"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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dear Member of Congress, Please Step Into My Class Room

Teachers, NEA has a web site at which you can invite your member of congress to visit your classroom to see what's really going on in public education today.
Have you ever thought, "If my representatives in Congress spent just one day in my shoes, they would understand better what they can do to help me – and where federal laws and regulations hamper rather than help."

Here's your chance to tell them what they would see in your classroom or school, and how they can help your students succeed. Congress is getting ready to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Act, known as NCLB, so your input is timely.
Sounds like a good idea.


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Friday, January 27, 2012

ALEC's War on Teachers

If Diane Ravitch gave us The Most Important Speech on Education in Years, then Anthony Cody might just have written The Most Important Blog Entry on Education in Years.

In ALEC Reports on the War on Teachers Anthony Cody gives us a good look at what is happening to the teaching profession. The war being waged on teachers by corporate leaders, billionaires, and politicians (Republicans and Democrats) is being lost. The amount of money being invested in crushing public school teachers is enormous. The job of public school teachers is being redefined. Public Education is being redefined.
As state after state rewrites their education laws in line with the mandates from Race to the Top and the NCLB waiver process, the teaching profession is being redefined. Teachers will now pay the price - be declared successes or failures, depending on the rise or fall of their students' test scores. Under NCLB it was schools that were declared failures. In states being granted waivers to NCLB, it is teachers who will be subjected to this ignominy. Of course we will still be required to label the bottom 5% of our schools as failures, but if the Department of Education has its way, soon every single teacher in the profession will be at risk for the label.
NCLB brought us the guarantee that every school in the country beginning with those serving students in poverty, would be branded a failure. Race to the Top guarantees the death of public education itself. The Obama administration is pushing their pro charter agenda to the delight of the anti-public school politicians. Those anti-public school politicians, who took over state legislatures and state executive houses in the last election, are slashing funding for public education and increasing funding for charter schools and, through voucher schemes, private schools. To guarantee the complete demise of public education, states are passing laws as fast and as hard as they can to destroy the labor movement, beginning with teachers unions, in the United States.

And no state, it seems, is doing as much to further their agenda than Indiana.
The greatest success story cited in this report is Indiana, where the corporate reform "alliance" succeeded in passing comprehensive "reforms."
Gov. Daniels detailed the reforms to the American Enterprise Institute audience, describing how Indiana lawmakers limited collective bargaining to wages and benefits. Indiana law ended the illogical practice of LIFO (Last In, First Out) in layoffs, mandating a determination of merit-- based in part on student test-score gains--rather than simply seniority be used as the basis for making layoffs.
The report describes many other reforms enacted by the Indiana legislature, including expansion of vouchers, charter schools, "virtual schools," and a parent trigger so that parents can petition to convert neighborhood schools into charters.

But it was the introduction to the report, written by Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, that brought this into focus for me. He writes:
Prior to this session, 99 percent of Indiana's teachers were annually rated "Effective." If that rating were actually true, 99 percent--not just one-third--of our students would be passing national tests. From this point on, because of the diligence and fortitude of our reform-minded legislators, teachers will be promoted and retained based on performance rather than seniority. Teacher evaluations, which will be locally formulated, will rely on student improvement. Successful educators will be rewarded, while those whose students lag behind will be asked to find work elsewhere. Additionally, schools will now be graded on an A-F scale and they, too, will be held accountable for student advancement; and the state will not hesitate to intervene in those schools that fail repeatedly.
According to this logic, the individual teacher's accountability for student performance is absolute. Governor Daniels apparently believes there ought to be a one to one correspondence between student achievement and teacher effectiveness. This is rather incredible, but there you have it. Most systems base between 25% and 50% of the teacher's evaluation on test scores...
Rational thought didn't have any say in the concept of 100% of students being proficient in Reading and Math by 2014 in No Child Left Behind, and rational thought doesn't seem to be present in Mitch Daniels contention that teachers ought to be 100% responsible for the increase in student test scores. Poverty and a child's home life, of course, doesn't matter.

In addition, as if posing for the poster child for the old saying of Mark Twain's that there are "lies, damn lies, and statistics," Daniels claims that only a third of Indiana students passed national tests. He's referring to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and what he calls "passing" is scoring at the proficient level (State summaries of scores can be found here).

The late Gerald Bracey explained years ago why scoring Proficient on the NAEP was a poor way of judging...well...proficiency. Read here, here and here.

In any case, using test scores to rank teachers has been denounced by those knowledgeable in the field of testing.
As a letter from the National Research Council's Board on Testing and Assessment stated in a letter to the US Department of Education:

"VAM estimates of teacher effectiveness ... should not used to make operational decisions because such estimates are far too unstable to be considered fair or reliable."
Is anyone listening? Teachers, it's time to wake up!
Of course this is all taking place against a backdrop of rising class sizes and cuts to support services such as school libraries and health programs. But teachers alone are held accountable for the results of their students, on the narrowest of measures. How many more teachers will we lose as these policies spread? How far will this corporate reform war on our profession go? At the end of the day, this will hurt the most vulnerable students the most, as it will speed up the revolving door of their teachers and create a dynamic in which teachers with options will try not to teach in the schools and classes where poor students and English Language learners predominate.

It seems that ALEC considers itself engaged in a battle of epic proportions, yet many teachers are too busy working to even realize that their profession is being redefined in state after state.

Support ASCD's Petition for a President's Council on the Whole Child.

If you think a child’s worth is more than a test score, sign the petition to create a President’s Council on the Whole Child.

Click the button below...
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

2012 Medley #2

State of the Union, California, No Excuses, Reformers, Testing, Teachers Unions

Obama on education in State of the Union address
Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren’t helping kids learn.
If we stop teaching to the test (which would be wonderful) does that mean that we'll identify "good teachers" some other way than by student test scores? If so, how?

Does "reward the best" teachers mean that they get paid more? If so, are we going to continue to use test scores as the measure for a "good teacher?" What's to keep teachers from "teaching to the test" if "the test" is going to determine their pay and job status?

If "teachers matter" why doesn't the President honor teachers by appointing a teacher as the Secretary of Education? He appointed a doctor as Surgeon General...an attorney as Attorney General...isn't the Department of Education important enough to warrant a professional as it's head?

See, The Facts That School Reformers Ignore.

Another critique of President Obama's Education content from the State of the Union speech is Anthony Cody's Teachers Offer the Wealthy an Escape from Poverty.
The...problem is a glaring contradiction, a logical flaw so huge it has been overlooked by almost every journalist apparently too polite to challenge the administration on it. If you do not wish teachers to teach to the test, if you want them to be passionate and creative, then how can you insist that their performance be measured by the use of test scores?

Let us be crystal clear. The Obama administration has made the use of test scores to evaluate principals and teachers a pre-condition for federal aid. Both Race to the Top and the NCLB waivers require that states develop evaluation processes that incorporate this data. Furthermore, the administration proposes to continue to identify and target for closure or "turnaround" the bottom 5% of schools, once again based on these same test scores we are told should not be taught to.

Will California Start a National Revolt Against Bad Ideas?
Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State message, in which he announced his intention to reduce the amount of testing across the state. Standardized testing in California has spun out of control. Children in 2nd grade spend five hours on mandated state tests, for no reason at all. And it is no better, even worse, in other grades! He also made this remarkable statement: "My hunch is that principals and teachers know the most..." Can you believe it? He acknowledges that the people who do the work may know more than those who sit on the sidelines taking pot shots at them.

Behind the "No Excuses" Mask: "Evidence Is Not Policy"
The "No Excuses" Reformers have remained committed to several alternatives to what they call the status quo: Teach for America (TFA), charter schools, and school choice. What do all three have in common?

A lack of evidence for pursuing any of them as policy.

The facts that school reformers ignore

President Obama should have read this before his State of the Union speech.
Education “reformers” have a common playbook. First, assert without evidence that regular public schools are “failing” and that large numbers of regular (unionized) public school teachers are incompetent. Provide no documentation for this claim other than that the test score gap between minority and white children remains large. Then propose so-called reforms to address the unproven problem — charter schools to escape teacher unionization and the mechanistic use of student scores on low-quality and corrupted tests to identify teachers who should be fired.

Careful examination discloses that disadvantaged students have made spectacular progress in the last generation, in regular public schools, with ordinary teachers. Not only have regular public schools not been “the great discriminator” — they continue to make remarkable gains for minority children at a time when our increasingly unequal social and economic systems seem determined to abandon them.

Testing Band and Music is on its Way

...but teaching to the test is bad...
...New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

Why Rhee is wrong on collective bargaining and teachers’ unions

Using their own measures, standardized tests, the states with the highest scores are the states with the strongest teachers unions. This is not a question of what's best for students. It's simply another way to blame teachers and their professional organizations for the problems the country is facing.
“Critics of American education are sometimes disapproving of the teachers’ unions and of how they perceive these unions as interfering with promising school reform programmes by giving higher priority to the unions’ “bread and butter” issues than to what the evidence suggests students need to succeed. But the fact is that many of the countries with the strongest student performance also have the strongest teachers’ unions, beginning with Japan and Finland. There seems to be no relationship between the presence of unions, including and especially teachers’ unions, and student performance. But there may be a relationship between the degree to which the work of teaching has been professionalised and student performance. Indeed, the higher a country is on the world’s education league tables, the more likely that country is working constructively with its unions and treating its teachers as trusted professional partners. Witness the reports of Ontario in Canada or Finland.”

Quote of the day:

"Poor people have $h*tty lobbyists." -- Jon Stewart


Support ASCD's Petition for a President's Council on the Whole Child.

If you think a child’s worth is more than a test score, sign the petition to create a President’s Council on the Whole Child.

Click the button below...
Sign for Whole Child

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lessons Learned: Kimberly's Story...continued

May, 2011

There was an automobile accident last May in which a young woman, Kim, was injured. She was hospitalized with serious and life threatening injuries. Her mother, Beverly, shared Kim's story in snippets and photos on a web site for photographers -- 365Project.org. I first shared this last July (Click HERE to read it).

Beverly's comments reflected the fear of a parent whose child is in danger...
"Third surgery in two weeks, this time for a tracheotomy in her throat rather than through her mouth. Still unresponsive. Three parts of her brain have been affected by the strokes."

"...her neurologist felt that she should be given only two more weeks to respond before she should be taken off her feeding tube."

"...neurosurgeon is worried about her eyesight and the entire left side of her body as that still doesn't appear to be making any kind of progress with either."
Later comments reflected the hope of a parent whose child is working hard to recover.
"...my motto has always been 'It ain't over til it's over,'"

"Can you see me smiling from where you are...I haven't felt this positive in two months!"

"Where there's life, there's hope."

"My child never fails to amaze me. This young woman, who was virtually given up on by some doctors less than two months ago, is nearing the date when she will be coming home to her family and friends..."
Facing Challenges

When I posted about this in July there were still significant problems which needed attention...and for the last 6 months, while the rest of us have been going about our ordinary day to day lives, Kim has been working hard at healing. Here are some recent entries...pictures from Project365 and comments.

Determination on 365 Project
November 23 Determination

Kim is progressing well, now doing 7 hours of rehab a week -- physical, occupational and speech...still struggling with her left arm and her index finger on her right hand, but she certainly is showing improvement. They have localized her visual problem. It is called "left neglect" and it has been impairing her comprehension when she reads. Imagine a book page with a line down the middle and you were only reading the words to the right of that line...

The index finger problem affects lots of things, from being able to dress herself and putting on socks to writing. Her left arm and hand are being worked on and she can now raise it to almost shoulder height by herself, but the fingers and actual arm control are still a problem.

This is not a great photo, but I just noticed the poster on the wall and thought it very fitting so posted it anyway.

I disagree. It's a great photo...emphasis on determination.
November 24 Thanksgiving

I am thankful for roses in late November...thankful I have a home, family and enough to eat, but most of all I am thankful that Kim was at our dinner table this holiday. It's been a long and arduous seven months.
And some good can come from even the most difficult experiences...
November 26 Changes to ER policy

Due to Kim's case, Greenville Memorial Hospital has changed it's procedure for admitting trauma patients. They will now all have scans of their carotid arteries to detect any damage. Hopefully this can prevent something like this happening to someone in the future. Although airbags can save lives, they can also cause serious damage.

Update on Kim on 365 Project
December 12 Update on Kim

...her newest "trick" -- being able to raise her left arm, place it on a table and rest her chin on it. They are doubling-down on working on her left arm and it is paying off.

She is still struggling with the fingers on her right hand and her speech, but both do show signs of improvement with each passing week.

She will be spending the days this week and next at "the farm" with her son Hayden. Her husband leaves them lunch each day so neither of them have to worry about anything other than resting and relaxing (I understand 3rd grade is difficult according to Hayden).

Having taught third grade for many years I can relate to Hayden's feeling about its difficulty. Perseverance helps with that, too.

Notice, also, the small improvements...arm movements, vision, speech...slow, but steady improvement.
January 3 2012 - New Beginnings

Today is a very, very special day. Kim is officially moved back to her home...

Today is the first day she will be spending completely by herself from the time her husband went to work until he comes home this afternoon.

Her hard work has payed off for her. There's still plenty to go, but this is a proud day for me as she has come so far since this spring.

The Balance Board on 365 Project

January 4 The Balance Board

Kim at physical therapy on Monday. I'll bet this is harder to do than it looks.

Her husband reports that when he came home from work yesterday she had loaded and run the dishwasher, cleaned all the countertops and made the kitchen shine.

Her father bought her fresh blueberries today as she wants to try to make blueberry muffins tomorrow. She is certainly finding entertaining things for herself while she is alone all day.

Children and the Development of Courage, Perseverance and Resilience

So, why have I taken the time to blog about Kim and her family? This is an education blog. My entries, with very few exceptions. have focused on my own career and on the things I believe need to change in Federal, State, and even local public education policy. Where does Kim fit in with this?

As educators we try to help our students grow, not just academically, but emotionally and personally. The most important moments in a student's school life are generally not when he or she gets an A in a course or on a test. Just like in "real life" the most important moments in school come when children are challenged. Developing a positive response to those challenges is more important than any test or grade.

The ability to face challenges is perhaps the most important skill we learn in life. Developing the courage to face obstacles can mean the difference between a successful life and an unsuccessful one. Courage is not the absence of fear...it doesn't mean you're not afraid. Courage means you face what life offers you despite the fear which threatens to immobilize you.

Facing challenges is a common theme in children's literature...finding the strength and courage to face life's challenges appears in book after book...The Little Prince...Stone Fox...Maniac Magee...Summer of the Swans...Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (I could continue for pages and still be accused of leaving out excellent examples). Facing challenges as a theme is common because life presents us with challenges every day...and we gain inspiration from reading about people who overcome those challenges.

Developing the courage to face life's challenges begins in childhood...it begins when someone stands up to a bully on the playground...or when someone overcomes the fear of speaking in class or making a mistake. Still more difficult challenges are placed on children each day...surviving a divorce or the death of a parent...facing serious illness or injury...going hungry or homeless...being alone. Those are the bases for developing the courage to face life. That is where perseverance, determination, and resilience are built.

Kim's Story

Kim's story is one such story of perseverance, determination, and courage. It's not unlike the stories told in literature...and in the daily news...of people overcoming life's difficulties. It's important to her family because it's her story, but it's important to the rest of us because of the example it represents.

Three generations are brought together in this story. The mother is challenged with a threat to her child. Beverly knows that her daughter needs her support and help. The daughter struggles to overcome the challenges she faces. Kim works hard to heal, not just for herself, but for her family as well. The grandchild is challenged with the knowledge that his parents are vulnerable...mortal. More important, however, is the lesson Hayden learns as he sees the adults in his life working together without giving up. His parents and grandparents (not to mention the wider community of friends and relatives) support him...while he learns the lesson of perseverance.

In this way, the ability to meet life's challenges is passed from parent, to child, to grandchild. Each of them, in turn, shares that experience with others -- friends, family, coworkers, classmates -- and by doing so, everyone grows. Sharing the experience inspires the rest of us...


The last photo I posted in July was one of Kim's hand in her son's...as much a comfort to her as it was to him. Today's last photo, is chronologically out of order, but its message is the one I'd like to leave you with. Here is the family...each holding the others for support and strength, getting stronger every day, ready to continue the process of recovery together.

...and one last comment from Beverly...

Christmas Eve 2011 on 365 Project

December 24 Christmas Eve 2011

My beautiful little family...

Friday, January 20, 2012

Before It's Too Late

Have you been reading about Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania? They're out of money...teachers (and other employees) are working for free. The state has finally agreed to cough up another month's worth of money...but it won't last past the end of January.

Did you know that the district is in a high poverty area? Did you know that the district has to give away more than $36 million of its budget to the local charter schools? Did you know that the owner of the largest local charter donated $300,000 to the governor's campaign?

This is from Dennis Van Roekel, president of NEA...
Today, about 45 percent of the district's total education budget goes to two charter schools, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The larger of those two schools was founded by Gov. Corbett's top political contributor in his 2010 election, who also has received an undisclosed amount of money to manage the school.
The events at Chester Upland School District are the result of a series of events which are being replicated all over the country. The process goes something like this...
  • Republican governors and legislatures cut public education budgets, increase budgets for charter schools and push for private school vouchers. Less and less money is available to public schools (Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Idaho...etc.).
  • Schools serving high poverty communities, whose scant resources are reduced further by these budget cuts and shifting of taxpayer money, struggle to overcome the effects of poverty. There is a direct correlation between income and achievement and out of school factors are rarely mentioned.
  • The same governors and legislatures hurt teachers by reducing their power to make educational choices, increasing the importance of standardized tests, and using standardized tests for evaluations and merit pay (neither of which has been shown to be effective in increasing student achievement).
  • The lack of resources further exacerbates the low achievement of poor students and their schools are blamed resulting in state takeovers, labels of "failing schools", and imposition of charter schools (which have not been shown to improve student achievement).
  • The Democratic administration in the federal government adds to the problem by encouraging states to adopt test based teacher evaluations and increase the number of charter schools (again, neither of which has been shown to be effective in increasing student achievement).
  • Public schools have less and less money to do the job they need to do. Schools are closed. Teachers are laid off (and in many cases, replaced with lower cost, untrained people. See HERE).
  • As higher and higher standards of achievement are required by No Child Left Behind, and more and more restrictions are placed on schools by Race to the Top, the number of schools "failing" increases.
  • More money gets drained from public schools...taxpayer money goes to privately run companies with no public accountability or oversight.
Eventually the school system can't handle the financial and political stress. The plight of Chester Upland School District is the logical conclusion. It won't be the last public school system to be threatened with destruction. We in the United States are in the process of dismantling our public schools. This is just the beginning.

Tim Slekar, an associate professor of education at Penn State, wrote,
...[It's] a nasty campaign designed to dismantle the American public school system. Corbett is no different than Walker, Christie, Scott, and all the other Republican governors that were elected in 2010. Look deeper into each of these governors' campaign contributions. They all have money from private interests that want the public school system in this country dismantled. Why?

...to cover up the real problem faced by children in American public schools -- poverty. In fact, once you control (compare apples to apples) for poverty, American students score as well as or even better than their international peers.

...The battle between Chester Upland School District and Gov. Corbett is just a glimpse into the strategic dismantling taking place across the entirety of the American public school system.
You might also be interested in...

Chester Upland teacher: Who is going to help our schools?
“My heart bleeds for these kids. Many of these students have seen so much tragedy, loss, and rejection in 16 years than most will see in a lifetime. Now, when faced with the possibility of their schools closing they are hit yet again. In discussions between students regarding the possibility of being sent to other districts, a common response from students is, “They won’t do that; nobody wants us.” Heartbreaking

“What will be done? We cannot pass this on to neighboring districts. Everyone has undergone cuts. Class sizes are up everywhere. Moving kids creates more overcrowding and all associated concerns. Moving kids fixes nothing. Moving kids holds no one accountable. I agree with your assessment - hold everyone accountable and fix this problem.

"This is about the kids. Their education and welfare must be everyone’s goal. Without that, Chester-Upland is just the tip of a very large iceburg. An iceberg that might sink public education.”

The sad story of Chester Upland
Is there a teacher in this country who didn’t wince when they read the story last week of the Chester Upland school district in Pennsylvania. The District is broke, the governor refused help and the union teachers agreed to work for free.

Did I mention that Chester Upland mainly serves poor and working class kids?

I couldn’t bring myself to Tweet or post about it. My emotions went from anger to sadness. From pity to fury.

Of course, the teachers of Chester Upland are heroic.

But it makes you wonder. Is this what they have planned for all of us?


Sign for Whole Child

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Musical Interlude

I didn't want to think about NCLB, RttT, or anything like that this morning. So...now for something completely different...

Try these interesting instruments on for size.

Đàn T ' Rưng

Glass harmonica...invented by Ben Franklin...

Glass Harmonica

When I first started watching this one I thought that the music was coming from "the background" -- something added by the film maker. I realized I was wrong after watching for a while. btw, there are a lot of "hang drum" videos out there.

Hang Drum

My favorite for last. The Yangqin is a Chinese dulcimer. These young ladies are obviously very well practiced. Not only do they play well, but they play in unison...watch especially the side views as their hands and arms move in perfect sync with each other. Even more amazing...they sound like one.

Yangqin - Flight of the Bumblebee

If you like that, check out this one, too...


If you must have some education related articles to complete your day, here are three thoughtful articles which ought to do the trick.
Universal Public Education Is Dead: The Rise of State Schools

“Universal public education has two possible—and contradictory—missions. One is the development of a literate, articulate, and well-informed citizenry so that the democratic process can continue to evolve and the promise of radical equality can be brought closer to realization. The other is the perpetuation of a class system dividing an elite, nominally ‘gifted’ few, tracked from an early age, from a very large underclass essentially to be written off as alienated from language and science, from poetry and politics, from history and hope—toward low-wage temporary jobs. The second is the direction our society has taken. The results are devastating in terms of the betrayal of a generation of youth. The loss to the whole of society is incalculable.”
Teacher Leaders as Agents of Change

Do you think ultimately we will find ourselves changing our entire model of education? I have always found with education that individuals are the ones that make the enormous difference, and the more that you're able to empower a great teacher, a great principal, a great superintendent, can make enormous differences. How do we empower the individual to have the authority and the responsibility to make those changes, and not tie them to arbitrary objective realities or goals?
How Can Smart People Do Dumb Things?

What is, however, categorically dumb is the fast-track federally driven movement (states competing for Race to the Top funds) of using test scores to evaluate teachers in the face of damning historical and contemporary evidence, all of which has been available to top federal and state policymakers. Like those smart guys in that 2006 Federal Reserve meeting whose over-confidence in their econometric models fueled joking about a strong economy when they were barely hanging on to a slippery housing market bubble, federal officials pushing states and districts to use test scores to determine teaching effectiveness have not done due diligence. And due diligence is what each of us expect of our top decision-makers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Internet Goes on Strike

SOPA and PIPA - Learn more

Click HERE to contact your legislators.

Online Protest Over SOPA Helps


After Today’s SOPA Blackout, A Clean Slate
It might help for both sides to acknowledge the legitimate fears held by powerful interests on both sides of the SOPA debate. Changing the way the internet is governed, especially after a year when free access to it played a major role in critically important liberation movements, is a hugely momentous thing to propose, even if you feel that your industry is at stake. It may be difficult to quantify the economic impact of piracy, but that doesn’t mean that there is none, or that it’s illegitimate for the people who work in an industry to feel insecurity about its transformation and their prospects for stable employment in it. Tech companies could do more to sell themselves to legacy content providers as beneficial partners. And legacy media companies could spend more time talking to consumers about customer service and cross-platform accessibility than scolding them.

Monday, January 16, 2012

10 Years of NCLB -- Part 3

(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 1)
(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 2)

Ten years ago No Child Left Behind was signed into law.

Fairtest has a report. Here's the news release:
NCLB’s Lost Decade Report


The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law “failed badly both in terms of its own goals and more broadly,” leading to a decade of educational stagnation. That is the central conclusion of a major new report marking NCLB’s tenth anniversary. President George W. Bush signed the program into law on January 8, 2002.

The report, “NCLB’s Lost Decade for Educational Progress,” summarizes data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and dozens of independent studies. It was written by staff of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest).

Among the report’s major findings:
  • NCLB failed to significantly increase average academic performance or to significantly narrow achievement gaps, as measured by NAEP. U.S. students made greater gains before NCLB became law than after it was implemented.
  • NCLB severely damaged educational quality and equity by narrowing the curriculum in many schools and focusing attention on the limited skills standardized tests measure. These negative effects fell most heavily on classrooms serving low-income and minority children.
  • So-called "reforms" to NCLB fail to address many of the law’s fundamental problems and, in some cases, may intensify them. Flawed proposals include Obama Administration waivers and the Senate Education Committee’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill
“NCLB undermined many promising reform efforts because of its reliance on one-size-fits-all testing, labeling and sanctioning schools,” explained FairTest’s Lisa Guisbond, the new report’s lead author. “A decade’s worth of solid evidence documents the failure of NCLB and similar high-stakes testing schemes. Successful programs in the U.S. and other nations demonstrate better ways to improve schools. Yet, policymakers still cling to the discredited NCLB model.”

“It’s not too late to learn the lessons of the past ten years. Now is the time to craft a federal law that supports equity and progress in all public schools,” added FairTest Executive Director, Dr. Monty Neill. The Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA), which FairTest leads, is promoting a comprehensive plan to overhaul NCLB. The proposal calls for using multiple measures to assess student and school performance. It also targets resources to improve teaching and learning. More than 150 national education, civil rights, disability, religious, labor and civic groups signed the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB, which FEA seeks to implement.

- the NCLB 10th Anniversary report is posted at http://fairtest.org/NCLB-lost-decade-report-home
- Forum on Educational Accountability recommendations and the Joint Organizational Statement on NCLB are available at http://www.edaccountability.org
Others are adding their voice, too.
Ravitch: No Child Left Behind and the damage done

After 10 years of NCLB, we should have seen dramatic progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but we have not. By now, we should be able to point to sharp reductions of the achievement gaps between children of different racial and ethnic groups and children from different income groups, but we cannot. As I said in a recent speech, many children continue to be left behind, and we know who those children are: They are the same children who were left behind 10 years ago...It is time to abandon the status quo of test-based accountability and seek fresh and innovative thinking to support and strengthen our nation's schools.
10 years of NCLB means it’s time to Occupy the DOE

...I need to ask the community some questions. Parents. Why do you put up with this? Have you thought about opting out? Teachers. I know you know better. Why do you spend hours prepping for invalid tests? This is not really teaching (or why you became a teacher). Principals. Where is your leadership? Your teachers need you to call the kettle black. Superintendents. Why do you continue to do black flips in a system that, in the end, will dissolve any need for your type of educational expertise? School Boards. Why the silence as your community schools are being dismantled and property values decrease each year in direct correlation to NCLB scores?
A search for "10 Years of No Child Left Behind" will yield others. But the important point is that this law has more than failed. It has provided for the dismantling of public education around the nation. Communities around the country are losing their schools. Control is being transferred to charters and private schools. School boards, who answer to the public ballot box, are yielding control because of the requirements of No Child Left Behind.


You might also be interested in...

Why the United States Is Destroying Its Education System
Teachers, under assault from every direction, are fleeing the profession. Even before the “reform” blitzkrieg we were losing half of all teachers within five years after they started work—and these were people who spent years in school and many thousands of dollars to become teachers. How does the country expect to retain dignified, trained professionals under the hostility of current conditions? I suspect that the hedge fund managers behind our charter schools system—whose primary concern is certainly not with education—are delighted to replace real teachers with nonunionized, poorly trained instructors...

“I cannot say for certain—not with the certainty of a Bill Gates or a Mike Bloomberg who pontificate with utter certainty over a field in which they know absolutely nothing—but more and more I suspect that a major goal of the reform campaign is to make the work of a teacher so degrading and insulting that the dignified and the truly educated teachers will simply leave while they still retain a modicum of self-respect,” he added. “In less than a decade we been stripped of autonomy and are increasingly micromanaged. Students have been given the power to fire us by failing their tests. Teachers have been likened to pigs at a trough and blamed for the economic collapse of the United States. In New York, principals have been given every incentive, both financial and in terms of control, to replace experienced teachers with 22-year-old untenured rookies. They cost less. They know nothing. They are malleable and they are vulnerable to termination.”

Sunday, January 15, 2012

10 Years of NCLB -- Part 2

Ten years of No Child Left Behind has damaged public education nation-wide.

Susan Ohanian has offered a snippet of each state's experience -- pulled from news items from her web site. Keep in mind that much of the damage done by NCLB is because of the false assumption that our schools are failing...and that test scores are valid indications of that failure. (See Here and Here)

Some of her examples...
Colorado: "Michael has an IQ of about 70," his mother said. "No amount of testing is going to change that. But I have a 28-page document that explains exactly what his teachers and his parents expect of him. So why, when testing comes around, do we throw (the plan) out the window?" --2004

"I watched my son struggle all year long thinking it was too much pressure to read faster, he was feeling like a failure. He lost his confidence. He felt punished for not reading "good enough." Every reading test he failed meant that much longer without science class. No experiments. No take-home projects. No fun science books like the smart kids. My son was excluded.--June 2007

Hawaii: Board chairman Herbert Watanabe cited an analysis of Hawai'i public school students that found 51 percent are "at risk" because they come from economically disadvantaged families, have limited English proficiency or are special-education students. "This is what we have ... don't blame everything on the public schools," he said. "Read the facts. When you're looking at figures like this, the feds gotta have their heads examined sometimes."--Sept. 2003

Kansas: The De Soto school board will consider removing an optional fifth-grade band program from students' instructional day. Band students currently spend about an hour a week in the class. But that's time that could be spent polishing the reading skills that are tested in fifth grade. "We're trying to recapture some instructional core academic time at the fifth-grade level to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind," said Superintendent Sharon Zoellner.--April 2004

Michigan: Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she will call on social services workers, churches and others to help educators fix troubled schools identified under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.--March 28, 2003

Kindergarten teacher required to make 27,575 data entry points in her classroom.-- August 2011

Minnesota: It's cheaper to measure failure than to fund success. Sen. Mark Dayton, May 2003

Pennsylvania: In Philadelphia, if enough parents seek NCLB tutoring, that could mean more than $15 million a year going to for-profit firms, nonprofit community organizations, individuals, even faith-based groups. That's money the district could otherwise spend in the schools for such things as smaller classes and teacher training.-- July 2003

Rhode Island: With the school board's decision on Tuesday to dismiss the entire faculty as part of an NCLB turnaround plan for the chronically underperforming school, some say they are losing one of the few constants in the state's poorest city, where 41 percent of children live in poverty and 63 percent of the high school's students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.--Feb. 2010
Was NCLB a purposeful attempt to destroy public education in the United States? It doesn't really matter any more whether the "conspiracy" theory is correct or not. The result is plain...the public school system in this country is dying and No Child Left Behind is killing it.

It's time for teachers to step up and do something. Kelly Flynn spoke clearly in her blog entry, Kelly Flynn: Teachers Hold the Key. They Always Have.
...we can...harness [the power of social networking] to beat back the corporate-reformers.

I believe in the power of the online community. But the problem is what it has always been - too few voices, speaking much too quietly.

It's time for every teacher in this country, from the tiniest island in Hawaii to the shores of Eastport, Maine, to muster their courage and combine their voices in one long, loud, ferocious rebel yell, and turn the tide on this thing.

(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 1)
(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 3)

You might also be interested in...

This week, the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania filed suit against the state in order to gain funding to keep the district running. Employees are working without pay to keep the schools open, but the state government and the governor are fans of privatization and charters.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

10 Years of NCLB -- Part 1

The late Gerald Bracey wrote this a year after No Child Left Behind was passed. Thanks to Schools Matter for reprinting this. Go to the Schools Matter web site to read it in its entirety...
Nine Years Before Ten Years After

by Gerald W. Bracey

There are any number of impossible-to-meet provisions in the NCLB, but let's take just two of the most prominent: those for testing and for teacher qualifications. The federal government cannot force NCLB on states, but any state that wants NCLB money must agree to test all children in grades three through eight every year in reading and math and, two years later, science as well. The tests must be based on "challenging" standards and schools must show "Adequate Yearly Progress" (AYP) until, after 12 years, all of the schools' students attain the "proficient" level. The school must demonstrate AYP overall and separately for all major ethnic and socio-economic groups, special education students and English Language Learners. And pigs will fly...The testing requirements alone are enough to consign the schools to failure. The requirements for "highly qualified" teachers simply hit the schools while they're down. All current teachers in schools receiving NCLB funds must be "highly qualified" by 2005-2006, as must anyone who was hired after the 2002-2003 school year began. By "highly qualified," NCLB means those who hold at least a bachelor's degree, have full state certification (or have passed the state's licensing exam), and who have not had any certification requirements waived on "an emergency, provisional, or temporary basis."

(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 2)
(Click here for 10 years of NCLB -- Part 3)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Medley #1

Test based Grade Retention, "Corporate" Reform, "Real" Reform, Misuse of Testing, Libraries, No Child Left Behind

Schools preparing for high-stakes reading test

After decades of research there's still very little that supports retention as a way to improve student learning. See here, as well as the articles listed under RESEARCH ON RETENTION IN GRADE in the side bar. This is a punitive, unfair, and educationally unsound approach to "school reform," yet Indiana's third graders will be subject to forced retention if they can't read "at grade level."
Indiana third-graders will take the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination test (IREAD-3) for the first time this March. Despite scores on any other tests, students who do not pass the IREAD-3 in March or after remediation and a retest in the summer will remain in third grade for reading and language arts the following year.

A 2001 analysis in School Psychology Review looked at 20 research projects from between 1990 and 1999 on grade retention and found the majority of research shows that grade retention does not benefit students more than moving on to the following grades. Ummel said that is the most recent comprehensive analysis on retention

Corporate Education Reform Has Turned Kids into Commodities
Educational entrepreneurs (some backed by Wall Street hedge funds who know a sure thing when they see it) have figured out how to make millions without the usual risks of the marketplace, drilling for profits in the ever lucrative field of school reform.

No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s 2001 education reform package, since embraced by President Obama, may have forced needed attention onto failing schools, but the law also created an extraordinary new industry funded exclusively with public money.

The NCLB mandate for standardized tests requires the nation’s public schools to administer some 50 million tests annually, costing some $700 million a year, most of that money going to corporations that create and publish the tests, score the results and provide “interpretive, descriptive, and diagnostic reports.” Since I was a school boy, testing costs have risen by 3,000 percent. And so too has the opportunity to make a buck.

What real education reform looks like
We’ve learned, for instance, that our entire education system is not “in crisis,” as so many executives in the for-profit education industry insist when pushing to privatize public schools. On the contrary, results from Program for International Student Assessment exams show that American students in low-poverty schools are among the highest achieving students in the world.

We’ve also learned that no matter how much self-styled education “reformers” claim otherwise, the always-demonized teachers unions are not holding our education system back. As the New York Times recently noted: “If unions are the primary cause of bad schools, why isn’t labor’s pernicious effect” felt in the very unionized schools that so consistently graduate top students?

NEA President says misuse of standardized tests must stop

I've had my differences with Dennis Van Roekel...the early endorsement of President Obama, the collaboration with Wendy Kopp of Teach For America...but he's right on this one. The misuse of standardized testing is one of the biggest mistakes in the American Education System. When I first started teaching, "teaching to the test" was unprofessional. Now, it's required.
When we use shoddy, fill-in-the bubble tests as the basis for an accountability system – tests that frequently aren't aligned with what's being taught in classrooms – so-called accountability systems lose all credibility,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It doesn’t make sense to students, educators, parents, or credible testing experts, and now they’re fighting back.”

“Well-designed assessment systems do have a critical role in student success. We should use assessments to help students evaluate their own strengths and needs, and help teachers improve their practice and provide extra help to the students who need it.”

Why not try the obvious first?

The current trend of cutting libraries and library services for communities and schools is academically counter productive. Stephen Krashen's letter to the Chicago Tribune is concise and based on solid research. Wouldn't it be nice if education "reformers" would do likewise?
According to one principal, students need a longer school day so they can catch up in reading (“Chicago schools to begin longer days Monday,” Jan 9).
We can get much bigger gains spending less money and with much less work, with an approach that children will like a lot better than staying in school longer: Invest in libraries and librarians.

Studies show that children who do not do well on reading tests often have little access to books. Studies also show that increasing access to books through libraries increases how much reading children do, and more reading results in better reading, spelling, grammar, writing, and a larger vocabulary.

In our recent analysis of an international reading test given to fourth graders in 40 countries, we found that students who were given time to read in school and who had access to a good school library had higher scores, but more instructional time was associated with lower scores.

Why not try the obvious, an approach with substantial support in the research, before rushing to institute expensive, elaborate programs that have no research support?

NCLB: The Death Star of American Education

No Child Left Behind has been the law of the land for 10 years and has failed to do what it promised. Yet, "reformers," instead of being willing to try something else (something research based, perhaps), are doubling down and calling for more of the same. Led by the Obama Department of Education, the call is for more and more testing, which hasn't improved student achievement, and for more and more charters, which are no better, and often a lot worse, than regular public schools.

When Republican Governors and State Legislatures lower the axe on the working people of the country, with special emphasis, it seems, on educators, the Obama administration is silent. In the meantime, money for education is being transferred to tax breaks for corporate political donors, charter schools, and vouchers for private and religious schools, and teacher's are being pitted against their neighbors because of their compensation.

Meanwhile, students in poverty are dropping out in ever higher numbers and fewer and fewer college students are becoming educators. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are leaving thousands of children behind, and destroying America's public education.

Diane Ravitch explains why.
After 10 years of NCLB, we should have seen dramatic progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but we have not. By now, we should be able to point to sharp reductions of the achievement gaps between children of different racial and ethnic groups and children from different income groups, but we cannot. As I said in a recent speech, many children continue to be left behind, and we know who those children are: They are the same children who were left behind 10 years ago.

You might also be interested in...

John Thompson: No Excuses Reformers Find Plenty of Them for NCLB

Feds Continue to Shovel Money to Charter Scams

Virginia governor pushes questionable ed reforms

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Motivates Teachers?

"Teachers are neither mercenaries nor missionaries. They do the best they can in spite of - not because of - the salaries they receive. Reformers who have never taught do not understand what motivates teachers. I don't think they ever will. All the more reason to be skeptical about 'innovative' merit pay plans." -- Walt Gardner
"Reformers," legislators, school board members, newspaper reporters, TV news pundits, and politicians in executive offices around the country, don't seem to know what motivates teachers. If they did, there wouldn't be the excess of legislation linking test scores to teacher evaluation and pay. There would be no offers of merit pay for higher test scores. The Race to the Top plan, which includes paying teachers based on test scores isn't based on research. It's based on what sounds good coming out of a politician's mouth.

Below is a short (10 minute) talk by Daniel Pink, about the science of incentives and motivation. Some important points...
  • Studies show that rewarding non-thinking, mechanical tasks with higher pay influences performance positively. "The higher the pay, the better the performance...For simple straight forward tasks those kinds of incentives -- if you do this then you get that -- They're great."
  • The same studies show that higher pay reduced performance on tasks involving cognitive skills. "Once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance...When a task gets more complicated, when it requires some conceptual, creative thinking, those kinds of motivators, demonstrably, don't work."
  • Studies have repeatedly shown that higher incentives led to poorer performance on tasks involving cognitive skills.
  • The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough that they're not thinking about money, they're thinking about work.
Dan Pink: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Something to think about...how does this relate to student motivation? You might also be interested in...

Alfie Kohn on Punishment
A very short (less than two minutes) video talking about the damage of punishment.

Carrots or Sticks? Alfie Kohn on Rewards and Punishment
...rewards and punishments are...two ways of doing things to students -- as opposed to working with them. One says to kids, "Do this ... or here's what I'm going to do to you." The other says, "Do this ... and you'll get that." The first approach, which these days we prefer to describe euphemistically as "consequences," leads kids to ask this question: "What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don't do it?" The second approach ("positive reinforcement") leads to this question: "What do they want me to do, and what do I get for doing it?" Neither question is anything like what we want kids to be asking, such as "What kind of person do I want to be?"

Friday, January 6, 2012

NEA and TFA Update: Other Voices

I wrote about the joint op-ed by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and TFA CEO Wendy Kopp on December 26, 2011 and again on January 5, 2012. Today, others have also commented about Van Roekel's collaboration with Wendy Kopp and the refusal of Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige and Matt Damon to allow themselves to be nominated for the NEA's Friend of Education Award.

from the Huffington Post
Matt Damon, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Decline Education Award Nomination Over USA Today Op-Ed
The NEA and TFA have had a historically strained relationship as the NEA, the country's largest teachers union, has long opposed TFA and its practices. In July, the group collectively accused TFA of placing its corps members in areas where there are no teacher shortages, robbing educators of jobs in communities where those positions are already hard to come by. They said some TFA contracts could be used to "bust unions," Education Week reported.

The teachers' group has also criticized TFA's general concept: Recent college graduates are trained over the summer to teach two years in some of the country's most challenging classrooms -- in hopes of helping close a still-wide achievement gap. But because TFA corps members are only committed to two years of teaching, many leave teaching after the experience. By contrast, the NEA and American Federation of Teachers believe that seasoned veteran educators and quality training are key to boosting test scores, graduation rates and improving American education overall.

Van Roekel has taken some heat since the op-ed's publication. Education blogger Anthony Cody wrote on Education Week that Roekel is sending mixed messages about teacher preparation, pointing out that the NEA president writes in his USA Today piece that "not all teachers are getting the high-quality preparation they need to excel with students in the classroom."
from Living in Dialogue by Anthony Cody
NEA Stance on Teach For America Continues to Raise Questions
I do, however, wonder about the substance of his agreement with Ms Kopp regarding teacher recruitment and preparation. Specifically, does Mr. Van Roekel agree that it is a good idea to recruit people who have no desire or intention to become teachers for a two year commitment? Research has revealed that 57% of the people who enter Teach For America do not intend to become teachers, and lo and behold, three years after they start, 75% of them are gone. [Be aware that TFA fudges these numbers by tracking the number who remain "in education," which includes the many TFAers who become staff members or work in other parts of the non-profit and for-profit educational landscape.]

I wonder how it is possible to fight vigorously for a minimum one-year residency program and simultaneously praise someone whose recruitment model features a five week summer training course, and targets people who do not even wish to become teachers?
from Fred Klonsky's Blog
Van Roekel’s date with Kopp and Duncan not going over too well.
When the 10,000 delegates to last summer’s NEA RA passed a critical New Business Item about Teach For America and another one sharply critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, few of us thought that meant for IEA President Dennis Van Roekel to arrange a lunch date with both.

I guess he did.

And it’s not going so well for Dennis...Some might say that DVR’s meet up with Duncan and Kopp went worse. The three appeared together at a meeting on teacher training (something Kopp’s TFA pays scant attention to). Duncan then spent most of the time gushing over Wendy, claiming nobody has done more to get great teachers into classrooms than she has.
from The Answer Sheet
Has the NEA warmed up to Teach for America?
The NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, which combined have more than 4 million members, have long opposed the 20-year-old Teach for America. TFA recruits newly minted college graduates who are not education majors and gives them five weeks of summer training before placing them in classrooms in high-poverty schools. Recruits are asked to commit to only two years of teaching. The unions have argued that the country’s neediest students need highly trained teachers committed to the profession.

Van Roekel appeared in late September with Kopp at an event along with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and more recently co-authored an op-ed with Kopp in USA Today about the best way to prepare teachers.Van Roekel issued a statement Thursday about the Carlsson-Paige letter that says:

“I respect Matt Damon and thank him for his support of public education. I believe NEA should talk to those who support public education, even if we don’t agree on everything, and work together to serve students. Wendy Kopp and I agree that students will benefit from stronger recruiting and teacher preparation. NEA isn’t going to quit fighting for students and our members, or for stronger teacher preparation. In fact, better teacher preparation is part of our 3-point plan on Leading the Profession that was released last month.”

It isn’t clear just how much Van Roekel has ruffled feathers in his union but some educators have written that they feel he has undercut efforts to expose Teach for America’s deficiencies and perhaps get it to change.

...I asked Van Roekel this week if he has warmed up to Teach for America.

He said “no” and still opposes the short training period given to TFA recruits. But he also said he has over time “learned some things” from the way that TFA operates and that “there are some things that I see a little differently.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

NEA and TFA Update: Nancy Carlsson-Paige vs. Dennis Van Roekel

Last summer Matt Damon was introduced by his mother, Nancy Carlsson-Paige and spoke at the Save Our Schools March. Damon said...
"...So the next time you’re feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called “overpaid;” the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that’s been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back."
Matt Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige have once again stood up for America's teachers. Reacting to the recent editorial collaboration between NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and TFA CEO Wendy Kopp, Dr. Carlsson-Paige wrote to Van Roekel,
Recently, I read the opinion piece you wrote with Wendy Kopp in USA Today and was upset and confused by your collaboration with Teach for America. I am a life long teacher educator. I believe that one of the first things we must do to improve our nation’s schools is to extend, strengthen, and support teacher preparation. I am very familiar with TFA and believe that its short-term, minimal training of teachers undermines teacher quality and harms children who too often get an inadequate education with its teachers.
Furthermore, she and Damon have chosen to reject the nomination for the Friend of Education award offered by the NEA.
Writing that she was “confused by your collaboration” with Teach for America, Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige said she and her son, Mr. Damon, no longer desired to be nominated for the National Education Association’s Friend of Education Award.
There's a disconnect between what the NEA Representative Assembly agreed to last summer and the collaboration between President Van Roekel and TFA CEO Kopp.

The NEA has come out against anti-public education forces aligned against teachers. TFA is one such force and last summer the NEA Representative Assembly spoke out against putting untrained amateurs in the neediest schools in the country [see New Business Item 93].
NEA will publicly oppose Teach for America (TFA) contracts when they are used in Districts where there is no teacher shortage or when Districts use TFA agreements to reduce teacher costs, silence union voices, or as a vehicle to bust unions.
The NEA Friend of Education Award is
...the Association's highest honor and may be bestowed on an individual, organization, or group whose leadership, acts, or support have significantly benefited education, education employees, or students on a national scale.
By refusing the nomination for the NEA's award Matt Damon and Nancy Carlsson-Paige have proven that they understand and support the NEA's official position better than Van Roekel does.

Hallelujah, Corporations are Buying Public Education

The Citizens United Decision gave corporations the right to spend unlimited quantities of money on political campaigns. Justice Stevens dissented,
[the Court's ruling] threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution...At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
Make no mistake, the push behind the privatization or the so-called "reform" of public education, is corporate based with high profits for online learning companies, private school and charter school management companies, and testing companies and those corporations are supporting candidates who will support them through privatization and anti-public education legislation.

Keeping that in mind, here is a musical number relevant to the Citizens United Decision.

You might also like:

The Assault on Public Education: Confronting the Politics of Corporate School Reform

Reading Articles about Real Estate Sales in the Wall Street Journal

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kill NCLB Now

By 2014 nearly 100% of public schools in the country will be failing simply because they are operating under No Child Left Behind, a law which virtually guarantees that every school in the country will fail.

The Obama administration has offered waivers so that the worst aspects of NCLB don't take effect. In doing so, however, the administration requires certain unpleasant aspects of their own education plan, Race to the Top. Those requirements are bad enough that some states, most notably California, have refused the waiver and have chosen to take their chances, instead, with the destructive and anti-education bill, NCLB.
The waivers now offered by the US Department of Education require the states to comply with other mandates, still tied to the NCLB-style accountability framework. The emphasis on testing under the waiver plan is as heavy-handed as it has been under NCLB. Many schools with high numbers of low-scoring students will be subject to firings and closings. They need help, not punishment.
Neither NCLB nor Race to the Top is good for public education...and neither of the two major parties in the US has any clue how...or any intention...to change things.

In his blog entry titled Resolve in 2012: Abolish No Child Left Behind, John Young likens No Child Left Behind to the NCAA giving extra scholarship money to the most successful athletic programs.
Have you heard of the Capital One Cup?

It goes to the two Division I NCAA schools that win the most titles each year in men's and women's sports.

The prize? In addition to the glittering silver keepsake: $400,000 in athletic scholarships. Inspiring, right?

Don't you know Texas, or Florida, or USC, or some other booster-endowed NCAA mega power could use that extra scholarship money?

OK. It's not inspiring; it's ridiculous.

Now, imagine that in addition to awarding college behemoths with more riches, we decreed that a gridiron patsy like Columbia, Tulane or Florida Atlantic shut down its football program for having too bad a record.
He continues...
The Obama administration realizes that the monster is about to hit the wall — or crash through it — the one requiring 100 percent "proficiency" in core subjects nationwide next school year.

Almost from day one this administration has urged a rewrite of NCLB. However, the Senate is frozen into irreconcilable parts, and this House is sworn to resist Obama's every twitch. Consequently, the Department of Education has set up a system of waivers for states on a case-by-case basis.

Lawmakers are incensed by this, but they know what NCLB requires regarding "100 proficiency" is beyond the pale.

This is the year, with Democratic frustration over NCLB's untenable realities, with Republican frustration over the federal meddling it authorizes, it's time to kill NCLB.
The mistake, however, is in assuming that the Obama administration, while deserving credit for wanting to change NCLB, is proposing anything better. In truth, the Democrats are providing the corporate "reformers" with the same reward NCLB provided: Closing "failing" schools, increasing charters, and blaming teachers and their unions for the failures of the economic system. There's little or no research basis for Race to the Top and there's very little difference between the two major parties when it comes to education policy. This non-choice is between Corporate Democrats or Corporate Republicans.

We need to kill No Child Left Behind, as the Democratic administration wants...but we also need to kill Race to the Top and the corporate influence in public education.

Instead of Race to the Top or No Child Left Behind we need a systemic change in American society. Diane Ravitch lists some places to start in her speech to the Opportunity to Learn Campaign.
So what can we do? First, we should speak out when politicians say “there is no more money.” There is money to do what we want to do. There is money to fight wars in the Middle East. There is enough money to give big corporate cuts. There is enough money for 1% of this nation to live lives of splendor. Why is there not enough money to provide the basic public services that every child needs?
  • Every pregnant woman should have good pre-natal care and nutrition so that her child is born healthy. One of three children born to women who do not get good prenatal care will have disabilities that are preventable. That will cost society far more than providing these women with prenatal care.
  • Every child should have the medical attention and nutrition that they need to grow up healthy.
  • Every child should have high-quality early childhood education.
  • Every school should have experienced teachers who are prepared to help all children learn.
  • Every teacher should have at least a masters degree.
  • Every principal should be a master teacher, not a recruit from industry, the military, or the sports world.
  • Every superintendent should be an experienced educator who understands teaching and learning and the needs of children.
  • Every school should have a health clinic.
  • Schools should collaborate with parents, the local community, civic leaders, and local business leaders to support the needs of children.
  • Every school should have a full and balanced curriculum, with the arts, sciences, history, civics, geography, mathematics, foreign languages, and physical education.
  • Every child should have time and space to play.
  • We must stop investing in testing, accountability, and consultants and start investing in children.
Now those are changes I can believe in.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Back

Here are a few of my favorite blog entries of 2011 from a few my favorite education bloggers (including two of my own). The most important one is the last one. If you missed it before, don't miss it this time. It's a must read for every American citizen who has an interest in public education (aka everyone).

••• From It's Not All Flowers and Sausages, October 19, 2011

I Think It's Called "Having A Chip On Your Shoulder"

Mrs. Mimi (now aka, Dr. Mimi) is the author of It's Not All Flowers and Sausages, a collection of her early blog posts. Mrs. Mimi is a teacher...a real one. She works with real live children in real live classrooms. You can tell.
I guess these days I just assume people are going to shit on teachers. I assume they are going to complain without pausing to recognize what is working. I assume they will be all critique and no constructive thought. I assume they're going to blame it all on the teacher.
••• From Parents Across America, December 31, 2011.

The worst and the best education events of 2011

The list from Parents Across America lists events from other sources, not their own blog.
Hundreds of millions of dollars from the Billionaire Boys Club of Gates, Broad, the Walton family, and the Koch brothers are funneled into creating and expanding numerous Astroturf organizations like Stand for Children, Students First, Teach Plus, 50Can, etc. all devoted towards spreading their tentacles into both political parties, to choke off democracy, demonize teachers, mandate more high-stakes testing, and privatize our public schools.
••• From An Urban Teacher's Education, December 31, 2011

Life Learnings: 2011

A teacher near Seattle, WA (formerly of New York City; Washington, DC; Renton, WA; and Knoxville, TN) writes about the challenges he faces daily in his classroom, as well as national issues. His reports on the SOS Conference in Washington DC from July were especially interesting. This excerpt is from his end of the year post. Click the link embedded below to read his "Day One" entry.
5) The importance of working together

In July (July 28, 2011) I went to the SOS Conference in Washington, DC. I met hundreds of amazing educators there, all rallying together to fight the stubbornness of corporate reform, and I learned the impact that people can have when they come together. My experience there in combination with what I've read over the past year about the Arab Spring and similar protests across the world has reminded me that for all the reasons so many have to complain about this world that we live in, I am happy to remember that it truly is the people who have the power, and that we really do have the government we deserve. Perhaps we might soon deserve something better...
••• From The Answer Sheet, December 12, 2011

A Superintendent Calls School Reformers’ Bluff

Every public school teacher in the United States should read and/or listen to John Kuhn. Thanks to Valerie Strauss and her valuable Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post.
By John Kuhn

Today some 22 percent of American children live in poverty. Are we going to pretend forever that it is acceptable to ignore the needs of children outside the schoolhouse and blame teachers and principals for everything that happens inside?

As soon as the data shows that the average black student has the same opportunity to live and learn and hope and dream in America as the average white student, and as soon as the data shows that the average poor kid drinks water just as clean and breathes air just as pure as the average rich kid, then educators like me will no longer cry foul when this society sends us children and says: Get them all over the same hurdle.

And so I as an educator now say to a nation exactly what it has said to me for years: No excuses! Just get results.
••• From Walt Gardners Reality Check, November 18, 2011

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.
••• From Bridging Differences, October 27, 2011

There Are No Quick Fixes

The Bridging Differences Blog is written by Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch. I spent a lot of time this year quoting Dr. Ravitch (and did again at the end of this post), but one of the most important entries in their blog was this one from October by Deborah Meier. Make sure you take 10 minutes to watch the chalk talk by Daniel Pink.
By Deborah Meier

Why suddenly does the common-sense fact that teachers (and unions) fight for contracts that give them less onerous workloads, more job security, and more pay turn into a crime? Does Wall Street live by another code? (Educators and Wall Street'ers both need to watch Daniel Pink's chalk talk on motivation to consider his counter-intuitive findings—that rewards are counterproductive when it comes to honesty and doing good work.)
••• From Living In Dialogue, July 6, 2011

The Brooks/Ravitch Dialogue Expands

Anthony Cody is a powerful voice for public education. He was instrumental in organizing the SOS Conference in Washington DC last summer and has continued to speak out for public education in the United States. Here he comments about the single most important factor which the so-called corporate "reformers" refuse to discuss, the level of poverty afflicting our nation's children.
Witness the latest cheating scandal in Atlanta. We have leaders intent on proving that poverty is no obstacle to student success. After 24 years of teaching in Oakland, I can tell you that it is. Poverty and the social and environmental phenomena that are its companions: hunger, violence, PTSD, chemical pollution, lack of access high quality daycare in early years, lack of access to vision, dental and medical care, and lack of access to books. Addressing ANY of these would yield better results than the policies underway that attach ever higher stakes to standardized tests, and continually expand the variety and frequency of tests.
••• From Live Long and Prosper, March 4, 2011.

The Daily Show: Diane Ravitch - Teachers vs. Wall Street

Click HERE to see this entry. No one highlights the hypocrisy of the so-called "reformers" better than Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.

••• From Live Long and Prosper, December 11, 2011.

The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

This year, the OTL Summit featured Diane Ravitch as one of the keynote speakers. Dr. Ravitch's presentation was titled Whose children have been left behind? The Daily Kos calls it the "most important speech on education in years." I agree. It is important. The Daily Kos blogger (teacherken) wrote:
You can read the entire text here (pdf).
You should.
You should pass it on.
Ravitch wrote:
Surely the greatest nation in the world can mobilize the will to do what is right for the children. It won’t be easy, it won’t be cheap, and it won’t be fast. Doing the right thing never is. The only simple part is to recognize that what we are doing now is not working and will never work. What we need is a vision of a good education for every child. We should start now. Today.