.

It couldn't be any outside influences that affect learning — not the inattention of parents, not whatever roiling events outside school walls might make it difficult to learn, not too-crowded classes, not administrators and policy makers who don't really get what teachers do.

Something very detrimental to learning has been happening under the guise of education reform for nearly two decades. Americans have been convinced that standardization is education. They have been convinced that the way to "excellence" is to treat children's minds like one treats tomatoes during canning season.

In the process, too many Americans have swallowed the propaganda that those who don't buy the standard (King James?) version of school accountability employed by state after state don't support excellence.

In Florida a pitched battle rages over one more quest to reduce education to tomato paste on the butcher block of standardization. Reformers seek to pin teacher pay increases to test scores. The bill would require school districts to set aside 5 percent of their entire budgets starting in 2011 for "performance" pay increases. If they have any leftover money, they could use it to develop new tests, like end-of-course exams. Otherwise, they would have to give it back to the state.

The bill also would essentially rewrite the rules for teacher contracts. And in telling districts how they can pay teachers, it would wipe out considerations like advanced degrees and experience.

The most offensive thing about this is that it's not really about education. It's about a political vendetta. The party of Bush and Cheney and Limbaugh and O'Reilly has had it out for "teachers' unions" from the day some marginally educated focus group said the term was disparaging enough to be gold.

So, we have people stepping up saying they know how to "fix" education. Even if they confuse teaching with conveyor-belt work. Even if they consider Sarah Palin learned.

Ah, standardization. I once heard a person say, seriously, that if only schools would be like the Army, our problems would be solved. You see, all enlistees have to learn how to assemble a rifle. Have to. And will.

But, then, education isn't training. Education is a higher quest. Or, so we once assumed. Unfortunately, our political system has instituted a concept of schooling that casts students across a sea of bubble-in questions.

You say teachers oppose assessment? That's the most ridiculous claim of all. I have a book that has 450 pages of really great assessments — classroom exercises that show if students are using critical thinking skills. It has activities which can make school fascinating and truly challenging. No one craves assessments — quality, diagnostic assessments — more than a teacher, or at least the vast majority of true classroom professionals.

The same goes for most mechanics. But I'm holding mine accountable for my inattention. If my oil pan ends up empty, heads will roll down at the shop.

John Young writes for Cox Newspapers. E-mail: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.


Happy Birthday

Today is my youngest daughter's birthday. At 29 she's too young to remember the world-wide excitement during "the space-race."

Today, however, marks a couple of important dates in that "space race."

On April 12, 1961, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space...and the first person to orbit the earth from space.

So, aside from Ellen's 29th birthday, today is Yuri's Day honoring the first steps humans took into space.

There's another anniversary in space. Thirty years ago today, a year to the day before the youngest Bloom came into the world, the US launched its first space shuttle.

In honor of the anniversary NASA astronaut Cady Coleman and Jethro Tull founder Ian Anderson hooked up late last week to pay homage to Yuri Gagarin when they whipped out their flutes for "the first space-Earth duet".




Monday, April 11, 2011

Classroom Experience Doesn't Count?

Stephen Krashen sent this to the NY Daily News yesterday, April 9, 2011.
Andrew Wolf points out that "Dennis Walcott is more of the same: Bloomberg's new chancellor once again lacks classroom experience," (April 8).

Here is another obvious case: US Education Secretary Arne Duncan has never taught and has no actual credentials in education. He has no background in education other than administration.

His uniformed view that increased testing is the answer to improving schools demonstrates that, like Dennis Walcott, he "lacks the instructional experience to actually fix what is going wrong in our classrooms."

Stephen Krashen
I've said this before.
[Duncan] realizes that if masters degrees in education meant something then his own qualifications would be suspect. He has no educational training. He has never taught in a public school...has never worked in a public school...has never even attended a public school. It's in his best interest to imply that teachers with masters degrees don't know any more than he does with his bachelors degree in Sociology.
Who else has much to say about education...and has no credentials?

  • Eli Broad - "education reformer" Graduated in 1954 from Michigan State University in Accounting.
  • Bill Gates - "education reformer" and expert because of his money (would anyone listen to him if he wasn't rich?). He went to Harvard, but dropped out to become a billionaire.
  • Michael Bloomberg - current Mayor of NYC. Attended Johns Hopkins University and received a BS in Electrical Engineering 1964. Attended Harvard Business School and received an MBA.
  • Barak Obama - current president of the USA. Attended Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University and got a BA in Political Science in 1983. He received his J.D. from Harvard Law school in 1991.

Would Broad let a nurse do his taxes rather than a CPA? Would Gates turn over Software Troubleshooting at Microsoft to a Pharmacist? Would Bloomberg assign an Art Historian as the Chief of Police?

Let's look at President Obama's choices for his Cabinet.

Q: Would President Obama nominate a doctor for attorney general?
A: No, the attorney general is an attorney, Eric Holder (Columbia Law School, J.D).

Q: Would Obama nominate an attorney as surgeon general?
A: No, the Surgeon General is Regina Benjamin, a physician (University of Alabama, Birmingham, MD).

Similarly, the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, is a Farmer.
The Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, is a Banker.
The Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, was an Intelligence Officer.
The Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, is a Nobel Prize winning Physicist.

On the other hand, Education Secretary Duncan is not the only misfit. Other members of the Cabinet have backgrounds which don't prepare them for their jobs. We call this political cronyism.

I don't know if it will work for the Department of Transportation for example. Ray LaHood is a former congressman from Illinois who sat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Appropriations Committee. So we can see that he has some relevant experience from his time in the House of Representatives. However, his professional background is not in Transportation...does Mr. LaHood know what he's doing at the DOT?

Wait...according to his biography at the Department of Transportation web site, Ray LaHood
...was a junior high school teacher, having received his degree from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He was also director of the Rock Island County Youth Services Bureau...
Maybe there's someone qualified to be Secretary of Education in the Cabinet after all.

When people need legal help they hire attorneys. When people are ill they go to physicians.

Education needs educators.



On April 9, I stated that the rich aren't paying their fair share of taxes...and if they did, we could solve most of the budget problems in the country and around the states. Here's some more information on that issue.

The rich are paying less and less of their fair share of taxes...



Saturday, April 9, 2011

Vouchers - Unions - Budgets

Vouchers in Indiana

A few days ago the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette ran a blog entry by Karen Francisco about the voucher law before the Indiana General Assembly. The question was asked, "What's the goal of the voucher bill?"

Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma (R) claimed that the goal was always to "empower parents."

In the Louisville Courier Journal, Lesley Stedman Weidenbener checked out the bill to see if that was true. She found that
the plan, written before Election Day and before Republicans were boldly using the "v" word, states: "Provide children who attend failing schools grants to attend a school of choice.
Francisco writes,
Oops. Nothing there about empowering parents whose kids attend successful schools.

It's an important point because the bill wouldn't limit vouchers to families without the means to move to a better school district. A family of four earning as much as $60,000 a year would qualify for a tax handout – and that figure is reduced from the original Republican proposal that would have given a voucher to families earning more than $100,000 a year.

Republicans seem to have figured out that Hoosiers aren't thrilled with the idea of giving tax dollars to families earning more than the statewide household median income. Television commercials paid for by the governor's political action committee, Aiming Higher, claim that vouchers will help "a child trapped in an underperforming school who has no chance at a great education."

Another clue that the voucher goal wasn't so transparent is found in the fact that four of Bosma's caucus members voted no, a good indication that they believe "empowering parents" isn't the best use of the state's scarce education dollars.
Evil Teachers Unions

Are public sector unions to blame for states' budget woes?

Deborah Meier correctly shows how this is a simple case of "divide and conquer." Unions are being held up as the bad guys who are "breaking the bank" while the richest 1% get richer, line the pockets of politicians, and get kick backs and reduced taxes from the government.
In a country in which the very richest "capitalists" now possess more than half the wealth of the nation, and when many pay virtually no taxes and earn as much of their profit overseas as they do "at home," we still hear talk about Big, Bad Labor.

Democracy requires conscious and everlasting miracles to survive, resting on needed balancing forces of power. These balances come in many shapes and forms, but since the late New Deal (in the late 1930s), chief among them has been the power of organized people—unions first and foremost—to confront the awesome power of organized money.

Lobbyist by lobbyist, the unions certainly couldn't match their opponents, even if we added in the many good citizen advocacy groups. But they had one advantage over the others: the relatively high loyalty of their members. Numbers of people vs. numbers of dollars.

What will serve as a balancing force in the days and years ahead? What prevents the richest 1 percent from spending half their money on politics, while still having more left than the other 99 percent together?

And what will stop them from using the newly privatized school chains they are busily packaging to their self-interest, not that of the families of their students? What is unique about such schools is that they are not, by law, required to be public in nature. They're not in any way governed by either their own public (parents, students, teachers, or neighbors); like any small, unmonitored business, they are hard to organize for parents or teachers, and it's difficult to "recall" their boards of trustees. They are accountable more or less only for test scores and graduation rates, if we can imagine what it would cost to truly monitor them all! Try getting real facts now. (Although, I'll admit it's not a lot easier to get reliable data from the regular public schools either.)
What would it take to balance the budget?

What is the source of the budget problems facing the states and the country? Is it collective bargaining? Is it the unions for people who average around $50,000 a year? Or is it corporate welfare which allows companies like GE and Exxon/Mobile to pay no taxes at all? State governors and legislatures are cutting programs for the poor and working people while giving tax benefits to corporate America far outstripping those cuts. Breaking unions won't balance the budget.



Monday, April 4, 2011

A Seussian Look at Rhee

You might have read about the erasures on the tests of some students in Washington D.C. When Michelle Rhee was chancellor there seems to have been some excessing pressure to raise test scores and that seems to have caused some people to cheat...

If you missed it see the details HERE.

Sabrina has given us a Seussian look at the entire episode with, Rhee The Reformer: A Cautionary Tale. Make sure you watch it.