"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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rich Countries, Poor Children: Child Poverty in the Developed World

Tens of milllions of children in rich countries live in poverty. Tens of millions. And it's utterly avoidable. This 15-min interview is a full overview of the situation and solutions from Report Card 10 - the latest study from UNICEF's Office of Research. Interview with Report's author, Peter Adamson.

Read about it here...

Report: US Has One Of The Highest Child Poverty Rates In The Developed World

Child poverty at a time of crisis

When asked what he thought of modern civilization, Gandhi replied, "That would be a good idea."

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Test Pressure and its Impact in the Classroom

WTHR, Indianapolis' NBC affiliate sent out an non scientific survey to teachers earlier this month. In it they asked about the pressures that standardized testing has put on their students, themselves, their classrooms and their ability to teach.

The survey was released just days after news of a cheating scandal at North Central High School in Indianapolis hit the news.

According to the survey many (10%) of the 2000 teachers who responded to the survey knew of students who have cheated...and a similar number (11%) knew about other teachers who have cheated.

No one condones cheating on the tests, but the fact remains that when the pressure to succeed overwhelms the available resources people will game the system and figure out ways to succeed, even if those ways are unethical. Campbell's Law states that
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.
Donald Campbell, an experimental social science reseacher, also said,
...achievement tests may well be valuable indicators of general school achievement under conditions of normal teaching aimed at general competence. But when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.
It's clear, under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, that test scores have become the goal of the teaching process. The fact that standardized tests are now so important has made the tests themselves less valid.

In an article about the survey, WTHR mentioned the additional key findings.
  • 81% of teachers said they feel pressure related to their students' achievement on standardized tests.
  • 80% of teachers said pressure related to standardized tests has a negative impact on the learning environment in their classroom.
  • 78% of teachers said pressure related to standardized tests has a negative impact on their ability to teach effectively.
Pressure related to student achievement is not always bad. Teachers should be pressured to help their students achieve. That's the point of schools and public education, after all. However, when pressure overwhelms reality then things need to change. The fact that so many teachers feel that the pressure has a negative impact on their classrooms and on their ability to teach is significant. The tests are making it harder to teach and that's backwards. As a society, we need to do everything we can to make it easier for teachers to teach and for students to learn, not the opposite. In the video accompanying the story, Theresa Meredith, Vice President of the Indiana State Teachers Association said,
I think when you push for competition in a school setting, when we're all supposed to be heading toward the same goal, we're all supposed to be working to help our students achieve as much as they possibly can...when you change that dynamic and you put so much pressure on schools and you force them to compete, literally compete, against each other, teachers feel tremendous pressure.
The education reformers are convinced (and have been for decades) that competition is what's needed to improve our public schools. The fact that it doesn't work doesn't seem to matter to them. It hasn't worked in Milwaukee, where a voucher system has been "in competition" with the public schools for two decades. It hasn't worked in thousands of charter schools around the country whose scores and results are no better than regular, neighborhood public schools (see HERE, HERE and HERE). Competition yields winners and losers and, when it comes to public education, we shouldn't accept any loss.

Diane Ravitch, in The Death and Life of the Great American School System, wrote,
Our schools will not improve if we entrust them to the magical powers of the market. Markets have winners and losers...Our goal must be to establish school systems that foster academic excellence in every school and every neighborhood.
Every child must be given the opportunity to develop to the highest level of their ability and motivation. That is, after all, why we have a public school system.

In a telling comment about the survey, Stephanie Sample, The Indiana DOE Communcations director said,
Do you really think parents care if their kids' teachers are feeling pressure? I don't. I think most parents just want them to teach.
Of course Indiana parents want their children's teachers to "teach." Sample's condescending comment seems to ignore the fact that the atmosphere of the classroom has an impact on student learning. I think most parents would, indeed, care if their child's teachers felt that pressure from the state had a negative impact on their classroom.

And that's just what the results of the survey show. When asked where the pressure comes from the teachers responded in this manner...
Does that pressure come from (check all that apply)

  • Yourself 57.1%
  • Your school administrators 74.7%
  • Your school board 34.6%
  • The State Department of Education 93.4%
  • Parents 17.6%
This is the pressure that 80% of respondents said had a negative impact on the learning environment of their classroom and 78% said interfered with their ability to teach effectively....so yes, Ms. Sample, I think parents would care about the pressure teachers feel. What are you and the Indiana Department of Education doing to help improve the atmosphere in the public schools of Indiana?

The unspoken implication in Ms. Sample's comment is that teachers don't care about parents...and by extension their children. She might think differently if she and the Indiana Department of Education collaborated with and worked together with the state's teachers instead of against them in the current push to privatize education in Indiana and the US.

Click here to see the complete results of the survey.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

2012 Medley #10

Education and Poverty, School Libraries, Fox Bashes Teachers, Parent Power, Duncan, "Opportunity Culture," Common Core.

I'd like to again urge everyone to take a look at Linda Darling-Hammond's article (and the links) about Education and the income gap.

This is (IMHO) one of the most important pieces I've ever entered on these pages. Linda Darling-Hammond reports on the Capitol Hill briefing on the impact of poverty on education and what we can do about it which was sponsored jointly by the Broader Bolder Approach to Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

D.C. cutting school librarians
No "payoff" so D.C. cuts "investment" in school libraries

There's a fundamental difference between the way "reformers" look at public schools and the way supporters do. The bottom line for "reformers" is the score on the test. That attitude has seeped into all aspects of public schools...including school libraries. Stephen Krashen has taught us how important libraries are to students, especially students in poverty. Facts don't matter, though...it's test scores that count.
We have invested in full-time librarians for the last three or four years and we haven't seen the kind of payoff we'd like” with reading test scores, Henderson countered, adding she is not disparaging librarians. "We have pulled away from programs where we haven't received a return on our investment.
Yes, that's right. The "return on the investment" is not students developing a life-long love of reading and literature, not an increased interest in books, not the opportunity to explore new ideas and interests. The "return on the investment" is the test scores.

"Stupid in America"? Fox's contribution to National Teacher Appreciation Week
...John Stossel, courtesy of Fox, gave us teachers a little token of his appreciation last night.

The "report"...was titled "Stupid in America." Who was he calling stupid? You might assume he was referring to the people who would accept at face value his incredibly one-sided presentation, no questions asked. But no, he wasn't calling his viewers stupid--at least not to their faces. He was calling me stupid...along with my roughly 20,000 colleagues here in Miami-Dade County, and 3.6 million colleagues across the country.

Just to make sure his viewers didn't miss his point, he wrapped up his "report," by chirping that, if students stop being bored in school and start learning math, "it will be thanks to those online classes. Or the charter schools. Or other experiments that break out of the union-dominated government monopoly."

550 Parents Opt Out in Snohomish, Washington

Parents are the key.
More than 550 Snohomish School District students did not take state exams in the past two weeks, a revolt staged by parents who question whether the tests are worth the money. The parents also hoped to get the attention of state lawmakers.

The ironies of Teacher Appreciation Week

The real irony is that the largest teachers union in the country has, for all practical purposes, signed on to Obama/Duncan's plan to destroy public education. Yes, the Romney plan is worse (if that's possible), but an endorsement for president should be worth more than simply a "seat at the table."
One of the official events on Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s schedule this week, as he goes around honoring teachers, is to appear at Teach for America’s second annual gala. Of course he did; the Education Department has showered millions of dollars on the organization in the last few years, and last September, Duncan said at an event with Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel: “I don’t think anyone in the country has done more over the past 15 to 20 years than Wendy Kopp to identify the talents and characteristics that lead to great teaching.”

That was news to many teachers and education researchers in this field.

Opportunity Knocks
Here's a new one for the ol' Reformy Thesaurus: the "Opportunity Culture" in education.

Sure sounds good, doesn't it? Who doesn't want our American kids to have more opportunities in life? Except--oops--this campaign, rolled out by Public Impact, is actually about opportunities for "teacherpreneurs" to make more money by teaching oversized classes--and of course, for school districts to seize that same opportunity to save money through "innovative" staffing models.

The Common Core

Finally, Anthony Cody has been exploring the Common Core (READ: more testing). This is excellent information and I'm sure there will be more to come.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, May 11, 2012

The Face of Failure

These people are all failures.

I saw this video on Valerie Strauss' blog, the Answer Sheet at the Washington Post. Here's what she had to say about it...
There is one voice rarely heard in the screaming debate about the role of high-stakes tests in education: that of students.

Though the big focus today in education is on evaluating teachers and whether student standardized test results should be a part of educator assessment (they shouldn’t), there is no group more affected by high stakes on these exams than the people who have to take them. Results from a single test can determine whether a student moves up a grade or graduates from high school.

Here’s a video created by senior Tea’a Taylor from Freedom High School in Orange County, Florida, through the school’s Patriot Productions with help from digital educator Cody Stanley.
One of the people in the video is a school board member, Rich Roach, the adult who took the test. Read his story if you'd like an eye-opener...

Below is the video. Listen to these obviously intelligent students as they talk about their difficulties with 'the test.' Even if you don't believe they are good students, at the very least this is a good argument against (mis)using standardized tests to make high stakes decisions.

This video was about FCAT, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It's used in the same way as Indiana's ISTEP...for labeling students, ranking schools, and evaluating teachers. This is not just happening somewhere else.

The filmmaker, Tea'a Taylor said,

Failing a test does not now, nor will it ever, define who you are and what you are capable of. Each and every one of us is capable of doing extraordinary things and one test does not determine your outcome. So is it fair for this test to label all of these individuals as failures? I don't think so, but for now FCAT is and will continue to be, the one deciding factor in the futures of Florida's students.

Policy makers, educators, parents...adults -- we need to listen.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Privatization, Lies, and Accepting Blame

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) may be losing sponsors, but that doesn't mean that they've ended their quest to privatize public education in America.

Next Stop, Georgia

Media Matters details How ALEC Is Quietly Influencing Education Reform In Georgia. In a well referenced article, Media Matters explains the roots of legislation in Georgia which will facilitate the expansion of charter schools.
Georgia media have been silent as members of ALEC in Georgia's legislature have successfully pushed through a version of ALEC's Charter Schools Act, which would create a state-controlled board with the power to establish and fund charter schools over local opposition. A Media Matters analysis found that while Georgia media have frequently written about the bills, they have completely overlooked ALEC's influence in the debate.
The state controlled board would be able to establish charters even if local school boards don't want them.

Despite a Georgia Supereme Court ruling that the state couldn't force local schools to pay for charters that they didn't authorize, Republicans in the General Assembly are pushing for a constitutional amendment to override that decision. Furthermore, the Republicans who sponsored the bills pushing charter schools were ALEC members. One, Rep. Jan Jones, is a member of ALEC's Education Task Force. It's no surprise then, that the bills are based on Alec's model charter school legislation.

As is the case with most of ALEC's legislation the bills would likely have a deleterious effect on the public schools.
The "conservative" state legislators who loathe the idea of an appointed board making medical decisions under Obamacare embraced this model for the state's charter schools commission. Once again, state government trumps local control.
So much for the "conservative value" of local control.

Telling Lies about US Education

On another front, Diane Ravitch reported on a group joining the battle for the privatization of public schools. The State Government Leadership Foundation, which is associated with the Republican State Leadership Committee, has an Education Reform section on their web site perpetuating falsehoods about public education in the United States.

The site claims we have dropped from #1 on international tests and we are now behind China in every category. The fact is, however, that we were never #1. In addition, China doesn't participate in international tests. Read what Ravitch wrote...
None of this is true. The first international assessments were administered in the 1960s; twelve nations participated. We scored twelfth out of twelve. In the intervening half-century, our students typically ranked in the middle or even the bottom quartile on those tests. We were never #1. Maybe those tests rate test-taking skills but they surely are not a predictor of future economic success. Our nation continued to boom economically and to encourage entreprepreneurship, creative media endeavors, and new businesses despite the unimpressive scores on international tests.

And we are certainly NOT behind China, because China has never participated in any of the international tests. The city of Shanghai did take part in the PISA exam of 2009 and came out #1, but Shanghai is one city, not the nation of China. That would be like characterizing U.S. performance by putting only Massachusetts–our highest scoring state–in the testing pool to represent the nation.

In short, this description of U.S. Education is a pack of lies that smears our nation. I wonder if the people who created this website went to fancy prep schools and looked down their noses at those of us who went to public school. They seem so eager to put down American schools, which educated 90% of us, and by implication, put down the United States. it makes one wonder who they are. Too bad they didn’t take responsibility and put their names on their work so we would know who they are.
The bad guy, according to the State Government Leadership Foundation, is the teachers union. Are teachers unions to blame for low achievement? Is it impossible to fire bad teachers because of teachers union contracts? Are our public schools really overrun with bad teachers?

I think I might have mentioned this before...but if teachers unions are to blame then why do all the high scoring states and countries with strong teachers unions score so high? Why do the low scoring states and countries without strong teachers unions score so low?

I'm willing to admit that teachers unions are not perfect and have to answer for our contribution to the difficulties students face in school. But state legislatures, governors, the US Congress, the state and federal DOEs, Secretaries of Education, and the President need to accept their share of the responsibility for students' achievement difficulties as well.

In my post yesterday I quoted Corinne Driscoll who wrote about our political leaders.
On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers' hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week - A Slap in the Face

President Obama has declared this National Charter Schools Week...I wonder if he even was aware that it's Teacher Appreciation Week as well. Diane Ravitch noticed...
“Incubators of Innovation?”

I wonder if he ever visited the website http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/.

I wonder if he knows about the nation’s largest charter chain, the Gulen network, run by associates of a Turkish imam. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/largest-charter-network-in-us-schools-tied-to-turkey/2012/03/23/gIQAoaFzcS_blog.html); (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/25/world/middleeast/turkey-feels-sway-of-fethullah-gulen-a-reclusive-cleric.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all).

I wonder if he was thinking about the “no excuses” charter schools, where mostly black children are taught obedience, conformity, and docility.

I wonder if he was thinking about the studies showing that charters are even more segregated than their host districts.

I wonder if he was thinking about New Orleans, where charters have displaced the public education system, and the district is the lowest, or next to the lowest performing in a low-performing state.

I wonder if he was thinking of the for-profit charters, which are making a bundle.

I wonder if he was thinking of the for-profit online corporation, whose CEO was paid $5 million last year.

I wonder if he has heard of the many studies showing that charters on average don’t get better results than public schools.

Or maybe he was thinking about the campaign cash of the Wall Street hedge fund managers who love charters.
Charters were supposed to be 'incubators of innovation' -- at least that's what Albert Shankar envisioned when he described them in 1988. However, the charter schools of today aren't the ones he imagined...
Shanker also saw charter schools as a way to empower teachers, free them from overly bureaucratic regulations, and strengthen their voice in school and curriculum decision-making. In his view, unions were essential to charter schools, because unions help create the kind of secure work environment that encourages innovation and risk-taking.
What we have today are schools whose bottom line is profit...not innovation. See for example...
Corinne Driscoll from Syracuse NY has a letter to the editor in which she calls out the hypocrisy of politicians.
To the Editor:

This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ''leaders'' have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation's children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.

On every occasion possible, they talk about incompetent and ineffective teachers as if they are the norm instead of the rare exception. They create policies that tie teachers' hands, making it more and more difficult for them to be effective. They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.

They make children endure things they would never allow for themselves: nine hours of testing over two weeks, with no breaks during each session for children as young as 8; reading tests for English as a Second Language students who have only been in the United States for one year; math tests for those same ESL students, eligible as soon as they set foot in the school; testing for children with severe learning and physical challenges. And when the scores for these children are not at the top, it's the teachers' fault.

We are taught as teachers to value the individual, that each child learns at his/her own pace, that we should vary instruction and testing to accommodate all learning styles, that all children have differing talents and all are equally valuable. But our ''leaders'' think of children as parts on an assembly line. If we plug in A, and tighten screw B, all will be well, and every child will be a carbon copy of the other — on the same date all children of the same age will get the same score on the same test.

Well, folks, education is not a product, it's a process; a school is not a factory. Children are not identical machine parts, but complex human beings coming to school with a whole variety of baggage, both good and bad. So, stop blaming the teachers and setting up roadblocks to keep us from doing what needs to be done. And keep your empty words to yourself. Your actions have already shown us what you really think.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get Rid of Bad Teachers by Lowering Standards

The Deprofessionalization of Teachers Continues

The Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) has sent out a letter describing the proposed REPA (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) changes.

The "reformers" consistently call for states and school systems to get rid of bad teachers, yet Tony Bennett, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction and the new poster-boy for the national reform movement, supports these changes which will lower the standards for teachers in Indiana.
REPA 2 Awareness Letter

May 3, 2012

On April 30 2010, significant changes both to teacher and administrator licensing and to teacher preparation requirements in the state of Indiana went into effect; changes which the Indiana Department of Education approved in January, 2010. Both the Department of Education and teacher preparation programs throughout the state are in the midst of implementing the changes. In fact there are a number of changes approved, such as the testing requirements for new licenses that have yet to be implemented; target dates are January and September, 2013. Amidst these changes, the Department of Education has proposed a new set of rule changes without reviewing the results of the 2010 first set of Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability (REPA). The timing and nature of this new set of proposed rules adds to the considerable instability that already exists in the state with respect to policy changes affecting teachers and public schools.

At the January 2012 meeting of the State Board of Education, Dr. Bennett and his staff presented REPA 2. Dr. Bennett stated that the purpose of these proposed rules is to provide administrators and schools with flexibility in teacher staffing. However, many professionals in public education have expressed serious concerns with the proposed rules, rules that will significantly lower standards for teaching and administrator licensing in the state.

Currently, there are plans for individuals to be able to provide public comment regarding these changes, and a public hearing in Indianapolis. The intent of this letter is to advise you of this new set of proposed rules and urge you to comment on the public record as provided by law. You are encouraged to share this letter among your colleagues and/or membership to advise them of the potential impact of these proposed changes.

Some of the proposed changes include:
  • Creation of adjunct teaching permits, for which the only criteria are a 3.0/4.0 undergraduate grade point average and passage of the content assessment. Adjunct teachers would not be required to complete any preparation in how to teach nor pass the new pedagogy assessment required for new teacher licenses.
  • Restrictions of the teacher license renewal criteria to only the results of teacher evaluations earned in their local schools with no external expectations for professional development.
  • Elimination of the opportunity to renew existing 10 year licenses.
  • Ability to add any content area to an existing license without any developmentally appropriate content or teaching preparations. This change includes the potential for license additions in the fine arts, special education, early childhood education and elementary education by licensed individuals simply passing a test.
  • Changes to special education preparation that would not require any subject area preparation or expertise.
  • Changes to the building principal license requirements, changes that reduce degree requirements and eligibility criteria at a time in which the building principals are being asked to do significantly more.
  • Changes in the approval/accreditation criteria for state teacher preparation programs with no reference to national or professional criteria nor to a clear review process or time line.
In summary, the Indiana Department of Education made significant changes to teacher and administrator licensing and teacher preparation just two years ago; changes which have yet to be implemented fully even by the Department of Education. Coming before the original REPA revisions are fully implemented, REPA 2 will add significantly to the high level of instability in the policy environment affecting teachers and schools in Indiana. Perhaps, the primary recommendation should be “wait”; to allow for the changes made in 2010 to be implemented and for the results to be seen. If consideration of REPA 2 is not deferred, it is important to be aware of the proposed changes and to speak out on specific revisions needed to maintain quality standards for licensure and to avoid further de-professionalization of teaching. You are encouraged to share this letter and to review the proposed rules at http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/sboe/repa-2-april-25.pdf. More details about the public comment Website and the public hearing will be forthcoming.

On behalf of the Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) Executive Committee

Jill D. Shedd
IACTE Executive Secretary

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

For Sale $1 -- Closed Schools: UPDATE!

Today's Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's editorial page commented on the problem I mentioned in a post last Wednesday, For Sale $1 -- Closed Schools.

$273,000 boondoggle
For taxpayers who live within East Allen County Schools, state legislators’ rush to expand charter schools without considering the consequences of their actions is a problem costing more than $273,000. The school district should be receiving $189,000 for selling the building, and now must also spend more than $28,000 a year for at least three years to maintain the empty building. Incredibly, school officials must pointlessly wait, as the law requires, for the unlikely opportunity to give the building away.

Lawmakers’ cluelessness about the effect of their actions would be comical if the result were not so costly and unfair.

In 2011, the General Assembly adopted a law that requires public schools to make closed school buildings available for a charter school to buy or lease for $1 – for at least four years after they close. That law threatens East Allen’s plan to sell the closed Monroeville Elementary School to the local Catholic diocese to become the new home of St. Joseph Elementary.

No charter school has come forward to request the Monroeville building – and indeed, few charters exist in such rural Indiana locations. Yet the law appears to prohibit the sale.

House Speaker Brian Bosma wrote that law. After learning of the Monroeville building, he said, “It would seem under these circumstances that people should be able to get together and come to a reasonable conclusion that serves children.”
Bosma's comment, “It would seem under these circumstances that people should be able to get together and come to a reasonable conclusion that serves children” actually means that he doesn't care, because he and his "reformer" buddies in the governor's mansion and the Indiana DOE (as well as the Republican caucus, legislatures around the country, the White House and the US DOE) aren't really interested in helping local school corporations or the children who attend them. Their goal is to replace public schools with privately operated publicly funded charter schools and private schools. Every thing they've pushed for in the last few years works toward that goal.

Is this an "unintended consequence?" It would be nice if it was because then it would just be people who really meant well, but made a mistake that can be corrected. Truthfully, though, I don't think so. I don't think they will correct this mistake because it does just what they want it to do. I think the consequences were understood. Do away with public schools...or, at best, leave them for the poor and the hard to educate...devalue teachers...drain money away from public schools and open the flood gates (no pun intended) so the "edupreneurs" can make a buck and fill the coffers for their campaign contributors...who, with the help of the SCOTUS, can remain anonymous.

I'd love to be proven wrong.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

2012 Medley #9

Education and Poverty, IREAD, Privatization; Closing Philly's Schools, Charters in AL, Privatization in CT, Protest in LA, ALEC.

Education and the income gap: Darling-Hammond

This is (IMHO) one of the most important pieces I've ever entered on these pages. Linda Darling-Hammond reports on the Capitol Hill briefing on the impact of poverty on education and what we can do about it which was sponsored jointly by the Broader Bolder Approach to Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

The 90 minute video embedded on the Capitol Hill briefing page is not the best quality...the sound kicks out near the beginning, but comes back after a short while. Still, it's worth listening to either at the Capitol Hill briefing page or it's Youtube location.

One of the most important points brought up during the Capitol Hill briefing is that the "gap" between children in poverty and middle or high income children begins before children get to school. The gap does not increase significantly during the child's school years. Think about that for a while...
Our children who attend schools in low-poverty contexts are doing quite well. In fact, U.S. students in schools in which less than 10 percent of children live in poverty score first in the world in reading, out-performing even the famously excellent Finns.

In high-achieving countries like Finland and Singapore, strong social safety nets ensure that virtually all schools have fewer than 10 percent of their students living in poverty. Although the poverty-test score association is similar across 14 wealthy nations (with the average scores of the poorest 5 percent of students just over half those of their wealthiest peers), our poverty rate for children is much higher than others: 22 percent of all U.S. children and 25 percent of young children live in poverty.

Furthermore, our supports to counter it are much weaker. As a result, many children lack preschool education, health care, and social supports. The proportion of children who lack even the basic support of stable housing has increased dramatically in the past few years, with 1 child in every 10 now homeless in many California school districts near my home...

...We cannot pretend that multiple layers of growing inequality — in home, community, and school resources — don’t matter for student learning, or that solutions to our education problems can be enforced without strategic investments in a level playing field. Our challenge is to confront the reality of growing up in America today and to design in- and out-of-school supports that will allow children a fair shot at the American Dream.
Senator agrees: Indiana education board overreached with reading retention rule
Sen. Luke Kenley (R) has affirmed that Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and the Indiana State Board of Education went beyond the bounds of state law when they adopted a rule that requires third-graders to pass a reading test or face grade-level retention.
Privatization Watch

The following entries are all from Privatization Watch. It's an excellent resource if you'd like to keep track of how the Friedmanesque obsession with privatizing all public services is progressing. All the following appears in Privatization Watch from May 1, 2012 through May 4, 2012.
PA: Who’s killing Philly public schools?
…The plan is bold — after all, closing just eight schools this year prompted an uproar. It’s also terrifying, says former Philadelphia School District superintendent David Hornbeck, considering the poor academic records and corruption at many charter schools. “What is being proposed, in effect, is ‘charterizing’ the whole district, when there is a lot of evidence that at best [charters] have no positive effect on student achievement, and there is a lot of evidence they cost more,” he tells City Paper. And “charters in many instances, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, have served private interests — sometimes of public officials.” Philadelphia City Paper

AL: Senate OKs charter schools bill
Senate Republicans pushed through legislation Wednesday that would allow school districts in the state’s largest cities to create charter schools to replace failing schools, while allowing other areas flexibility in addressing their needs…The GOP made charter schools a top priority in the current session, although the version the Senate passed 23-12 included a variety of changes and limits charter schools to Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville. The number of charters also would be capped at 20 statewide. Charter schools have been a controversial issue, but vocal opposition was minimal during the relatively brief debate Wednesday evening. Montgomery Advertiser

CT: Privatization an issue in Conn. education bill
The prospect of greater privatization of Connecticut schools has emerged as a hurdle in closed-door negotiations over Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposals to overhaul public education. Senate President Donald E. Williams Jr. told the Associated Press this week that Malloy’s proposal to give the state’s education commissioner the discretion to allow private companies to run certain low-performing schools “continues to be one of the many ongoing issues” being discussed in the closed-door talks, even though language to that effect was stripped from the governor’s original bill last month. Williams said he has serious concerns about the prospect of state money being spent to “enrich private vendors” instead of benefiting students. “It’s a critical discussion that’s going on across the country: How do we define public education?” he said. “Is public education truly public? Is it run and accountable at the local level with input from parents in the community, or is it turned over to private companies where, as time goes by, accountability and local input disappears?” Lawmakers and the governor are facing a May 9 deadline, when the regular legislative session is scheduled to adjourn. AP via CanadianBusiness.com

LA: Grass-roots organization assembles ed reform protest
Even though Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed sweeping education reforms, parents, teachers and community members say they will not be silenced from expressing their concerns. The various Caddo Parish residents gathered in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse on Wednesday after to protest “the privatizing of education” under the voucher and charter school bill approved this legislative session and to announce the formation of a new grass-roots education group tasked with starting a new conversation for real education reforms…Wednesday’s protest brought together personalities not normally seen as bedfellows from school board members to teachers’ organization members and parents agreeing the answer to public education is not found in the new laws. “If we really care about public education, we should address the real issue, and that is socioeconomic,” said Jackie Lansdale, president of Red River United. Shreveport Times

Ravitch: A primer on the group driving school reform
Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights…This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education. Washington Post

CT: Charter school model not permitted for turnaround schools
Charter school advocates were stunned — and now are angry — that the latest proposal for education reform does not include charter schools as an acceptable model to turn around low-performing schools. …Malloy’s original education bill gave the commissioner the authority to turn around a network of low-perfoming schools by choosing from among a variety of school models, including charter schools… However, a staff member for the Senate Democrats suggested contacting Kenneth Saltman, a professor in education policy studies and research at DePaul University in Chicago, who is writing a book to be published in June called “The Failure of Corporate School Reform.” In an interview Tuesday, Saltman criticized charter schools as less accountable than public schools. He also said charter schools have high teacher turnover; can be used as a tool to get rid of teachers unions; and that nationally, charter school students perform on standardized tests about as well or worse than students who attend traditional public schools. The Hartford Courant

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Parent Trigger Gets Hollywood Treatment

A new movie is coming out this September from the same people who brought you Waiting for Superman. It's called, Won't Back Down.

NEAToday is predictably negative about it...
‘Won’t Back Down’: Parent Trigger Gets the Hollywood Treatment

This September, just as Oscar season is heating up, the film “Won’t Back Down” will hit the theaters, promising to tell the inspiring story of a teacher and a parent – Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal – who join forces to transform their kids’ struggling school.

According to 20th Century Fox, “Won’t Back Down” is “a powerful story – inspired by true events – of parenthood, friendship, hope and courage.” It is also a fictionalized account of a successful campaign to pass a so-called “parent trigger” law.
Simply put, parent trigger laws allow 51% of parents of a given public school the right to close a "failing school" or replace it with a privately managed charter. So you can guess who is in favor of the laws...Charter Management Organizations, Corporate Reformers and politicians who are pushing charter schools on America despite the lack of research showing that charters offer any advantage over regular
It’s no coincidence that “Won’t Back Down” is funded in large part by Walden Media, the same company that bankrolled “Waiting for Superman.” Walden Media is owned by Phillip Anschutz, a right-wing billionaire who has a long history of supporting conservative politicians and causes.
The source of evil in the movie is, of course, the teachers union.

The NEA article rightfully explains why unions are not the problem with "failing schools." No corporate reformer has yet been able to explain why, if unions are so bad, Massachusetts for example, where unions dominate public education, have successful schools based on the all important test scores and states that don't allow teachers unions like North Carolina and Texas rank so low in the test score contest.

Won't Back Down, like Waiting for Superman, describes another battle in the war against public education in America. Diane Ravitch explains why parent trigger laws are the wrong way to help struggling schools.
Public schools don’t belong to the 51 percent of the parents whose children are enrolled this year. They don’t belong to the teachers or administrators. They belong to the public. They were built with public funds. The only legitimate reason to close a neighborhood public school is under-enrollment. If a school is struggling, it needs help from district leaders, not a closure notice.

Parents in Florida got it right earlier this month. By organizing, they stopped a parent trigger law. No Florida-based parent group supported it. By their actions, they recognized that collaboration — not hostile takeovers — is the most effective way to improve their public schools.
Ravitch asks, should "51 percent of people using a public service have the power to privatize it?" I understand that those same corporate reformers might answer yes to that question. However, the right thing to do is to improve public services -- not throw them away.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

For Sale $1 -- Closed Schools

One of my former schools has been in the local news lately. Monroeville Elementary School, where I taught first and third grades from Fall 1976 through Spring 1987 closed last June (along with 3 others) as part of the school system's reorganization plan (read: financial and political debacle).

On April 17 the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette printed this about the sale of the school to the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese...
EACS allows sale of one school and leases another

The [EACS School Board] voted unanimously to sell Monroeville Elementary to the Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic Diocese for $189,000. The diocese will relocate St. Joseph Hessen Cassel School on Old Decatur Road South into the building.
I was actually happy to read that news. The Catholic school in Monroeville does, indeed, have a
long history of being partners with the community
The school is a stable factor in the town of Monroeville. When Monroeville Elementary School closed one of my first thoughts was that maybe the local parochial school would move in.

There is, however, a problem. Yesterday's Journal Gazette had this short article...
EACS plan to sell school hits tangle
Charter group objects; diocese rethinks deal

As a result of legislation passed in 2011, school districts must place their unused buildings on an Indiana Department of Education list. The schools must stay on the list for 48 months, unless the district plans to reclaim the schools for academic purposes.

During that time, approved charter schools can buy or lease the school for $1. After the four-year period, then the district can sell the building to another entity.
If I'm reading this right, the charter school law passed last year by the Indiana Legislature states that a school corporation has to give first dibs on a closed school to Charter Schools...and they have to give Charter Schools four years to decide...before they can sell their property. The duly elected school board of East Allen County Schools wants to sell their property in order to recoup some of their share of the losses from the $300,000,000 that the state reduced from school budgets. According to state law they have to leave it open for a Charter School to lease or purchase it (for $1) for the next four years.

Think about this...the US DOE as well as the Indiana DOE chooses to judge schools by their test scores. The plan from the Indiana Legislature is to demand that schools do more with less money. The US DOE requires school systems to run based on corporate interests instead of pedagogically sound concepts (Charters, high stakes tests, evaluations based on those tests, etc) before any federal money is awarded. The result is that, across the nation, schools are broke and, by test score standards, schools are "failing." The demand from the "powers that be" is that they be closed. The result of the budget shortfalls is that school systems are forced to close schools. In Indiana, once the schools are closed they can be given to charter schools for $1.

The definition of paranoia is:
Noun: 1) Psychiatry. a mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions and the projection of personal conflicts, which are ascribed to the supposed hostility of others, sometimes progressing to disturbances of consciousness and aggressive acts believed to be performed in self-defense or as a mission.
2. baseless or excessive suspicion of the motives of others.
On the other hand, if America continues its blatant hostility towards public schools...is it really paranoia?

Stop the Testing Insanity!