"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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Maintained at the Public Expense -- For All of Us

There's a fundamental philosophical difference between those who favor a well supported public education system and those who have been pushing and legislating for privatization of public schools through vouchers and corporate charters (Obama, Duncan, Gates, Bennett, Bloomberg, et al).

We need a strong public school system. John Adams said,
The whole people must take upon themselves the education for 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, US President, Letter to John Jebb, 1785 (emphasis added)
Peggy Zugibe, a member of the Haverstraw-Stony Point (N.Y.) Board of Education, wrote,
...the Center on Educational Policy has a great publication called Why We Still Need Public Schools that covers the history of public education and explains how public schools are linked to the common good. It cites six missions that our country has expected public education to fulfill. Our schools:
  • Provide universal access to free education.
  • Guarantee equal opportunities for all children.
  • Unify a diverse population.
  • Prepare people for citizenship in a democratic society.
  • Prepare people to become economically self-sufficient.
  • Improve social conditions.
Do privatizers care about "universal access" to education, guaranteed opportunities or unifying a diverse population, or are they content to see our country provide good schools only for those with money? Do they want to unify the diverse population or keep us separated by enclaves of money and gated communities?

You don't need to prepare people to be good citizens in a plutocracy. It doesn't matter what the people think...the wealthy buy and run the government (a la Citizens United).

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has verbalized his position on public schools...and who should benefit from them...in no uncertain terms. In a campaign visit to Virginia he reminded us that those with money are the ones who are entitled to a good education.
Romney education remark favors the wealthy...yet again

During a campaign stop in Virginia June 27, Romney, the presumed Republican nominee for President, said that he wants to make sure that students get as much education “as they can afford.” (Skip to 9:20 in the video below to hear his comments for yourself.)

For wealthy folks like Romney—who’s estimated wealth is approximately a quarter billion dollars—this isn’t a problem.

But if you’re a middle class family struggling to make ends meet, Romney’s statement carries some very grim implications…especially when you consider that a quality public education is key to the economic outlook of working Americans and the country at large.
The unspoken corollary to Romney's statement that students should get as much education "as they can afford" is that those who can't afford it don't get the same education. Those who can afford it deserve a better education. Those who can't...don't. Americans need to decide which direction we want to go. Neither presidential candidate is offering the children of the United States a strong, equitable public education system. Neither has a plan to strengthen the public schools of the United States. Both appear to believe that "improving public education" means following the five steps to destroy public education...
  • Under-fund/STARVE the schools financially
  • Overcrowd the classrooms, reduce programs, supplies
  • Fail the public school using NCLB and/or Race to the Top laws leaving the public school in death-throws
  • Sell the school to private charters
  • Public school, Dead On Arrival
Those of us who believe in a strong, free, universal public education system need to step up -- soon!
Stop the Testing Insanity!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Myth of the Failing Public Schools

This morning Diane Ravitch posted A Frightening Vision of the Future, in which she commented about a post by David Warlick from last June.

Warlick's article posed some disturbing projections about not only the privatization of public education, but the concentration of power over public education into relatively few corporate pockets.

One interesting aspect of his article is the discussion of myths regarding the failure of public education in America which have been accepted by the general public. He wrote...
We’re being convinced that:
  • The U.S. is falling behind other nations in education – that our schools are failing.
  • The success of schools and education can be precisely measured and quantified by a corporate testing industry and the constant testing of our children.
  • Teachers, protected by labor unions, do not know what they’re doing.
  • Business can do it better.
Warlick went on to say that...
Each of these are so easily debunked.
Warlick ends his article without debunking the myths which prompts a commenter, Paul, to ask him...
June 22nd, 2012 @ 9:22 am

I am interested in how you can easily debunk the 4 points. Schools appear to be failing. College has to re-mediate most incoming freshman, and businesses need to re mediate most incoming employees. Not to mention what is happening in the poor districts near me.

Public schools dumb down the masses and create compliant “acceptors” of whatever is put in front of them. Perhaps corporations will try to create innovative creative, thinkers. I am sure that is who they would rather hire.Or, are you subconsciously just protecting your job?
Warlick replied...and it is in his response that the important information from this article appears.
David Warlick reply on June 23rd, 2012:

@Paul, I’m glad that you’ve challenged me on this, because it gives me a chance to dig deeper into my own research and thinking.

First, and perhaps the most continually touted and thoroughly debunked rant, is that the U.S. embarrassingly trails behind other industrial nations in education, most often pointing at 2009 PISA scores. The fact is that in Math, the U.S., number 17, actually reported identical scores as Poland and Iceland, 15 and 16 — making us tied for 15th. If we might consider some small margin of error, say 2 points, then we also tie with Norway, Estonia and Switzerland, for position 12. Other countries within that margin of error are New Zealand and Japan, and Netherlands and Belgium, putting us in position 10. Like Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies. Lies! Damn lies! ..and statistics.”

If this sort of measure really were important, then we might dig deeper, comparing U.S. schools with specific poverty rates with other countries reporting similar rates. Then U.S. schools climb to or near number one in every range. Schools in the U.S. with fewer than 10% of their students living in or near poverty scored 551 on the PISA math test, second only to Shanghai, China. U.S. schools with between 10 and 25 percent in or near poverty scored 527, higher than Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, etc.

I agree that in many ways our schools are failing. But I do not acknowledge claims of failure based on measures from standardized tests. There are too many innovative, passionate and inspiring leaders around us, who did not pass tests in school. There is too much evidence of curricula that’s become too wide and too shallow, because of these tests, for me to believe anything other than, we must end them –– if we are to save education.

In fact, it is partly this belief that success can be measured with multiple-choice tests and their demand for regimented (and life-sucking) schools that prevents success. ‘nough said.

Certainly there are poor teachers – as there are poor engineers, electricians, farmers and bankers. But during a conversation I had recently with a group education leaders, all of whom had been principals at one time (in union states), they all agreed that firing a bad teacher is easy. It’s keeping the good ones that’s hard. I looked hard for a breakdown of individual states performance on the PISA and could not find any. I did find one report that correlated scores of another test with comparable PISA scores and Massachusetts and Vermont moved into positions 5 and 7, topped only by Shanghai, Korea, Finland Hong Kong and Singapore. Both states require collective bargaining. Of the five U.S. states that prohibit collective bargaining, only one showed up in the listing, North Carolina, dead last.

Teachers do need to be better prepared, with more study and more time in classrooms with good master teachers before they are given their own classrooms — and they need on-going and on-demand professional development. Teachers also need to be empowered as teacher-philosophers, not held accountable as teacher-technicians. In Finland, they do not talk about teacher accountability. Their conversation is about teacher responsibility.

Finally, business. Why should they be able to do it better? Does business not make mistakes. Does business not waste resources? Why should they know the answers any better than professional educators. In my consulting days, I worked with businesses in the education market, and they were just as clueless as everyone else. We do not need better run schools resulting in students who outscore the Chinese. We need different schools that are retooled to address a dramatically new environment. There’s no guarantee that Educators are much more qualified to accomplish this. But it’s where my money is.

(Emphasis added)
Debunked indeed.

[Two other commenters replied to @Paul, Mano Talaiver and Diane Ravitch. You can read their responses in the comments following the article.]

The truth must be told and told again. American public education is not failing...the vast majority of teachers are hard-working, dedicated professionals...teachers unions do not harm students and prevent bad teachers from being fired and the people who gave us the financial collapse of the last 4 years are not better at running schools that education professionals!


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Medley #13

Tenure, Teachers Unions, Parent Trigger, Poverty, Corporate Charter Funding, Quotes on Public Education, Teacher Turnover.

The battle against public education and public educators continues. Maybe for my next "Medley" I'll try to print find only good news.

Wouldn't it be nice if...
  • Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Tony Bennett (IN) and other reformers spent an entire year teaching in a public school (non-corporate-charter) in a high poverty area.
  • President Obama, if reelected, chose an actual teacher to be Secretary of Education.
  • Republican Governors (Kasich, Walker, Snyder, Scott, et al) cared as much about the public school children in their states as they do about their reelections (and their corporate buddies).
  • Children in high poverty public schools received the same resources that are provided to the children at Success Academy Charter Schools, the Harlem Children's Zone or Sidwell Friends School where President Obama's children go to school.

Is teacher tenure a myth?
...what a teacher does to a data system will always fail to capture the breadth and depth of what happens in a classroom.

There are, of course, plenty of awful teachers who shouldn’t spend another day in the classroom. And it should be easier for these teachers to be removed.

But that doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t have due process, which is really all tenure ensures.

Another Loss for the UFT and Teachers

Have the teachers unions given up?
...no other union has their evaluations published. Now, we will. The UFT will claim that only parents will get to see this info, but there is nothing to stop parents from sharing and publishing this information themselves. This will lead to more teachers being vilified due to faulty evaluations with a margin of error of more than 80%.

Mayors Support "Parent Tricker" Law

Something else about parent trigger laws...
I wonder why parent trigger laws never include the right of charter school parents to "seize control" of their school and give it back to the public system.

Gerald Coles: Why Bother Educating the Poor?
...business interests have realized that while pretending to create educational answers for poor children, profit could be accumulated by destroying public schools, privatizing education, and creating another version of "corporate socialism," i.e., public money going into private hands. However, while it is important to combat this additional funneling of money upward, Willhelm's insight explains the chief engine driving one educational charade after another: the poor have little economic value to the rich. If most of today's more than 15 million poor children were suddenly to disappear, business leaders and the politicians who serve them would respond with initial expressions of pain and sadness, then quickly add: "but doesn't this mean we can now further reduce domestic spending?"

Without social activism that will confront and change the economic system that has generated one educational reform charade after another, continued generations of poor children will be doomed to wretched adulthood.

Eva Moskowitz, Corporate Welfare Charter Queen

Public school funds keep getting cut...yet they're supposed to compete with corporate welfare recipients like this...What's wrong with this picture?
Even in public education, the rich keep getting richer.

That's the message the trustees of the State University of New York will send Monday when they vote to approve a huge 50% increase in the per-pupil management fee of one of the city's wealthiest, biggest-spending and most controversial charter school operators.

The Success Academy Charter Schools Inc., run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz, applied in April for an increase from $1,350 to $2,000 in the annual per student payment it receives from the state to run 10 of its charter schools.

...This will all come as a huge surprise to anyone who has bothered to examine Success Academy's financial reports or who has witnessed firsthand its almost limitless spending .

...The Success Network, in fact, is a fund-raising colossus, having received $28 million from dozens of foundations and wealthy investors the past six years, and millions more in state and federal grants.

On its annual tax forms, it has continually reported huge year-end surpluses for both itself and its individual schools. Those combined surpluses currently stand at more $23.5 million.

Hardly the picture of financial woe.

Support for free universal public education in the United States

The fight is not against Charters or Private Schools...or even lack of funding for public schools. The fight is between those people who want to continue to support a public school system in the United States and those to whom a public education system is anathema. Some interesting quotes (emphasis added)...
The whole people must take upon themselves the education for 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, US President, Letter to John Jebb, 1785

The good education of youth has been esteemed by wise men in all ages, as the surest foundation of the happiness of both private families and of commonwealths. Almost all governments have therefore made it a principal object of their attention, to establish and endow with proper revenues, such seminaries of learning, as might supply the succeeding age with men qualified to serve the publick with honour to themselves and to their country. -- Benjamin Franklin, US Statesman, Proposals Related to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, 1749

What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy. -- John Dewey, education philosopher, The School and Society, 1907

Smear Campaign Against Teachers is Freakish, New Low
And yet, if we believe what we see and hear in the media, the myriad problems with our public schools—from low test scores to a 25-percent drop-out rate—are the fault of incompetent teachers and their “powerful” teachers’ union. No one dares blame the kids or the parents. It’s the teachers who are the villains...Which is why so many teachers are reluctantly leaving the profession. This smear campaign is actually forcing good teachers to change careers because they no longer feel it’s worth the aggravation. Teaching is demanding enough without being accused of incompetence. So we’re forcing them out. Is this a great country or what?

Teacher Turnover Is Predictable
If there's one constant in the debate over how to improve failing schools, it's the demand to get rid of bad teachers and replace them with good ones...Reformers will be quick to assert that if teachers aren't up to the challenge, they shouldn't be in the classroom. In other words, let's not worry about losing these teachers. It's the students who deserve our concern. Yet they are precisely the ones who are hurt when teacher turnover is high. A new study titled "How Teacher Turnover Hurts Student Achievement" found that the morale and the culture of the school is negatively affected by teacher churn...No amount of money or pleading will prevent exemplary teachers from leaving. Their physical and mental health has to come first. Reformers can talk all they want about ways to address the alarming rate of departure of teachers. But unless they've taught in a public school, they can't begin to understand what's going on.

I Don't Want to be a Teacher Any More
Never once in the past 34 years of teaching did I ever want to quit. I even told my husband that if we won the lottery, I’d keep teaching. My students would just have all their own computers, art supplies galore, and any book we wanted to read as a class.

A comment on teacher turnover and the privatization of public education.
Don't it always seem to go,
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
-- Joni Mitchell


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning

I first posted this in August of 2010...time for a refresher now that the pools are filled and kids are playing in the water. Be prepared.

There's plenty of time left in our part of the world for summer water fun, so when I came across this article I decided to link to it. Next year I'll try to remember to do it at the beginning of the summer.

How do you know if someone is drowning? The surprising thing is that they don't "look" like they're drowning. Here are some things to look for:
  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.
There's a lot more information at the link below.



Monday, June 25, 2012

It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then

Yesterday's post quoting Dov Rosenberg's WORKING LIST! Why Testing and Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education brought a comment to my blog. I was about to answer it in another comment, but then I decided that the topic was important enough to deal with in a post of it's own. So here goes...
Bella said...
I know that this is a little trivial, but it irks me when people say "charter schools do this/that" as if they were all one homogeneous entity.

I get that privately-managed charter schools are detrimental. I know. I read this blog and Diane Ravitch's blog and many more.

But I work at a charter school that is a genuine non-profit; it is managed by a Board that consists entirely of elected parent representatives, an elected teacher representative, and founding community members. It is more racially diverse than the local schools, which are 100% black. The application process is very simple; most of the families come from very disadvantaged homes and have never had a problem. And here in MD, charter school applications must be decided by lottery, and it is illegal to either deny special ed services or deflect certain children back to neighborhood schools; they can only be expelled if do something that would be worthy of expulsion at any public school.

So can we start saying "privately managed charter schools" or "corporate charter schools" or even "most charter schools"?

Have there been any studies on the effect that progressive local charter schools (that start because they advocate for a progressive educational philosophy) have on communities, attitudes about learning, etc.?

Thank you for your reasoned and gentle manner of taking me to task. I'm glad you did because 1) your objection is valid, not at all trivial and 2) you're correct.

Not all charters are the same. I think Dr. Ravitch would be the first to say (and, in fact, I've heard her say), "Some charters are excellent!" Grouping all charters together is no different than grouping all regular (or neighborhood) public schools together by someone who says, "public schools are failing." By the way, Dov Rosenberg did use phrases like "most charter schools" or "some charter schools" in his piece. He also wrote things like "Charter schools often..." or "Charter schools can..." implying that he was not talking about 100% of charters. He didn't do it all the time in his work in progress -- but if you look you can see he made the attempt. That doesn't mean that your objection is not warranted. I think it's important that everyone understand that not all charter schools damage the public school system...just like not all public schools are failing.

The phrase "corporate charters" works for me. I hope, in my own writing, when I have talked about the research into charters I have used a phrase similar to, "charters don't perform any better than regular public schools." By which I mean...there are some which are better...and also some which are worse...which is, in fact, what the research shows. I have tried to keep a balance and not say things like "all charters are bad." Further, when I complain about charters soaking money from the public schools, or not doing their fair share of educating the hardest and most expensive children to educate I am, indeed, usually talking about corporate charter schools. If I have erred in that respect, I apologize.

When I am quoting someone else's work, which is what I did with yesterday's post, I don't think about that balance since the writing is not mine. However, I don't think I want to begin every quote I put in my blog with "Not all charters are bad." Hopefully, if I do a good job with my own writing people will understand my position in these posts.

Dr. Ravitch has spent a lot of time in her talks, her writing and in her latest book discussing how charters got started...and what the original intent was. She has said that they were to be places where people could try new things...do research...find answers to some of the problems we're facing in education. I understand that there are some charters which actually do this. I don't dislike charter schools...or private schools for that matter. I think there's a place for all of us (see HERE, for example)...I do have a problem, however with some of the ways states are funding their schools...public and private, but that's probably a different discussion...for another time.

Part of the problem with charters in general is that state laws often allow (or encourage) money to be stripped from needy public schools to fund them. That's not the fault of the charter schools...especially the non-profits...however, fixing public schools is where my focus lies. That, too, is probably a different discussion...for another time.

As far as Special Education is concerned...that has been the focus lately because of research showing that some charters have been manipulating their special ed numbers in one way or another. If MD has a way to make sure that doesn't happen that's great...it's too bad that not all states are as genuinely interested in the education of all children to follow suit.

In the future I will endeavor to make it clear in my own writing that my objections about charters are usually with corporate charters. That is, after all, an accurate description of what I feel to be the "Charters" aspect of the drive to privatize. I do, however, reserve the right to complain about any school, public, charter, or private, which, in my opinion, somehow does damage to a public education system locally, statewide or nationally.

Thank you again for your response. I appreciate the mirror you held up for me to look into.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why Testing and Privatization is Harmful...a Working List

Dov Rosenberg posted this on Facebook. It's a great list telling why testing and privatization is harmful to public education. Follow the link below to see the original...he said it's a Working List...aka a work in progress, so it will probably change. Spread it around!
WORKING LIST! Why Testing and Privatization are Harmful - Not Helpful - to Public Education
by Dov Rosenberg on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 1:12pm

High stakes tests and charter schools make public schools less effective:
A) High stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability, are harmful to children, and make public schools less effective.
B) Less than 20% of privately-managed public schools (charter schools) are successful; they also segregate children and minimize the decision-making power of parents and the community, ultimately making public schools less effective.

High-stakes tests do not effectively gauge student ability:
  • Constrict wide expanses of knowledge into only what can be measured by a multiple choice test.
  • Many tests contain nonsensical questions, have multiple correct answers, or have no right answers at all (look up Pineapplegate).
  • With hundreds of millions of American kids taking the same test, ethnic and regional differences aren't considered, making them unavoidably culturally biased.
  • Unduly reward the superficial ability to retrieve info from the short-term memory.
  • Pass/Fail status is often determined by politicians while test scores are often manipulated for political purposes.
  • National Academy of Sciences, 2011 report to Congress: "Standardized tests have not increased student achievement.”
  • Measure only low-level thought processes, trivializing true learning.
  • Hide problems created by margin-of-error computations in scoring; scoring errors can have life-changing consequences.
  • Curricula constructed from high-stakes tests are based on what legislators assume children will need to know in the future. Countless previous attempts at predicting the future have ended in failure.
  • Provide minimal feedback that is useful to classroom teachers.
  • Penalize test-takers who think in non-standard ways (common in children).
  • Test results are not able to predict future success.
  • Claimed to be used as a diagnostic tool to maximize student learning, but are actually used to punish students, teachers, and schools.
High-stakes tests are harmful to children:
  • Minimal time for socializing and physical activity b/c recess and PE are cut in favor of test prep, particularly affecting low-scoring students.
  • Testing anxiety has lead to sickness, vomiting, and even incontinence in the classroom.
  • Excessive testing stifles the love of learning.
  • Year-end tests require sitting still and staying focused for 3.5 hours, which leads to behavior problems.
  • Encourage the promise of extrinsic motivators such as rewards for high scores (bribes) and punishments for low scores (threats).
  • Pressure to pass tests has lead to stimulant abuse in teenagers.
High-stakes tests make public schools less effective:
  • The lowest and highest achievers are left out as instructional resources are focused on learners at or near the pass/fail threshold.
  • Fewer opportunities for kids to enjoy creative classes that make them love school.
  • Arts and other electives are cut in favor of test prep and testing, particularly affecting students from low-income families.
  • Children don't receive adequate instruction in non-tested areas like science, history, geography, government, etc.
  • Divert billions of state taxpayer funds from public schools to pay huge testing firms like Pearson and ETS (Educational Testing Services).
  • Divert precious time resources to test facilitation, preparation (such as begging proctors to volunteer), and administration.
  • More established parents move to private schools to avoid the abundance of testing in public schools.
  • When test scores trigger automatic retentions, much older students in classrooms can cause additional behavior problems
  • On norm-referenced tests, nationally, 50% of students are below average, by definition. Thus, requiring all students to be at or above "grade level" is statistically impossible.
  • Give testing firms control of the curriculum
  • Test scores are used to evaluate teacher effectiveness in lieu of more effective administrator observations
  • Reduces teacher creativity and autonomy, thereby reducing the appeal of teaching as a profession
  • Minimize teachers' ability to accomodate multiple learning styles and provide adequate differentiation
  • Create unreasonable pressure on students and teachers to cheat as well as on administrators and school districts to "game the system"
Less than 20% of charter schools are successful:
  • Even the pro-charter documentary "Waiting for Superman" notes that only 1 in 6 charter schools succeed.
  • Charter schools can artificially inflate their published success rate by deflecting low-scoring kids back to public schools, usually
Charter schools segregate children:
  • Most charter schools are racially homogenous.
  • Without diversity requirements, charter schools can market to specific demographics, ultimately segregating communities.
  • Children from the same neighborhood often go to different schools, don't know each other, and don't play outside together. Alienation negatively impacts neighborhood communities.
Charter schools minimize the decision-making power of parents and the community:
  • Private control, as opposed to elected control via school board, leaves curricula to be defined by a corporate agenda.
  • Corporate-controlled charter school home offices are often centralized out of state.
  • One more thing for parents and kids to worry about as they wait for acceptance letters.
  • Undermine a fundamental democratic principle that the people closest to (and therefore most knowledgeable about) problems are the best positioned to deal with them.
Charter schools make public schools less effective:
  • Taxpayer dollars are deflected from public schools into charter schools where they're utilized w/o transparency or accountability.
  • Charter schools have the freedom to select high-achieving kids w/ few needs so low-achieving kids w/ high needs get deflected and ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Charter schools aren't obligated to provide special services for high-needs kids so they often get deflected and ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Only families who can navigate application processes can apply to a charter. Families w/o the time or know-how to "work the system" (often very poor and/or immigrant families) are ultimately concentrated into an underfunded local public school.
  • Private entities have already tried running school districts according to corporate models and seen disastrous results.

What's best for kids? 
Special thanks to Marion Brady, from whom I borrowed heavily!

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Democrats Sell out the Public Schools in Indiana

Full disclosure -- I'm not a Republican.

That probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me. On the other hand, I'm not a Democrat either. In elections for the last 30 plus years, I've tried to focus on education issues...I've voted for people, no matter what their party affiliation, who promised to provide public schools with the tools needed to help children in Indiana and across the country. That choice -- of finding someone who will support the public schools -- seems to have come to an end. Our children, and the public schools in general, have become the battleground for the corporate takeover and privatization of America.

The drive to privatize public schools is not new. The current attack on public schools started (to a certain extent) during the term of President Reagan. During the first Bush administration, then Governor Clinton did his share to make testing the most important part of education -- something he continued as President Clinton (Goals 2000). President Bush II gave us No Child Left Behind, which leaves learning behind. President Obama has done the same when he fielded a team (under the direction of Arne Duncan) which brought testing from the terrible bludgeon it was under No Child Left Behind to a nuclear warhead under Race to the Top.

I think the Republican administration in Indiana (and others across the country...Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio...) has been a disaster for public education, despite what Tony Bennett would have you believe. The proliferation of charter schools and the Indiana school voucher plan, both of which take much needed money from the public schools, has done nothing to improve the already successful system of public education in Indiana. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, it will not be much better if Democrats take over.

It seems that John Gregg, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Indiana, has worked closely with Democrats for Education Reform and was, in fact, their Reformer of the Month last January.

Who are the Democrats for Education Reform? According to Daily Kos...
The loudest voices [in favor of Arne Duncan and against Linda Darling-Hammond for Secretary of Education] were those of a new organization calling themselves Democrats for Education reform (DFER), led by young extremely wealthy hedge fund operators from New York City...They want to shift the political debate by getting the Democratic Party to back innovations such as merit pay for teachers, a longer school day, and charter schools...

There is a glaring lack of experience or knowledge about education amongst the leaders of DFER. Michael Hirsch writing for the United Federation of Teachers explains, "...Understand that DFER’s endgame has little to do with learning and everything to do with marginalizing public-sector unionized workers and bringing down the cost of taxes for social programs. It’s about creating new business and investment opportunities in areas that are still publicly run and serving as a pre-emptive strike against any hope for private-sector union renewal. Where better to start than with attacking teacher unions, one of the few labor strongholds in this country? (emphasis added)
Democrats for Education Reform, or DFER, is the group which called Diane Ravitch a liar...and said...
Diane Ravitch is moving quickly to Limbaugh/Coulter status when it comes to education.
[Ravitch has her own things to say about DFER, at http://dianeravitch.net/category/democrats-for-education-reform/]

DFER also supported pro-voucher candidates in Wisconsin...and have supported increases in charter caps as well as the Parent Trigger despite the fact that charters have consistently been shown to be no better than regular public schools. "DFER's endgame has little to do with learning...It’s about creating new business and investment opportunities in areas that are still publicly run..." It's not about student learning at all. It's about money.

John Gregg has "worked closely with" DFER and they have rewarded him by awarding him the title of Reformer of the Month for January 2012...
As Speaker, John built bipartisan coalitions to pass two of Indiana’s most significant reform efforts, which established the state’s first charter schools and created Indiana’s landmark K-12 accountability system.
More testing...more teaching to the test...more basing teacher evaluations on test scores...more money for private schools...more corporate control over public money...more charter schools -- these are not reforms. These are gifts of our tax money to privatizers. They are tools for the removal of public oversight from public education. They are tools for the destruction of the single most important democratizing institution in our society -- the public schools.

Doug Martin, writing in the Common Errant, wrote an Open Letter to John Gregg. He said...
Betrayal Merits the Deepest Pit: John Gregg Supported by Corporate Ed Reform Funders

According to the DFER website, you are working closely with the hedge fund group to thrust their corporate ed. agenda. This is highly insulting, especially since many teachers have donated hard-working cash to your campaign. These educators have been demonized and desperately stressed by the same school privatization regime you have deceitfully jumped in bed with. Parents have also unknowingly given to your anti-parent campaign, and I know from my research into the DFER that the hedge fund money for you is just now beginning...It is time for the Wall Street psychopathy, the monetization of childhood, and the legalized land/school/housing/tax grabs for the rich to end. We want a public school system which teaches kids how to detect the deception the oligarchs are selling, not one which teaches kids how to grow up and steal their former teachers’ pensions.
I know the argument from the left...the Republicans would be worse for education in Indiana since they would likely continue the privatization effort so expertly handled by Daniels and Bennett. Maybe they would, but it still disappoints me that the only viable candidate against them is pushing the same erroneous program of privatization.

It's discouraging.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Tony Bennett: Taking the Public out of Public Education

It seems that Tony Bennett, the pro-"reform", anti-public-school-teacher, pro-ALEC, pro-charter (another pro-charter), pro-voucher Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana has changed his title. He was elected as the Superintendent of Public Instruction...and it still says that on the state web site.

However, the picture above his office door tells a different story.

Bennett apparently considers himself the "Superintendent of Department of Education." The word "public" is missing...just like in his policies.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Hoax Against Parents

On Monday I posted that the US Conference of Mayors had unanimously recommended that the "Parent Trigger" be adopted...on Tuesday Diane Ravitch had this to say about it...
Mayors Gone Mad

Once the parents have seized control, with the endorsement of the mayors, they can fire the staff or hand the school over to a charter corporation. In other words, they can seize public property and privatize it.

This is nuts.
Comments to her post reminded me that this is ALEC's doing. The Parent Trigger is on ALEC's list of Education Legislation.
ALEC's Legislative Agenda on Education

ALEC’s “Parent Trigger Act” would allow a small group of parents to close public school for current and future students, and turn the school into a charter school or require the state to use taxpayer dollars for vouchers to subsidize private tuition.
Just another step in the privatization of America's Public Schools.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

2012 Medley #12

Privatization, Chicago, Indiana,
Charters and Tax Credits, Poverty, Duncan.

Five Steps to Destroy Public Education
  1. Under-fund/STARVE the schools financially
  2. Overcrowd the classrooms, reduce programs, supplies
  3. Fail the public school using NCLB and/or Race to the Top laws leaving the public school in death-throws
  4. Sell the school to private charters
  5. Public school, Dead On Arrival

A New Low

The five step plan above is working thanks to Arne Duncan, Tony Bennett, Bill Gates and all the other corporate reformers
Americans' confidence in public schools is down five percentage points from last year, with 29% expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in them. That establishes a new low in public school confidence...

Big Money Joins Chicago Fight
Education Reform Now, a corporate reform group funded by Wall Street and other financial elites, is now involved in the Chicago teachers’ collective bargaining issues. ERN spent millions in New York state last year to attack teachers’ job protections. In the linked article, the group says it is not coordinating with the Mayor’s office, but this seems unlikely as its robo-calls are parroting what the school superintendent has said publicly.

Dumbing down education in Indiana
If there were evidence that second-career professionals make better teachers, there might be reason to support REPA II. But there is none. Finland certainly doesn’t promote that route to the classroom. Studies, including one from IUPUI’s Center for Urban and Multicultural Education, find that “teachers who are fully certified (through traditional college/university based teacher education programs) have a more significant positive impact on student outcomes than teachers who are not.”

Chartering the Whole District

Do you still doubt that the privatization of American public schools is proceeding at full speed? In Michigan the Governor has the right to appoint an "Emergency Manager" if a municipality is "failing," thereby bypassing elected officials (like city councils, mayors and school boards). Governor Snyder's Emergency Manager for Muskegon Heights Public Schools is planning to give the public schools away to the charter industry. Instead of funding the public schools, they're going to give them away...
The emergency manager for Muskegon Heights Public Schools is taking an unprecedented approach to eliminate the district's severe debt -- one of the worst deficits among Michigan's schools -- by chartering the entire west Michigan district.
...and in Memphis, too.
...the Memphis City Schools are faced with a whole list of disturbing recommendations, including one that would totally disrupt the feeder school system in Memphis, which will lead to privatized high schools in the next phase of corporate takeover

A Major Charter School Scandal

Why are people so quick to give up public oversight of public schools?
In response to whistle-blower complaints by parents and former teachers, the Oakland school board launched an independent audit of the charter’s finances. The audit reported that $3.7 million dollars were wrongly spent...Wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, “The founder and governing board of three controversial Oakland charter schools could face a criminal investigation into allegations of fraud, misappropriation of funds and other illegal activities outlined in an official audit report released Wednesday.”

Tax Credit Strategy Fuels Private School Choice Push
The political climate in many states has become ripe for private-school choice, and few choice models are proving as popular as tax-credit scholarships.

Despite what the "Reformers" say, Poverty Matters.
Legislators can extend the school day, force new tests on students and link the scores to a teacher’s job, but a new analysis about disparities in school funding raises the uncomfortable question of just how effective any reforms can really be when issues of equity are ignored.

Read More about it HERE...

Equitable and adequate financing of public school systems in the U.S. remains largely a state responsibility, and some states continue to either throw their entire education systems under the bus (Arizona, Tennessee), or selectively disregard children living in high poverty settings. Put simply, money matters. School funding equity and school finance reforms matter.

sh!t arne says
“Our goal is to work with educators in rebuilding their profession—and to elevate the teacher voice in shaping federal, state and local education policy,” said Secretary Duncan today at the launch of the RESPECT Project. “Our larger goal is to make teaching not only America’s most important profession—but America’s most respected profession,” he said.
Secretary Arne Duncan
National Conversation on the Future of Teachers Town Hall Meeting
So, Arne. You're going to do this while you and your corporate ed deformer pals continue to beat the sh!t out of these teachers you so respect. Give me a break! Seriously, Arne. How stupid do you think teachers are?

R.E.S.P.E.C.T..... Arne, you haven't a clue!
The teacher blogger at outside the box is absolutely right. Arne Duncan doesn't have a clue. He hasn't got the credentials to be the Secretary of Education. He has no experience in public school classrooms.

However both national teachers unions, the NEA and the AFT, have endorsed Obama, and by default, Duncan, for another term during which they can continue their onslaught against public schools. Apparently Duncan isn't the only one without a clue.

Which lever will you pull in November...the one for the Democratic candidate who says he supports public schools, hates teaching to the test and then does everything he can to destroy public education, or the Republican candidate who flat out promises to destroy public education?

Not much of a choice, is it?


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, June 18, 2012

Democratic Mayors Join their Republican Colleagues in Selling Out Public Education

The Democrats have decided that they don't care about teachers' votes.

That's right. Teachers and their unions are so vilified, so hated, receive such bad press and are so undervalued by the public that even the Democrats don't care if they lose our votes.

Those of you who have been following politics in the US for the last 20 years might have seen this coming, and the Obama administration has proven it with Race to the Top.

Does anyone still think that the Democrats will see the damage being done to public education and help us? Does anyone still think that NEA's and AFT's endorsement of Obama will mean that the Democrats will fall in line and suddenly become "friends of public education?" Well, think again.

On Saturday the US Conference of mayors endorsed the use of the parent trigger for "failing" public schools. They endorsed it...not just by a majority...but unanimously! That's right...ALL the mayors at the conference...Republicans and Democrats alike. It seems that even in an election year...and even when the political atmosphere in the country is as polarized as it is, the one issue that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is the selling of America's public school system to the highest bidder.
Mayors back parents seizing control of schools

Hundreds of mayors from across the United States this weekend called for new laws letting parents seize control of low-performing public schools and fire the teachers, oust the administrators or turn the schools over to private management.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, meeting in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday unanimously endorsed "parent trigger" laws aimed at bypassing elected school boards and giving parents at the worst public schools the opportunity to band together and force immediate change.

...But in a sign of the unions' diminishing clout, their traditional political allies, the Democrats, abandoned them in droves during the Orlando vote. [emphasis mine]
There are reasons that the teachers unions reject the parent trigger as a way to "save" failing schools.

It takes all public control of public institutions away from the public. What happens in two years, when the CMO running the new school misuses funds? Who's going to know about it? Who is keeping watch for the public? Who guarantees stability for the students?

Who owns the school? 51% of this year's parents? The students? No. Public schools are owned by the public. Elected school boards are responsible for running the schools -- or should be. As Diane Ravitch has reasoned...
A parent trigger...enables 51 percent of parents in any school to close the school or hand it over to private management. This is inherently a terrible idea. Why should 51 percent of people using a public service have the power to privatize it? Should 51 percent of the people in Central Park on any given day have the power to transfer it to private management? Should 51 percent of those riding a public bus have the power to privatize it?
It's all about the money. Politicians know that their campaign money is coming from those who want to make a profit off public education.

It certainly isn't about the students. Look at the corporate reformer's focus. Is it for smaller class size? more money for supplies? better trained teachers? equitable funding? No. The push is to divide and conquer...pit parents and taxpayers against teachers, push for more money for privatized schools, crush the union.

Read more about the parent trigger here.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, June 15, 2012

Stop the War on Public Education!

What Progressives Can Do to Stop the War on Public Education

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children -- Rerun

I posted this last year around Father's Day...Here it is again.


I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children.

From my first teaching day in Kindergarten at Coesse Elementary School in rural Whitley County Indiana, to the last day I taught in a general education classroom (also Kindergarten) at Harlan Elementary School I tried not to miss even one day of reading aloud to students. I read picture books, short novels and longer novels...I read at every grade I taught, Kindergarten through sixth grade. If there was a day during which I had to skip something I tried the best I could NOT to skip readaloud time. I'm sure there must have been a few days here and there in which I didn't read aloud to my class during my years of teaching in general education classrooms...but I can't remember any of them.

I read aloud to all my classes because I'm convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Schools are organized around reading. It's the main focus of the early grades. Content in the higher grades is most often presented through text. In addition, children who are connected to the internet and mobile communications are inundated with text all day long. Gary Burton, the superintendent of Wayland Public Schools (MA) wrote in an article titled, Most Important Skill Child Needs to Learn...
For the past 500 years, no other skill even comes close to ensuring an individual’s success as this one very basic, very academic, and very essential lifelong skill. 
Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” [Emphasis added]

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their children become better readers.

Reading aloud brings you closer to your child...every day.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Time to Stand Up!

Gary Stager wrote,
American public school educators have been insulted, mocked, punished, shamed, blamed and threatened by politicians, Bill Gates, corporations and the media for a decade. Their professionalism has been reduced by name-calling, scripted curricula, “common core” standards and the publication of standardized test scores. Their schools have become the playthings of billionaire bullies and hedge fund managers with public school treasure being surrendered to shady privatizers and charter school conglomerates. American public school teachers have watched more of their students come to school hungry and without proper medical care. They’ve watched public education be dismantled by unqualified clowns in NY, Louisiana, Chicago, Michigan and Wisconsin. American teachers have seen their benefits cut, right to organize eliminated, working conditions deteriorate, supplies dwindle and pensions disappear.

And what have American educators done about this?
The answer of course, is not very much.

Look at what happened in Australia (the subject of Stager's blog post above) when the state (Victoria) PM backed out of a promised raise...25,000 teachers took to the streets.

In the US, however, what did teachers do when the entire staff of Central Falls High School (RI) were fired? What was our response when the US Secretary of Education and the President of the United States cheered that act by the local superintendent?

Silence...except for a few blogs.

What's been our response to this administration's "Race to the Top" where federal money is not provided where it's needed most, but instead is given to those places which open up more charter schools, judge teachers by their students' test scores, and VAM evaluation techniques (none of which are based on research)? What have American teachers said and done about that?

Again, not much except on the blogosphere.

Oh...here's something. The AFT and the NEA, the nation's largest teachers unions, have endorsed for reelection the man responsible for Race to the Top...

Have I missed something? Why are former minor league basketball players, retired computer gurus and former editors of the Harvard Law Review the ones making education policy for the country?

What do...Barak Obama, Arne Duncan, George W. Bush, Michael Bloomberg, Rahm Emanuel, Bill and Melinda Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Gang have in common?

Answer -- They are the ones who have made/bought or are making/buying education policy in the United States and NONE of them -- not ONE of them -- knows anything about educating children. There are NO TEACHERS among them...not one. None.

Where are the experts? Where are the teachers?

While the leaders of the NEA and AFT are busy helping the corporate interests destroy public education, the rank and file teachers have been overwhelmed with too many tests being used and misused by administrations, states and the media.

While the politicians and pundits have been blaming public education and specifically teachers unions and the "bad teachers" they protect for the collapse of the world's economy, public school teachers around the country have been struggling to keep their heads above water doing more and more for the children under their care with less and less support from the outside world.

While Bill Gates wants to use Skinner-box technology to see whether or not teachers are entertaining their students, those teachers are drowning in a data driven morass created by the greed of edupreneurs and politicians.

Democrats, led by President Obama and Secretary of Education Duncan, have joined Republicans in the fight against public schools. Mayors Bloomberg (New York City) and Emanuel (Chicago) are vying for the title of least-public-education-friendly mayor in the country. Bloomberg has been shoving charter schools into public school buildings, displacing public school teachers and children without any hesitation during his never ending term as mayor.

Finally, however, the newcomer Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, not even 2 years into his term, is facing an uprising he apparently didn't expect. Mayor Emanuel figured that teachers would do as they were told, as they have done for the last 2 decades. He figured that teachers would just whine a bit, but then accept the inevitable...and increase their already overwhelming work load for no additional pay. He assumed that he could continue the nation's insulting assault on public school teachers and the weak teachers would simply fall in line.

He was wrong.

On June 11 the Chicago Teachers Union released the results of a strike vote.
Public school educators say they are fighting for smaller class sizes, art, music, world language and physical education classes for students, and fair compensation for being asked to work under more difficult guidelines as determined by CPS.
23,780 teachers, 90% of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union, voted to strike.

What was the reaction of the parent union, the AFT, when the CTU voted to strike if a negotiated settlement couldn't be reached? I went to the AFT website and couldn't find a thing about it. It's possible I missed it...

It's time for teachers across the country to stand up, like our colleagues in Chicago, to those who want to destroy public education. Demand support from our unions. Demand support for public schools.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, June 4, 2012

What's the Choice for Public Education?

If NEA expects its teachers to support President Obama in 2012, then he needs to be held accountable. Here's what he said in the last campaign...

V.P. Biden also told us what we wanted to hear.

(btw, when Biden talks about "the President" in this speech, remember, he's talking about George W. Bush.)

On the other hand, if you think, "maybe we should support the other guy" take a look at this...
What’s missing in the Romney agenda is any reference to early childhood education, which is research-based; no reference to asking Congress to pay the long-promised share of the costs of special education; nothing about equity issues; nothing about professional preparation or professional development...All of these issues–and others–will be left to the workings of the free market, which is not known for producing equality of educational opportunity.

Most consequentially, there is not a word of support for America’s public schools. Not one.
[Emphasis mine]

So which do we vote for? More of the same, or an even worse scenario?

Try these:

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Retention in Grade as Child Abuse

Why would an educated group of professionals continue to support a practice which research over the last 100 years has shown to be ineffective and possibly harmful?

Why would legislators incorporate this practice into law?

What kind of nation fails to provide for its poorest, most vulnerable children?

Diane Ravitch changed her mind about school choice, charter schools and the privatization of public education which is now proceeding almost unchecked across the nation.

Last week she announced that she had changed her mind about retention in grade as well.
I started thinking about the deep humiliation children must feel if all their friends are promoted and they are not. Some years ago, when I was a reliable member of the conservative camp, I favored policies that “ended social promotion.” I thought it was wrong to promote kids to a grade where they were unable to keep up. I dispassionately observed debates between supporters and opponents; I knew that retention was associated with higher dropout rates, but back in those days, I was on the tough-accountability side. Make it harder, I thought, as conservatives do, and children will work harder and get better results. But like so much else that I used to support–like high-stakes testing and choice–I was wrong.
After repeating the results of oft repeated research on retention she continued...
What are we doing to our children? I am speaking now as a parent and grandparent, not as a detached observer who looks at the issues from 30,000 feet and “sees like a state.”...Ultimately, holding kids back does not get them the social and emotional support they need. Instead, it aggravates the very conditions that led to their original failure...“Ending social promotion,” it turns out, is just another slogan that politicians like to bandy about. It makes them feel strong; it makes them look tough; it wins plaudits from the hard-hearted tabloids; it allows the politicians to call themselves “reformers.” But it hurts children.
My colleagues have heard me talk about this repeatedly for years. Some have told me that the research is wrong (I'm still waiting for the research that shows otherwise -- Yeah, MG, I'm talking to you!!). Others have told me that social promotion is just as bad. Still others have asked, "What else can we do?"

There are two reasons (IMHO) for why people want to hold children back. First is the “catch-up” reason. One comment to Ravitch's blog post was from a parent who believed that their child should have been retained so they would have had a chance to “catch up.” Unfortunately research into retention indicates it doesn’t work that way. Children may do better for a year...or two, but 3 or 4 years after the retention year they are failing again and, in fact, often do more poorly than students who were “passed on.” The common sense involved in this — give children an extra year to learn what they didn’t learn — just isn’t the reality. Children don’t catch up.

The dichotomy between social promotion and retention doesn’t have a correct choice. Neither helps children. Just because a child is unsuccessful with social promotion doesn’t mean that he would have thrived had he been retained. A child...let’s say a first grader...fails first grade and the following year is placed in a different class in the same school. The curriculum is the same, the teaching methods (especially now when everyone is required to teach to the test) are the same and the child repeats everything exactly the same as the previous year. They do better that year...but they understand that they are a failure and, more importantly, the underlying causes of their failure are not dealt with. The research shows that in subsequent years they fail again (So-called "social promotion," coupled with effective and intense intervention, is a better choice).

The second rationale given for retention is the “What else can we do?” reason. There isn’t enough money in most schools or school systems to give children what they need. Good maternal nutrition, prenatal health care and good early childhood programs are important to fight the effects of poverty. Once children are in school it’s too late to go back to their prenatal and early childhood lives and change things. The intensive intervention and support which is needed to overcome the effects of poverty are too expensive and too difficult. Most schools can’t afford to give children what they need so the choice between social promotion and retention, neither of which are adequate for the child’s needs, is made.

The truth is that we, as a nation, don't much care about our children -- at least not enough to put our money where our collective mouth is. We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world...and it's growing.

Until the United States is willing to provide the resources needed to educate all our children there will be those who fail and those who fall through the cracks. Since those children are, according to the research on retention, minorities, poor, and the hardest to educate, they get ignored by all those who don’t work with them specifically. Politicians like to pretend they don't exist...or that it's their own fault. They get the fewest resources, the least experienced teachers, and the most “teaching to the test.” Despite lip service from politicians, our nation’s children, unfortunately, aren’t a national priority.

You might also be interested in this: Third Grade Retention: What Harm Could it Do?


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Saturday, June 2, 2012

2012 Medley #11 Part 2

Testing, Class Size, Truth and Lies.

What parents say testing is doing to their kids

Is there anyone who has children in public schools who doesn't know that testing is strangling education in America? The United States has more than 3 million public school teachers and nearly 80 million public school students. We -- the teachers and parents -- need to stand up and protect the education of our children.

8000 New York State parents responded to a survey from a group of New York principals:
  • 75% reported their child was more anxious in the month before the test
  • Nearly 80% reported that test prep prevented their child from engaging in meaningful school activities.
  • 87% reported that the current amount of time devoted to standardized testing is not a good use of their child’s school time.
  • 95% were opposed to increasing the number and length of tests
  • 91% were opposed to standardized tests for K-2
  • 65% reported that too much time is devoted to test prep
Parents also wrote anecdotes that reported:
  • Sleep disruption, crying
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Feelings of failure, increasing as the tests progressed
  • Complaints of boredom and restlessness from students who finished early and were required to sit still for the full 90 minutes of each test.
Teachers echoed many of the same concerns.
  • 65% of over 6000 responding teachers said that their students did not have enough time for independent reading, project-based learning and critical thinking
  • 89% of teachers reported that their students became more anxious in the month prior to testing and during testing itself
  • 88% said that test prep had impacted the time spent on non-tested subjects such as science and art
  • Fewer than 3% believed that their students’ learning had increased because of testing.

The Big Snooze (High Stakes Testing and the Low Stakes Mentality)

Is there any better reason to sign the National Resolution on High Stakes Testing? The word insanity is often used to describe the overuse and misuse of testing. When you read this it will emphasize that insanity is the perfect word for the situation facing public education today.
A colleague of mine who works as a home and hospital school teacher for those sick and disabled children who cannot make it to school, told me he is required to test all of his students, regardless of the severity of their illness or injury. In most cases, disabled students are given testing accommodations according to their individualized educational plans (IEPs) but he teaches one boy who was, just weeks ago, paralyzed in a car accident. With no IEP to indicate any accommodations, the teacher is required, by law, to place the CST answer sheet and testing booklets and a No. 2 pencil in front of the poor child and wait there. Since these tests have no time limits the teacher is supposed to carry on this cruel farce until the boy has a miraculous recovery and is able to hold and guide a pencil or until his IEP is written or until the boy's parents toss the teacher and the tests into the street or until the absurdity of these billion dollar testing requirements are mercifully rescinded.

Does Class Size Matter?

Corporate "reformers" continually demand sacrifices from teachers, public schools and public school students, but they demand better for themselves and their own children. All children are entitled to the same education that the 1% demand for themselves and their children.
[Romney] asserted that class size wasn’t important. That is no doubt the advice he had received from his advisors, who like to claim that having a “great teacher” is far more important than class size reduction.

When challenged to explain his comments on class size, Romney said that the global consulting firm McKinsey concluded that class size doesn’t matter. Of course, it mattered a lot to the Romney family. Mitt Romney went to the Cranbrook School in Michigan, where class size is said to be less than 6:1. His children also went to an elite private school, and elite private schools are known for small classes.

Parent activist Leonie Haimson called on President Obama (for whom she worked in 2008) to take a stand on the class size issue. She wrote an open letter to the President, asking him to repudiate comments by Secretary Arne Duncan that sounded no different from what Romney had said. Secretary Duncan is a graduate of the University of Chicago Lab School, where class size is 10:1. Just a year ago, Bill Gates set off a firestorm among teacher bloggers when he said that better teachers were more important than smaller classes. Gates went to Lakeside School in Seattle, where classes are never more than 16.

Don't Believe the Romney Hype

Mitt Romney claims to have presided over a dramatic improvement in academic achievement in Massachusetts while he was governor (2003-2007). Diane Ravitch does the fact checking...
There are three salient points to be made about the Massachusetts reform:

1. It was successful: Massachusetts is indeed at the top of NAEP in fourth and eighth grades, in reading and math.

2. It was expensive: state funding increased from $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion from 1993 to 2000.

3. Mitt Romney had nothing to do with its success.

We Need to Talk About Tenure

Teach For America places high achieving college graduates into schools as teachers after a few weeks of summer training. We've talked about the inadequacy of the training in past blogs. Here's something new...an entry from a TFA teacher who is beginning to understand what being a teacher is all about. This is about tenure. His definition of tenure as "a teacher cannot be fired for the sake of being fired without receiving a hearing" is completely accurate. Tenure for elementary and secondary teachers in public schools simply means due process...something all Americans should support.
One of the advantages of coming into the education world as an outsider has been that I constantly feel stupid about my prior beliefs. I, like many others, erroneously believed tenure was something dated. I mean, I came to teaching with job experience, but in that job experience I received no protections from my boss(es). I had to work hard and exceed expectations everyday, or else I would be subject to a negative review from my peers and supervisors, which would likely put me on the getting-fired trajectory. Wouldn't receiving tenure and union protection make me lazy? I questioned. That's probably why I was so quick to jump on the Michelle-Rhee-get-rid-of-teacher-tenure bandwagon during my Teach for America summer institute training. Later, I learned that those deserving to be teachers, those who actually joined the profession out of ambition and love, did not put tenure on a golden pedestal because students belonged there. Tenure was significant, but for reasons other than "the ability to get lazy."

Tenure, as I see it, simply means that after a period of x years (varies by state) and adequate fulfillment of requirements, a teacher cannot be fired for the sake of being fired without receiving a hearing. This idea came to be as a result of teachers being fired by their principals without reason, often because their political views, personal lifestyles and/or teaching methodologies didn't align with their principals'. As most people who have ever had a job know, not all bosses are fair and all-knowing - it's the same in education, maybe even worse.

Fact-checking “Won’t Back Down” Parent Trigger propaganda flick

Parent Triggers -- giving 51% of parents the right to destroy a public school -- is the newest tactic for the corporate "reformers." The team that gave us Waiting for Superman has another movie coming out. This one is called Won't Back Down and purports to tell the story of a parent trigger movement in California. Parents Across America does the fact checking.
Falsehood: The trailer shows parents, led by one outraged mom, mobilizing themselves courageously to take over their school — and only much later contacting an outside organizer for extra support.

Truth: The reality was the opposite. The Parent Trigger attempt at McKinley was entirely organized by outside operators.

Falsehood: The trailer shows parents rising up as one in support of the purportedly parent-led Parent Trigger.

Truth: Just after Parent Revolution turned in the professionally collected petition signatures, hundreds of McKinley parents turned out to a school board meeting to oppose the Parent Trigger...

Falsehood: The trailer shows determined parents intending to take over the school themselves, against all odds.

Truth: The intent all along at McKinley was to turn the school over to Celerity, the charter school operator. Again, Parent Revolution chose Celerity to take over the school before it had even decided what school to target...

Stop the Testing Insanity!