"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2011 Medley #14

Charters, Evaluations, Teacher Certification, Poverty's Influence on Education, Gifted Students, Economy

Should Schools Be Run for Profit?
Led by Patricia Levesque, an experienced lobbyist...the campaign has scored notable successes in the past year, promoting for-profit virtual charter schools...Levesque recommended that "reformers should 'spread' the unions thin 'by playing offense' with decoy legislation...allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, 'even if it doesn't pass ... to keep them busy on that front.' She also advised paycheck protection, a union-busting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly 'under the radar.'"

Principals Protest Role of Testing in Evaluations
...President Obama and his signature education program, Race to the Top, along with John B. King Jr., the New York State commissioner of education, deserve credit for spurring what is believed to be the first principals’ revolt in history...658 principals around the state [NY] had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.

Degrading Teacher Certification
...there's a big difference between knowing a subject well and knowing how to teach it well. For example, before Evan Hunter became famous as author of "The Blackboard Jungle," he taught English in a vocational high school in New York City. When asked in an interview years later why he quit after a short stint, he replied: "I was trying, but they weren't buying." Clearly, Hunter knew how to write, but that was not enough.

‘Broader, bolder’ strategy to ending poverty’s influence on education
To ignore [the reality of poverty] and make bold assertions that all children can achieve while doing nothing to address the outside-of-school challenges they face is neither fair nor a sound basis for developing public policy

Is giftedness always a gift?
the challenge for families and individual children can be immense. “Some bright kids will do well regardless: they are resilient. But for many more the lack of stimulation in school will actually lead to underachievement. A percentage will fall in with the mainstream and never perform to their ability. Another percentage will become so frustrated that they will withdraw altogether. They think the system is just not designed for them. Then you hear the comment, ‘Well, maybe she wasn’t that bright to begin with.’ It’s a terrible waste of potential.”

Neuroscience & The Classroom: Making Connections.
Insights drawn from neuroscience not only provide educators with a scientific basis for understanding some of the best practices in teaching, but also offer a new lens through which to look at the problems teachers grapple with every day. By gaining insights into how the brain works—and how students actually learn—teachers will be able to create their own solutions to the classroom challenges they face and improve their practice.

For Business, Golden Days; For Workers, the *Dross
For companies, these are boom times. For workers, the opposite is true...effective tax rates, both corporate and personal, are well below where they were during most of the post-World War II era.
*Dross n.
1: the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal
2: waste or foreign matter : impurity
3: something that is base, trivial, or inferior

From Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's not an excuse. It's a condition.

From SOS Million Teacher March on Facebook. Click the cartoon for the link.

In 2007 Gerald Bracey wrote,
When people have said "poverty is no excuse," my response has been, "Yes, you're right. Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty."
"Corporate Reformers" like to call the labels on the backpacks of the children in the above cartoon 'excuses' but teachers know first hand how outside influences affect children's achievement.

In Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success (2009) author David Berliner wrote,
Because America’s schools are so highly segregated by income, race, and ethnicity, problems related to poverty occur simultaneously, with greater frequency, and act cumulatively in schools serving disadvantaged communities. These schools therefore face significantly greater challenges than schools serving wealthier children, and their limited resources are often overwhelmed. Efforts to improve educational outcomes in these schools, attempting to drive change through test-based accountability, are thus unlikely to succeed unless accompanied by policies to address the [Out-of-School-Factors] that negatively affect large numbers of our nations’ students. Poverty limits student potential; inputs to schools affect outputs from them.
Read about Berliner's report at Blame for School Achievement Gap Misplaced.

...and here are some links to information about the "excuses."

Absent Parents
Lack of role models

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Testing Insanity Grows

Field Elementary School in Dallas, Texas took the "teach to the test" concept a step further than most schools. The third graders were taught only reading and math...nothing else...for most of the year. According to the Dallas Morning News
The students learned only math and reading for most of the school year, while teachers were pressured to fabricate grades for science, social studies and enrichment courses like music. Some of the grades were given by teachers who had never taught the subjects.
This is just one more example of the unintended consequences of the "testing culture" created by NCLB, Goals 2000 before that, and now, Race to the Top. Cheating scandals (Atlanta, Washington D.C.), gaming the system, teaching to the test...it's all because of our obsessive reliance on achievement tests. Does anyone who has any common sense think this is going to get better now that test scores are being used to evaluate teachers?

The news about Field Elementary School's particular method of getting students to "pass the test" brought indignation and derision from editorial pages around the nation, including the Dallas Morning News.
In third grade, the world opens to children. They learn about magnets and volcanoes, frogs and ladybugs, the marvels of the solar system. They are introduced to biographies and to the lofty concept that people can, through their deeds, change communities. These essential lessons in science and social studies build on themselves, year after year.

It is only when you look at this rich curriculum that you can appreciate the injustice inflicted on the children at Tom W. Field Elementary School in northwest Dallas. For an entire year, third-graders were essentially denied science and social studies instruction in favor of math and reading, all so they could improve their scores on standardized tests and earn the school a high ranking.
The newspaper clucks it's editorial tongue at the cheaters of Field Elementary. They continue...
Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place.
Should teachers have blown the whistle. Of course...but the nation's education policies caused this situation.

The most meaningful response came from a reader -- KAHDallas. In the comments following the above editorial he wrote:
"Until the formal inquiry began, no teacher at Field had sounded the alarm and no administrator seems to have had a clue that this extreme policy was in place."

So the [Dallas Morning News] is aghast that teachers didn't sound the alarm at Field Elementary? Really? Really?

Go back through ALL your editorials advocating school change and reflect on your bias against teachers. Revisit your promotion of "business" models that promote more power to principals over those pesky teachers. Applaud your stance on increasing teacher accountability (DISD is spending $1.2 million to develop a new evaluation model) with no mention of increased pay.

This paper, the State of Texas, the DISD trustees, the business community, and the public have subjugated teachers to the status of factory labor (with no right to strike!) and are then incensed when they don't rise to report abuse of policy! You want top-down management of education but are bewildered when events unfold as they have at Field Elementary. You want teachers to shut up and do as they're told and then fulminate when they protect their income rather than speak up. You asked for this mess and now you've got it!

And here's another news flash: The practices at Field Elementary are MUCH more the rule than the exception in DISD schools than anyone outside the system dares to imagine.

Since another ingrained DISD policy is to intimidate whistle-blowers and protect management at all costs, guess we'll just have to rely on the integrity of those in administration and the trustees to set the standard for a high level of integrity in the schools. ...how's that been workin' for ya so far?
I have a series of quotes elsewhere on this page. One of them, Campbell's Law reads:
"The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor."
We use achievement tests incorrectly -- to label, judge and evaluate teachers and schools. The importance given to those tests far outweighs the value to be gained from them. Teachers know that public schools in the US have been damaged by the obsession with testing. Our students have been hurt and their learning stunted. Yet the insanity surrounding public education in America continues to expand with Race to the Top and even more testing.

As long as I'm dropping quotes perhaps a couple of them from (or attributed to) Albert Einstein are appropriate at this point.
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Friday, November 25, 2011

It's No Stealth Campaign: Privatization is the Goal

This morning Walt Gardner wrote that there is a stealth campaign to privatize education. He supports his thesis by discussing the increase in the number of virtual schools.
The Stealth Campaign to Privatize Education

Despite no independent evidence that students learn more effectively through the use of technology than through traditional pedagogy, Levesque [Patricia Levesque, adviser to former Governor Jeb Bush and now head of Meridian Strategies LLC, a Tallahassee-based lobbying company] has managed to convince the Legislature otherwise, in the process boosting the profits of her educational technology clients. The result has been to pave the way for private virtual schools. Strangely, the move has prompted little public debate or opposition.

...what is happening under the guise of putting children first is a thinly veiled attempt to privatize all public schools. Florida is not alone. Pennsylvania and Indiana are also in the vanguard, even though the evidence is far from convincing. In fact, a recent study of virtual schools in Pennsylvania by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that students in online schools performed significantly worse than students in traditional schools.

If the $2.2 billion spent on software for schools in 2010 produced anything near the outcomes that supporters claim, I would be far more receptive. But the evidence is not there...

This blind faith in technology is extremely troubling at a time when the demand is for decisions that are evidence-based. But when the money to be made is so great, companies will not be deterred from lavishly spending on wooing legislators with their fairy tales. At some point even the most skeptical among them caves in. When that happens, another step is taken along the road to privatization.
He is correct that virtual schools are an additional step on the road to privatization, and those who are pushing virtual schools might be trying to do it without too much fanfare. The movement to destroy America's public school system and replace it with private schools, however, is not a stealth movement.

In 1995 Milton Friedman called for the abolition of public schools. And he did it without stealth or subterfuge. In Public Schools: Make Them Private, he said,
Our elementary and secondary educational system needs to be radically restructured. Such a reconstruction can be achieved only by privatizing a major segment of the educational system--i.e., by enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop that will provide a wide variety of learning opportunities and offer effective competition to public schools.

The quality of schooling is far worse today than it was in 1955.
Wrong. Public schools are far from perfect. However, his comment above is wrong in at least three ways.

First of all, competition doesn't help public schools. If it did, then every public school system with charters in the same district...and every public school in a state which allowed vouchers...would be getting "better." If incentives and competition among schools and teachers made students learn more then the merit pay schemes, which have been shown to be ineffective, would have worked better. See HERE.

Second, and more important, charter schools and private schools are not, as a whole, better than public schools. Yes, some charter schools and some private schools might have higher test scores than some public schools, but on the whole public schools achieve higher than private and charter schools. See HERE, HERE and HERE.

Third, schools with low numbers of students in poverty score higher than even the highest scoring countries in the world. The quality of American public schools is good. The problem with low performing schools is not the quality of public schools, but poverty.

In a new report by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford University, researchers found that the achievement gap between rich and poor is now greater than the achievement gap between white and black students. It's poverty that is the basis of low achievement. Not race. Not bad teachers. Not bad students.
The Academic Achievement Gap Between The Rich And Poor Is Double The Gap Between Whites And Blacks

“Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children’s achievement.” This groundbreaking research is more evidence that America is devolving into a rigid, class-based society where the 99 Percent continue to struggle to get by as a small aristocracy rises.
Once again we see that the problem with America's public schools is child poverty...the highest in the industrialized world.

The Friedmanesque obsession with privatizing everything in sight has already brought us high unemployment (yes, the "job-makers" still have their tax breaks...but there are still millions unemployed), and the highest national poverty levels in a generation. Do we want the same people who brought us the banking/Wall Street fiasco telling us what to do with our public schools? I think not.

The privatizers want the money the country spends on public education. The religious right wants to theocratize public schools. Jefferson's concept of an educated populace, was based on the principle that universal education results in a population of good citizens. His plan involved an educational progression that started with free, local, elementary schools. The inclusion of women, blacks and native americans had to come later, and at high cost. Free public education, while given tacit acknowledgement in federal law, left out children of color until Lyndon Johnson forced the issue.

Killing public education is based on selfishness, pure and simple.

frharry, a commenter at Religion Dispatches online magazine said,
“Increasingly Americans are saying we do not want to be a nation, we do not want to be a single people. And without a single story, we won’t be. Without a shared set of knowledge and understandings, we can’t be. And without the resolve to remain united, we have no way to be.”

What? You think I'm paranoid because I believe the corporate and religious right wants to privatize education? Read:

Privatization of Public Education
Turning the operation of public schools over to private companies is a controversial idea based on the less-controversial notion that part of what makes improving public schools so hard is that they are bogged down in bureaucratic mire.

Advocates of privatization ventures see in them the combined virtues of government and business. They argue that government's oversight function and its responsiveness to the needs of citizens can be retained while taking advantage of private enterprise's ability to be more efficient, reduce costs, and maximize production—in this case, student achievement.
Religious Right Dream of Privatized Public Education Gets Boost
The longstanding religious right goal of privatizing control and/or ownership of public education is being pushed along by the ongoing economic crisis, budget deficits, tax concerns and anti-government/anti-union sentiment. Since the Reagan Administration, religious conservatives have pushed for the elimination of the Federal Department of Education. The strategy has been to move from federal control, to state control, and then toward privatization.

Rick Scott’s plans to massively expand Florida’s voucher plan, which would inevitably result in taxpayer money funding religious education in Christian schools and Christian home schools. The plan would save money because the dollar amount of vouchers is lower than the actual cost of vouchers due to additional state infrastructure costs.

The result of these reforms is likely to be a fractured educational system incapable of serving the very purpose of public education: to ensure an educated citizenry capable of participating in a democracy.
Abolish the Education Department? Abandoned Idea Gets New Life
...all of the GOP candidates said they would either get rid of the department -- created in 1980 under President Jimmy Carter -- or seriously diminish its function. Their uniform responses earned wild applause during the debate.
Religious Right Spokeshole: Time to Destroy Public Education
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees’ unions.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pale Blue Dot

Happy Thanksgiving!

Valerie Strauss has a list of fun facts about Thanksgiving. A few samples are below...check out the rest.
Thanksgiving: 248 million turkeys and other fun facts

248 million

The number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2011. That’s up 2 percent from the number raised during 2010. The turkeys produced in 2010 together weighed 7.11 billion pounds and were valued at $4.37 billion.

The source for this and the following food facts is the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

46.5 million

The preliminary estimate of turkeys Minnesota is expected to raise in 2011. The Gopher State was tops in turkey production, followed by:

North Carolina 30 million

Arkansas 30 million

Missouri 18 million

Virginia 17.5 million

Indiana 16 million

These six states together account for about two-thirds of U.S. turkeys produced in 2011. 

13.3 pounds

The quantity of turkey consumed by the typical American in 2009, with no doubt a hearty helping devoured at Thanksgiving time. Per capita sweet potato consumption was 5.3 pounds.


Retail cost per pound of a frozen whole turkey in December 2010. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Shameful Display

Valerie Strauss lists the effect on public education if the congressional supercommittee fails in its task to reach a compromise on lowering the deficit.

How education fares if debt supercommittee fails
There are new reports that the supercommittee is getting ready to admit that its Republican and Democratic members couldn’t compromise after several months of negotiations — this after Congress itself couldn’t reach an agreement.

Legislators should be mighty proud of the terrific lesson they are giving school children everywhere on the subject of democratic government — which can only function with compromise.
Naturally some legislators would prefer to see school budgets cut resulting in the loss of essential programs for millions of children and costing hundreds of thousands of education jobs rather than tax the wealthy at the same rate as the rest of us because they're the "job creators." (Which reminds me...how are they doing on that job creation, thing, anyway?)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also had some words about this...
Sen. Bernie Sanders: Deficit caused by wars, tax breaks and Wall Street 
“...the reality is that the deficit was caused by two wars — unpaid for. It was caused by huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country. It was caused by a recession as result of the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior on Wall Street. And if those are the causes of the deficit, I will be damned if we’re going to balance the budget on backs of the elderly, the sick, the children, and the poor. That’s wrong.”
It's wrong. It's selfish. It's shameful.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No Fun Any More...

"As long as it's fun, I'll keep teaching."

That's what I said while I was teaching. I wanted to retire before I was ineffective...before I was too comfortable...to inured to the crises children faced every day. I didn't want to be the punch drunk prize-fighter who kept going back into the ring only to be flattened in the first round. I didn't want to be the old ball player who limped to the plate to pinch hit when there was no one left on the bench. I wanted to make a difference every day of my career...until the last day I walked out of the school building.

Lately I've been thinking about my decision to retire. Many of my former colleagues tell me I retired "just in time" since our school system (and, of course, American public education in general) is going through a very difficult time right now...schools closing, curriculum adjustments, teachers shuffled from one place to another, increased focus on the already insane demand for testing, testing, testing. There's not much security...not much time to really teach...not much reliance on teacher expertise...not much joy in the classroom.

Nevertheless, through my volunteer efforts in two local elementary schools, I realize that I still enjoy being with children in a learning environment. I enjoy trying to fit the explanation to the child to solve the puzzle of how each individual child learns. I enjoy thinking about the learning process and asking the questions which will help each child discover new ways to learn. After all, one size does not fit all.

There are days when I feel like I retired too early. I miss the fun and the excitement of learning with children. I miss reading aloud from Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl and William Stieg. Oh, I know it wasn't all "flowers and sausages." I don't miss the students throwing up on the bus on the way to our field trip destination, or the fights during recess, or the frustrations of bureaucratic blindness to the reality of the classroom. No...absolutely not. But the moments of enjoyment with students made up for it.

Speaking of It's Not All Flowers and Sausages, Mrs. Mimi recently asked about the fun of teaching.
It's November. For most of you, that means report cards and possibly conferences. Which means data, data, data, some progress monitoring, and more data. Which means driving yourself insane to find moments to still do actual teaching in the midst of all this ridiculous assessing. Which means piles of paper everywhere. Which means that I-just-want-to-lie-down feeling hits you in the face every time you walk into your classroom and see those piles and think of that data which reminds you of report cards and for-the-love-of-all-things-holy-and-organized how am I going to get it all done?!?

Wait, where's the fun again?
Exactly...where's the fun? When talking with teachers I can feel their frustration. The opportunities for them to meet the needs of their students beyond a data point and test score are being restricted. I listen to them worry about a child who is not achieving and I hear the not-so-hidden fear that the child won't "pass the test." I see them taking their students to the school library and, instead of sitting and reading with them, enjoying books and instilling a love of literature and learning, they're grabbing one student after another for a "quick assessment." The teacher's body has been extended by the length of an iPad into which they deposit data in a seemingly endless stream of tap-tap-tapping.

This morning, I read Walt Gardner's Reality Check. Today's entry was titled simply Teaching Is No Longer Fun.
For teachers who started their careers before the accountability movement gained traction, the transformation has been traumatic. No longer can they rely on their professional judgment in preparing lessons, nor are they likely to experience the satisfaction of having opened the eyes of their students to knowledge for its own sake. They now have to treat their lessons as part of an assembly line, where instruction is evaluated strictly on the basis of how much value it adds. The rationale is that the real world operates accordingly.

Reformers maintain that teaching and learning can't always be fun. They say that discipline is an indispensable part of the educational process. That is certainly true. But the way things are unfolding in classrooms across the country means that even if students perform adequately on standardized tests, we run the risk of forever turning them off to further learning in the same subjects. As I wrote before, you can teach a subject well but teach students to hate the subject in the process. When that happens, it's a Pyrrhic victory.
So maybe I didn't retire too early. Maybe I did "get out just in time." My volunteer experiences still give me the "fun" of teaching with none of the cognitive dissonance associated with mindless data collecting and the "assembly line" instruction currently being forced on teachers. Mrs. Mimi ended her "Where's the fun" column with...
The fun is with the kids. Remember them?
As a volunteer I get that. I get to have fun being a teacher. That's something that too many teachers are missing. Students aren't becoming lifelong learners, they are just learning to pass the test. Teachers are being pushed and shoved into the "data collector" mold.

I have to believe that some teachers continue to have fun learning with their students. I'm sure some are fighting the data madness either in their classrooms -- hiding behind their closed doors while they explore the ever diminishing "teachable moments" -- or in professional meetings by speaking out against the insanity that threatens to overwhelm public education. Others, sadly, are leaving. Veteran teachers are retiring early and half of all beginning teachers don't last the first five years...because they have found that teaching is not teaching any more...teaching is no longer fun. As one former colleague who is still teaching put it
...the stress and pressure...We are fighting high blood pressure, many sleepless nights, worry beyond belief...it is destroying our personal lives - [at school] every weekend working, home grading papers...no time for exercise...we have no life...
Where are tomorrow's teachers going to come from? When teaching is no longer fun...neither is learning. We're selling our children's education to the corporate so-called "reformers." The "reform" of public education in America is killing learning.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Politician as Principal

On November 16, Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn, District 14) spent the day as the guest principal of a local school. He came away with some impressions that his Republican colleagues usually don't express. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette told the story...
Sen. Kruse spends the day as principal

Kruse spent much of Wednesday morning on his feet, visiting classrooms and mingling with students at Southwick, a school with about 480 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. He said he was particularly struck by the diversity of the largely Burmese school, where 51 percent of students speak English as a second language.

Kruse said “it’s just not right” for the state to test students who come to a district with no English language skills.

In the future, he said, he would support legislation that would give schools the option to let more of their non-native English speaking students get out of ISTEP+ testing. Schools already have some wiggle room, he said, but not enough.

Kruse said he left with a positive impression of the school, and said he was particularly impressed to see such a large emphasis put on reading. He said Southwick’s teachers were working hard, and like all teachers, needed to be appreciated for their dedication.

“I think we need to compliment our teachers more,” he said. “Just to come into the classroom everyday you need to have quite the commitment.”
Did Senator Kruse learn enough to stand up to his Republican colleagues in the State Senate?

Do those hard working teachers who "need to be appreciated for their dedication" deserve to have their full collective bargaining rights restored?

Since it's "just not right" to give the ISTEP (or other standardized test) to students who don't speak English, should said tests be used to evaluate teachers?

Let's see if Senator Kruse carries his new found "positive impressions" back to Indianapolis.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

2011 Medley #13

Billionaires, Research and Current Reforms, Charters, Teacher Effectiveness, Blaming Teachers, Poverty, Stalinizing American Education

Billionaires for Education Reform
...our public schools have never before been subject to such a sustained assault on their very foundations. Never before were there so many people, with such vast resources, intent on dismantling public education. What does this mean for the future of public education? What does it mean for our democracy?
Research doesn’t back up key ed reforms
There is no solid evidence supporting many of the positions on teachers and teacher evaluation taken by some school reformers today, according to a new assessment of research on the subject.
Reports on charter schools expose new problems
Solutions to problems that in turn cause at least as many new problems aren’t really great solutions, are they?
See Also National Study of Charter-School Management Organizations Finds Varying Practices and Impacts

In Tennessee, Following the Rules for Evaluations Off a Cliff
...the state is requiring teachers without test results to be evaluated based on the scores of teachers at their school with test results. So Emily Mitchell, a first-grade teacher at David Youree Elementary, will be evaluated using the school’s fifth-grade writing scores...
...“How stupid is that?” said Michelle Pheneger, who teaches ACT math prep at Blackman High and is also being evaluated in part based on writing scores. “My job can be at risk, and I’m not even being evaluated by my own work.”
What Studies Say about Teacher Effectiveness
Research has shown that the variation in student achievement is predominantly a product of individual and family background characteristics. Of the school factors that have been isolated for study, teachers are probably the most important determinants of how students will perform on standardized tests.
NY Times Continues to Blame Schools and Teachers for Poverty and Penury
The Business Roundtable's Rube Goldberg plan for evaluating teachers in Tennessee (and other venues with RTTT money) has met with almost universal disdain, a response that has brought CEOs running out of their penthouses to dictate responses for the corporate media editorial pages.
Proof there is no proof for education reforms
...when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was asked by an Education Week reporter about the evidence base for the policies of his department, he replied, “So I would argue the whole turnaround stuff is relatively new but I think there’s a lot of scientific evidence that the status quo doesn’t work and that’s the evidence that I’m looking at.” That is akin to saying, “I know my child is ill so I will give her any new medicine I happen to have in my cabinet.”
Mathis: Poverty is No. 1 driver of education achievement gap
...the National Bureau of Economic Research recently posted an analysis that showed that a 2 percent increase in unemployment results in a 16 percent increase in schools not making adequate progress. Most troubling, in a nation driven more by self-interest than the common good, the expanding economic gap between the top 1 percent and the remaining 99 percent is a harbinger of an increase in the achievement gap rather than a decrease.
Stalinizing American Education
The similarities between contemporary American educational reform and Soviet educational reform of the 1930s are as striking as they are discomfiting.

Why is current American educational policy so focused on punishing teachers rather than helping students? In examining the credentials of the individuals in the Secretary of Education’s cabinet, those who are guiding the educational reforms that will inexorably alter the character of American public education for the foreseeable future, one characteristic becomes apparent—none of the members of the cabinet listed below has ever worked as a teacher in a public school.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Teacher, You're Paid Too Much!

The American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have issued a report called Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers in which the authors state,
...it is evident that existing public-school teachers receive wages that are at least as high as comparably skilled workers, while their benefits and job security exceed what they could earn in the private sector. Overall, public-school teacher compensation exceeds private levels by approximately 52 percent, for a total of more than $120 billion annually in excessive labor costs.
They also say that (referring to teacher training),
Years of education, in particular, is a misleading measure of teacher skill, both within the teaching profession and between teaching and non-teaching occupations. The field of education is less challenging than other academic concentrations...
Yes, perhaps (speaking for myself only) education classes are easier than astro-physics, for example. The most important aspects of teacher education, however, are the times spent working with students in student teaching, internships, summer clinics, and so on. As an education student in the 70s I spent time with children in varied settings putting in place what I learned from my "easy" classes. I am aware that there are people who believe that teaching is "like babysitting" and "you just tell them what they need to know." Sensitive readers, on the other hand, as well as any teacher, knows this just isn't true. While my class in "Methods of teaching Social Studies" might have been easier than Calculus, working with children in educational settings is challenging by any standard.

Numerous rebuttals have appeared, some of which I have listed at the end. My favorite, however, is a rebuttal which was made before the fact -- last February -- by Thom Hartman.

Other Rebuttals to the Heritage Foundation Report:

Are teachers paid too much?

The Teacher Salary Project

Teachers Make Too Much Money, Right?

Heritage Foundation and AEI Issue Report Exposing Dumb, Fatcat Teachers

Are Teachers Actually Overpaid?

And check this out...even Arne Duncan...

Teacher Pay Study Asks the Wrong Question, Ignores Facts, Insults Teachers

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sagan Day

Happy Birthday to scientist and educator Carl Sagan...

"Our own planet is only a tiny part of the vast cosmic tapestry -- a starry fabric of worlds yet untold. Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours. In every one of them, there's a succession of incidents, events, occurences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet, at this moment, here we face a critical branch-point in history. What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants. It is well within our power to destroy our civilization, and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition, or greed, or stupidity we can plunge our world into a darkness deeper than time between the collapse of classical civilization and the Italian Renaissaince. But, we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth, to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet. To enhance enormously our understanding of the Universe, and to carry us to the stars."

-- Cosmos, Episode 8

Carl Sagan Day at the Center for Inquiry

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three from Schools Matter

Jim Horn and his colleagues at Schools Matter have three great items worth looking at.

Tennessee Teachers Will Evaluate Legislators Who Approved Ridiculous Teacher Eval Scheme

How great would it be to use a form like this to evaluate our legislators? John Kuhn, Superintendent of Perrin, Texas schools suggested that we label lawmakers. This looks like a way to do just that. Here's a tool for evaluating those who know nothing about education and who sit in state and federal legislatures making laws for public schools.

New Charter Study by Mathematica With More Bad News for Corporate Ed Reform

Arne Duncan and the Obama administration at the federal level...Tony Bennett and the Daniels administration at the state (Indiana) level, and all the other state executives who are pushing to destroy public education through attacks on teachers, increased charter schools, and, at the state levels, increased vouchers for private and religious schools, should check out this latest study on the efficacy of charter schools.
...even with all the advantages that charter schools enjoy, and even with the selective culling that took place to create the sample for this study, charters are, on average, doing no better than the public schools that the charterites want to shut down.
To improve reading in California: Let’s try the obvious

And finally, Stephen Krashen provides information about how trading libraries (school and public) for standardized tests won't improve reading skills.
The plan now is to invest in standards and tests, despite research showing that increasing standardized testing does not increase school achievement. Why do we insist on spending money on weighing the animal rather than feeding it? Why this reluctance to even consider the idea of investing more in our public and school libraries?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

2011 Medley #12

The Complete List of Problems with Standardized Tests, Teach for America, Charter School Failure, Are Teachers Paid Too Much?, Corporate Reform Fails its Standardized Test: NAEP Analysis

The complete list of problems with high-stakes standardized tests by Marion Brady
Teachers oppose the tests because they focus so narrowly on reading and math that the young are learning to hate reading, math, and school; because they measure only “low level” thinking processes; because they put the wrong people — test manufacturers — in charge of American education; because they allow pass-fail rates to be manipulated by officials for political purposes; because test items simplify and trivialize learning.

Why I did TFA [Teach For America], and why you shouldn’t
TFA has highlighted their few successes so much that many politicians actually believe that first year TFA teachers are effective. They believe that there are lazy veteran teachers who are not ‘accountable’ to their students and who are making a lot of money so we’re better off firing those older teachers and replacing them with these young go-getters.

“Poor Assessment Tool” Led to Jacksonville KIPP schools failure
Isn’t it ironic though, that a charter entity – who markets itself on test data – gets burned by the very data it seeks to manipulate?

Are teachers paid too much?
There are other points in the paper, which you can read here, but perhaps the most telling is this, my personal favorite: “We should be careful not to draw strong conclusions about the wages of a single occupation from a regression such as this one.” And then the paper proceeds to draw strong conclusions about the wages of a single occupation, teaching.

The Nation's Report Card on Corporate Ed Reform Comes Home
NCLB/corporate education reform is not working....improvements on NAEP have slowed since 2003, when NCLB went into effect.

What the new NAEP test results really tell us
Since closing the achievement gap was the goal of No Child Left Behind, which went into effect a decade ago under the administration of former president George W. Bush, the NAEP results tell us that it was an abject failure.

Under NCLB, the high-stakes standardized test became supreme in school reform for purposes of evaluating schools and students — and, now, under the Obama administration, teachers as well — and still, the achievement gap remains stubborn. In fact, trend lines show that NAEP gains were bigger before NCLB.