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

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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2012 Medley #21

Corporate ChartersEnvironment, Facts-Myths and Fallacies, Indiana Election, Poverty, Teacher Evaluation, Testing .


Charter schools: Finding out the facts: At a glance*

The Center for Public Education has a fairly balanced information base for charter schools and the research surrounding them. Remember that not all charter schools are run by corporate, for-profit organizations and that different states have different rules regarding charters.
...found that while some charter schools do better than the traditional public schools that fed them, the majority do the same or worse. Almost one-fifth of charters (17 percent) performed significantly better (at the 95 percent confidence level) than the traditional public school. However, an even larger group of charters (37 percent) performed significantly worse in terms of reading and math. The remainder (46 percent) did not do significantly better or worse.



The media is finally starting to ask questions about extreme weather. Climate change shouldn't be a political issue. We all live on the surface of the same planet.

Amazing How a 2 x 4 Upside the Head Focuses the Mind. Media Starts Asking “What the *bleep* Happened?”
Just eight months earlier, the Princeton University professor reported that what used to be once-in-a-century devastating floods in New York City would soon happen every three to 20 years. He blamed global warming for pushing up sea levels and changing hurricane patterns.

New York “is now highly vulnerable to extreme hurricane-surge flooding,” he wrote.


Education’s Own 47%

How many "bad teachers" does it take to ruin the economy and cause American students to perform poorly on international tests? Oh, wait...teachers didn't ruin the economy and when you factor out poverty American students from low poverty schools score the highest in the world.
Education has been having it’s own dramatic “47%”ing for sometime now. You see, as the story goes, the reason why education is “failing” is because educators just “don’t care enough.” A small percentage of amazing teachers believe in kids, the tale continues, but most, especially those who work in high poverty schools, do not believe in the children they serve, their expectations are too low, and they in fact do not know how to teach. Goliath. Bad bad Goliath. And here’s the thing, it’s not 47% this story aims at, instead the majority of education is in the cross hairs.

‘All Children Can Learn’: Facts and Fallacies

This is an old article from PDK, Kappan. The claim from politicians that "all children can learn" despite their backgrounds in poverty or abuse is disingenuous. Of course all children can learn...but not everyone (children or adults) learns at the same rate in the same way and at the same depth of understanding. Sometimes you have repeat things over and over so the ones who learn more slowly (in this case, the politicians, pundits and policy makers) will learn.
The fallacy that all children can learn: at the same level and in the same amount of time. All children can learn, at some level, and most children, as Ronald Edmonds stated, can learn the basic curriculum if sufficient resources are provided. The fallacy, however, is the belief that all children can learn the same curriculum, in the same amount of time, and at the same level. The problem with such an unexamined belief is that it may be used to deny differential financial support for those who come to school with environmental disadvantages. Not all children have high-quality nutrition, stimulating homes, and extensive learning opportunities prior to entering school. [emphasis in original]

Unreason on the Throne of American Thought*

The facts just simply don't support the "reform" movement which has been the status quo in our public schools for the last two decades. Charters aren't better (though many aren't worse) than regular public schools, merit pay for teachers doesn't work, competition through vouchers (or charters) doesn't improve public schools, parent triggers don't give parents more "choices" and unions don't lower achievement. Is there another reason why all these policies are being foisted on public education? Hint: Follow the money.
We are told that competition will make our schools better, never mind the fact that it didn’t in Chile. Or in Milwaukee. We are told that more charter schools are desperately needed, even though Stanford University’s groundbreaking study found charters twice as likely to under perform (37%) rather than outperform (17%) traditional schools. We are told that merit pay will improve the quality of teaching, even though scientific studies have consistently found otherwise...Despite the cries of dissenters, merit pay for teachers, charter school expansion, and voucher/tax credit schemes are all moving full steam ahead all over the country, ample contradictory evidence notwithstanding.

In the push to re-make our education system, we are seeing a fight over ideology raging across the land. Public school systems and the students and teachers who inhabit them are simply collateral damage. And so are factual precision and the honest consideration of data.

Why You're Likely to Believe Political Lies

This isn't an education issue like I normally post, however, it helps explain why people believe what politicians tell them despite the facts proving otherwise.
If the subject isn't very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold, according to the researchers. They point out that rejecting false information requires more cognitive effort than just taking it in. That is, weighing how plausible a message is, or assessing the reliability of its source, is more difficult, cognitively, than simply accepting that the message is true. In short, it takes more mental work. And if the topic isn't very important to you or you have other things on your mind, the misinformation is more likely to take hold.


Bennett, Ritz debate at NIPR

If you live in Indiana and haven't voted yet, take a listen to this debate between Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett and his challenger, Glenda Ritz.
Republican incumbent, Dr. Tony Bennett, and his opponent, Democrat Glenda Ritz, spent an hour answering questions from StateImpact Indiana reporter, Kyle Stokes.


David Berliner on Inequality, Poverty and the Widening Education Gap

Read this, then tell me that poverty doesn't matter, that poverty isn't destiny or some other platitude used to ignore the greatest threat to children in the United States. I've asked this so many times....What other 'rich' nation in the world would be satisfied with 25% of their children living in poverty? Why are we ignoring this? Children need to be our national priority.
America’s dirty little secret is that a large majority of poor kids attending schools that serve the poor are not going to have successful lives. Reality is not nearly as comforting as myth. Reality does not make us feel good. But the facts are clear. Most children born into the lower social classes will not make it out of that class, even when exposed to heroic educators...Powerful social forces exist to constrain the lives led by the poor, and our nation pays an enormous price for not trying harder to ameliorate these conditions.

...out-of-school variables account for about 60% of the variance that can be accounted for in student achievement. In aggregate, such factors as family income; the neighborhood’s sense of collective efficacy, violence rate, and average income; medical and dental care available and used; level of food insecurity; number of moves a family makes over the course of a child’s school years; whether one parent or two parents are raising the child; provision of high-quality early education in the neighborhood; language spoken at home; and so forth, all substantially affect school achievement.

What is it that keeps politicians and others now castigating teachers and public schools from acknowledging this simple social science fact, a fact that is not in dispute: Outside-of-school factors are three times more powerful in affecting student achievement than are the inside-the-school factors (Berliner, 2009)? And why wouldn’t that be so? Do the math! On average, by age 18, children and youth have spent about 10 percent of their lives in what we call schools, while spending around 90 percent of their lives in family and neighborhood. Thus, if families and neighborhoods are dysfunctional or toxic, their chance to influence youth is nine times greater than the schools’! So it seems foolish to continue trying to affect student achievement with the most popular contemporary educational policies, mostly oriented toward teachers and schools, while assiduously ignoring the power of the outside-of-school factors. Perhaps it is more than foolish. If one believes that doing the same thing over and over and getting no results is a reasonable definition of madness, then what we are doing is not merely foolish: it is insane.


Traumatic lives of students affect teacher’s evaluation

Poverty matters in achievement...as do the other out of school factors mentioned in the Berliner piece, above. Why then, do we insist on using faulty standardized achievement tests to evaluate teachers?
I am the same teacher with an exceptionally high growth score from the previous year. I declined the accolades from my well-meaning principal because we are a team with a common goal, not competitors. Will the number crunchers say I was talented one year but incompetent the next?
You might also be interested in...

Who Needs Certification? NYC Dept. of Ed. Wants to Train Teachers on the Fly
If the Department of Education gets its way, new teachers won’t have to enroll in local colleges or universities to get certification to work in city schools.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, the department’s second in command, said today that the department would ask the state for permission to certify teachers internally by using top educators to train new recruits in shortage areas. Currently, teachers must either have completed an education certification program at a college or university or be enrolled in one.
Get Rid of Bad Teachers by Lowering Standards
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.


What Test Scores Don't Tell Us: The Naked Emperor

End the testing madness.
Until we have more data showing that improving test scores actually teaches students to think well, or that an improved test score predicts better life outcomes, we’re all willfully looking away from the Emperor’s nakedness.

While we try to come up with measures that tell us something about individual children, their teachers, or our schools, we’re better off using no tests than ones which have unintended bad effects, and haven’t yet been shown to measure anything meaningful.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How very sad. And how incredibly accurate.

Check out the latest cheating scandal in California.

State strips 23 schools of API rankings for cheating
The API is a scale by which schools are officially measured in California. Top rankings are celebrated and contribute to high property values. Low scores can label schools as failures and trigger penalties. The number of schools with invalidated test scores remains relatively small: about two dozen each of the last three years in a state with more than 10,000 schools. Some teachers may have thought they were within bounds when in fact they weren't.
Teachers in LA know that their results will be used to pillory them in the news media. The LA Times has no qualms against publishing teacher rankings based on test scores.

A question I keep asking over and over again...who is going to be left teaching when we have destroyed public education and public school teachers? Fewer and fewer it seems...the self-fulfilling prophecy is coming true. Beat up teachers and public schools enough and fewer young people will  decide to spend their careers helping the next generation learn. Why put yourself on the line for the bludgeoning that public school teachers get daily when you could get more money, have better job security, and likely do more good somewhere else?

Indiana teacher colleges see drop in applications; legislature blamed
A Journal and Courier survey found enrollment at Purdue’s College of Education has fallen 23 percent over the past five years, while Ball State’s Teachers College has seen a 32 percent decrease in applications since 2008. Indiana University’s School of Education has seen a 20 percent drop in applications since 2008, and enrollment there is down 11 percent from last year.
My guess is that this is happening all over the country. Fewer new teachers, coupled with the fact that more and more teachers are leaving the profession than ever before, there's going to be a shortage...especially in areas where students are difficult to teach...special education and high poverty areas.
The decline in applications stems in large part from a wave of education changes that emerged from the 2011 Legislature. Their goal is to increase teacher and school accountability, but many teachers feel they’ve come under fire unfairly and are being blamed for failing schools. The political rhetoric that has polarized both sides of the education overhaul arguments hasn’t helped.

“Our biggest critics are the ones who are making the most sweeping statements about failing schools, and they’re the very same ones saying what we need to do to improve schools in this country is attract the best and brightest,” said IU Dean of Education Gerardo Gonzales. “I don’t think they understand the decisions they’re making are having the reverse effect.”
Diane Ravitch posted a letter from a teacher in North Carolina who quit (and I posted more information about teachers leaving the profession). It's interesting to read the growing number of comments from teachers all over the country who are expressing understanding and empathy with the teacher who quit. My comment is first...
I retired early because I was tired of the constant focus on the test…and the redirection of funds for public education towards test prep. With 35 years and a masters degree I was too expensive to keep. My school system cut the positions of reading specialists (mine) and offered an incentive for retirement to people at the top of the scale. I left teaching four years before I had planned…the incentives, plus the focus on testing instead of education was enough to drive me out.

A year later my school closed…the cuts in education funding by the state of Indiana, plus mismanagement by the administration has ended with the closure of several schools in our district. Children have been shuffled around to other places…and will be again with the next round of closings
Here are some more...there are dozens!
Wow! What a sad commentary on teaching today. So many of us are on autopilot and in survival mode.

Teachers are used and abused, and it’s a disgrace that it’s legal.

This is why I left my classroom in NC 10 years ago!!! Sounds like nothing has changed!!

It sounds exactly like the public school in NE Pa.

I am exhausted and it isn’t even November. There is a breaking point for all of us and for the entire system. They are destroying our public school system.

I am in North Carolina. 6th year teacher, and so tired, always tired, I just want to teach my students.

I am a 5th year teacher and I totally agree with you. I am responsible for delivering all subjects and with the New Common Core implementation across the board, talk about exhausted.

This letter puts into words the frustration, sadness, and growing emotional and physical anxiety that I am feeling every day.

How sad. How very sad. And how incredibly accurate.

...teachers are overworked, underpaid, micromanaged, made to feel less than a licensed professional, etc. We get it.

This letter expresses exactly how I feel this year with my teaching. Two years ago things were bad, last year they were awful, this year they are beyond horrible.

I am feeling the same as the teachers above.

I have written this letter in my head so many times, but somehow I keep coming back for one more year.

Thank you for putting the collective pain, sadness, frustration, and helpless feelings many teachers have today into words. I’ve been a public high school teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools for over 25 years, and this is the worst year ever. We work so hard, and this assassination of our profession and our schools by our own government is shameful.

I am also a teacher who left the field in disgust.

I most relate to the feeling of being complicit in a system that is doing more harm than good to both students and teachers. Yes, I may make a difference in the lives of some of my students, but there’s a price to pay. Any teacher who cares and is trying to deal with this system is paying dearly indeed!

I agree with everything u said!! it is so sad, but true-what will it take to save the teachers who really do care and love teaching….

I don’t know of a single teacher here who is happy.

I taught in Indiana public elementary schools for 10 years. I have Associates, Bachelors and Masters degrees and just a few months ago I gave it all up....I was grouchy, stressed out and hard to be around....I quit! I don’t miss it and I’ve never looked back.

Well said, VERY well said…That is why I, an innovative elementary principal, took early retirement. Sick of having non-educators or jocks tell me what they know about teaching reading to young children or how to make math exciting. What they know I learned in the FIRST of my four degrees and I could put that information in my center desk drawer and not use it in the 21st Century.

I imagine a lot of teachers wish they could write similar letters. It’s a shame that our country has let the educational system crumble to ruins. Teachers need our support. They need to be given the tools they need to properly educate our children. Our teachers need to be appreciated and valued for their efforts and paid fair wages for their time. The children are our future and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that our children learn, grow and blossom into educated, compassionate, well rounded, responsible, productive members of our society.

The pain I feel knowing that I will be forced to quit teaching because politicians have destroyed our educational system is devastating. I do not know how long I will be able to hang on.

I know too many educators who want to retire just to get away from the madness of testing in our schools. “Teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions.”
You might also be interested in:

Teachers who quit
Teachers know what students need, but they're being forced to do things they know are pedagogically wrong in order to keep their jobs.

Who will teach the children?
...the opportunities for the personal rewards that keep most teachers in the classroom are being stolen by the crunch of curriculum cramming and teaching to tests. The joy and freedom of teaching simply no longer exist.

Who Will Staff Tomorrow's Schools?
It has become harder and harder to teach. With the testing insanity growing to include pay based on test scores, teachers are going to avoid teaching hard to educate children. The gaps between rich and poor will grow.

Who Will Staff Tomorrow's Schools? Part 2
A shrinking job market, poor advancement, dependence on student test scores for evaluations, lowered status, lack of professional decision making opportunities, and lack of public support are all making the prospect of a career in education less appealing. The best and the brightest will, for the most part, look elsewhere for career opportunities. The teachers who remain will be overburdened with large class sizes, and hard-to-teach students. The constant attack on public education, public school teachers and their unions, has had a self-fulfilling effect on the profession.

Help Wanted
How will we get the best and the brightest when we, as a nation, tell our children that being a teacher is not worthy of decent working conditions? Which best and brightest scientist will give up a job in the private sector for the frustrations and the disrespect that accompany teaching chemistry or physics to teenagers? Which best and brightest journalist will give up the success and stability of a steady job at a magazine or newspaper for the day to day struggle of trying to teach 8 year olds to read and write...knowing that their job depends on the ability of the children to parrot back the right answers on a multiple choice test? Who is going to choose special education when their job depends on student test scores? Who is going to choose to teach in high poverty areas where their job depends on how children who are hungry, or tired, or living on the street do on a test?

Shocking News -- Teacher Morale Lowest it's been in Decades
Teachers are being forced to teach a certain way and then punished when it doesn't work. With no say in what or how to teach is it any wonder that teacher morale is low?


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Insanity is...

P.L. Thomas, at Schools Matter, has posted an "Insanity Chart" of "No Excuses" Reform. It compares public education problems with the solutions from the "No Excuses" reformers. The chart is sadly ironic.

Public School Problem
“No Excuses” Reform
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned disproportionately inexperienced and un-/under-certified teachers
Assign poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students Teach for America recruits (inexperienced and uncertified)
Public schools increasingly segregated by race and socioeconomic status
Charter schools, segregated by race and socioeconomic status
Three decades of standards-based testing and accountability to close the test-based achievement gap
Common Core State Standards linked to new tests to create a standards-based testing and accountability system
Inequitable school funding that rewards affluent and middle-class schools in affluent and middle-class neighborhoods and ignores or punishes schools in impoverished schools/neighborhood
Drain public school funding for parental choice policies that reinforce stratification found in those parental choices
State government top-down and bureaucratic reform policies that ignore teacher professionalism
Federal government top-down and bureaucratic reform policies that ignore teacher professionalism
Rename high-poverty schools “academy” or “magnet” schools
Close high-poverty public schools and open “no excuses” charters named “hope” or “promise” [see above]
Ignore and trivialize teacher professionalism and autonomy
Erase experienced teachers and replace with inexperienced and uncertified TFA recruits [see above]
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned disproportionately to overcrowded classrooms
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students assigned to teachers rewarded for teaching 40-1 student-teacher ratio classrooms
Poor, Latino/Black, special needs, and ELL students tracked into test-prep classrooms
Poor and Latino/Black students segregated into test-prep charter schools; special needs and ELL students disregarded [left for public schools to address—see column to the left]
Teacher preparation buried under bureaucracy at the expense of content and pedagogy
Teacher preparation rejected at the expense of content and pedagogy
Presidents, secretaries of education, governors, and state superintendents of education misinform and mishandle education
Presidents, secretaries of education, governors, and state superintendents of education [most of whom have no experience as educators] misinform and mishandle education
Fail to acknowledge the status quo of public education (see above): Public schools reflect and perpetuate the inequities of U.S. society
Fail to acknowledge the status quo of public education [see above and the column to the left]: NER reflect and perpetuate the inequities of U.S. society


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Public School State of Mind

This music video is dedicated to public school employees across America who work hard every day to make a difference in the lives of our children. Please send this to everyone you know in their honor.

There are many ways that schools across America celebrate public education. This music video is an upbeat and creative way the Blue Valley School District chose to highlight its dedicated staff and hard-working students. The Public School State of Mind sings the praises of the educational journey from elementary to middle and then high school. Blue Valley students known as Wes-Ley and Lil' Sister deliver a performance that is quite a treat.

Blue Valley School District
15020 Metcalf Ave
Overland Park, KS 66223

Thanks to Jeremiah Watkins, Devin Ruis, and Blue Valley Broadcast instructors! Music performed by regal252nc!
Special thanks to our favorite public school teacher...our Mom!

The music and lyrics were produce in the same style as "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z & Alicia Keys.


Yeah, I'm in public school, in the elementary
I started in pre-school, where I learned my A-B-Cs
I still remember, starting on the first day
How I met some new friends, and I started to play
Walking down the hall, in line we would stand
If we wanted to talk in class, we raised our hand
If you have a question, they don't even hesitate
If you have a special need, they can accommodate
Math Reading Science, Art Music, PE
Personalize my learning, with an I.E.P.
Para Professional, Principal Secretary
Counselor custodian, they are extraordinary
Character education, it is the master key
That will unlock the grown up, I'm growing up to be
I love my teachers, it's going by too fast for me
I'll miss them all when I'm gone, cause soon I'm gonna leave


Grade School, education where dreams are made from
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in Grade School
They'll teach you things that are brand new
teachers will inspire you
Let's hear it for Grade School, Grade School, Grade School

Everything starts to change, when you enter Middle School
Who's dating who, everybody trying to be cool
Bodies are changing, there are feelings to rebel
Teachers teaching preteens, they deserve a Nobel
Make a difference, has always been their aim
They don't just make a spark, they ignite the flame
Heroes in plain clothes, if the whole truth be known
But not even Superman, could do this job alone
It takes a community, teamwork and hard work
but who's helping these kids, when they do their homework?
The middle school years, are the most crucial in your life
To be well rounded, electives are rife
More than just your core classes, Reading, Science and Math
With foreign language, drama, band, you choose your own path
Emotional support, and ascending confidence
Learning who I am, I'm thankful for the guidance in


Middle School, education where dreams are made from
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in Middle School
They'll teach you things that are brand new
Teachers will inspire you
Let's hear it for Middle School, Middle School

No longer boys and girls, growing into men and women
Still acting juvenile, every now and then
The futures on your doorstep, 4 years to graduate
That plan for the future? It's now time to actuate
I trust the teachers, dedicated to serve
Leadership patience, that's what I observe
That passion to give, it comes from their core
A challenge to be more, knowledge seeping out their pores
Cheering our success, trained to be the best
Judged by our scores, forced to teach to the test
A teachers job description, is not well defined
30 kids in one class, and no child left behind
I'm not here to inflame, shame but to proclaim
If national scores are low, school teachers aint to blame
With diploma in hand, your dreams are within reach
Stay in school and learn, from those who were called to teach


High School, education where dreams are made from
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in High School
They'll teach you things that are brand new
Teacher will inspire you
To graduate High School, High School, High School

Standard YouTube License


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Teachers Who Quit

Are educators going to be unskilled workers...like retail clerks and peanut vendors at the ball park? The direction of American education seems to be going that way. The requirements for becoming a teacher are changing...and the requirements for those who determine who is qualified are changing as well. Diane Ravitch reported on charter school operators opening their own "schools of education." Apparently the entire industry, from preschools through graduate schools, is going to be privatized.

Who is going to want to be a teacher?

I read a letter from a teacher in North Carolina who has decided to quit teaching. He decided that he had had enough of the teach-to-the-test mentality that has taken over public education in America. In I QUIT Kris Nielsen wrote,
I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.
There are two crises in American education and neither has to do with so-called "failing schools." The first, and most important crisis in American education, which no one who has any power seems capable (or willing) of doing anything about is the high rate of child poverty in the United States. The cry of "we're number 1" is heard loud and clear in this crisis, as we close in on number one among advanced, or "rich" nations, in the percentage of our children who live in poverty (we're number 2 if you count Romania)...it's approaching 25%. We might define this as a crisis of selfishness. One political party seems to be running this year's campaign on a platform of ending social safety nets completely. It's every man (or in this case, child) for himself in 21st Century America. "I've got mine...if you don't have yours then that's just too bad." It's the "Let him die!" mentality.

The foolishness of allowing one fourth of our nation's future citizens grow up in poverty doesn't seem to register with some people.

The other crisis is that of the American teacher. Teaching has become the job upon which all the blame for every wrong in our society is heaped. Teachers unions are accused of "not caring about children" or children's achievement, even while some of the most unionized states in the country have the highest achievement and some of the least unionized states have the lowest achievement.

Individual teachers are overworked, over-stressed, and burned out. Each year they're expected to do more with less. They pay for their student's supplies, and sometimes food and clothing, to the tune of $1.3 billion nationwide, yet they are accused of greed and avarice when they ask for a raise or express appreciation for their pensions. American teachers are micromanaged, not trusted to do the job they were trained to do, accused of being teachers only for the vacations and pensions...

In his letter of resignation, Kris Nielsen continued,
I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.
[UPDATE: The first version of this entry assumed that Kris Nielson was a female. He is not and the entry has been corrected. Also, Kris Nielson adds additional comments on Anthony Cody's Living in Dialogue.]

Teachers are expected to be "called" to teach, so the lack of support from the "outside world" shouldn't matter to them. The abuse heaped upon teachers by politicians, pundits and policy makers takes its toll, though, and teachers are getting tired.

The situation is only going to get worse. Here are some articles about teachers who are quitting...and analysts talking about why teachers are quitting.


Everyone wants a strong, experienced teacher for their children, but nearly half of all teachers never make it through their 5th year. The managing editor of Education.com wrote...

Why Do Teachers Quit?
Every year there is a crew of new teachers at your child's school, with the ink on their teacher certification still drying. But statistics show that after five years, half of those teachers will be gone—either off to another school or out of the profession altogether.

Teachers, like any working person, function better when they are given the support they need to do their jobs. That seems like a no-brainer, yet the current atmosphere in public education is one of a lack of support, lack of materials, lack of decision making power and micromanagement.

Why teachers quit — and why we can’t fire our way to excellence
...administrative leadership and support — and student behavior and discipline — matter a great deal. Teachers are more likely to consider leaving their classrooms if they believe they aren’t getting adequate support from their principals, and if they believe the school doesn’t function well as an organization. Good leadership is not randomly distributed among schools; on average, NYC teachers report less satisfaction with the leadership in schools serving high concentrations of low-achieving, high-need students.

Teachers are told what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach (with little time to do all the extra paperwork involved), given very little say in the curriculum they provide or the teaching methods they use, and then are blamed when their students aren't successful.

Why I Quit Teaching
I quit teaching because I was tired of feeling powerless. Tired of watching would-be professionals treated as children, infantilized into silence. Tired of the machine that turns art into artifice for the sake of test scores. Tired of being belittled, disrespected and looked down upon by lawyers, politicians, and decision-makers who see teaching as the province of provincials, the work of housewives that can be done by anyone.
The media would have you believe that it's all about the money. Unions are only in it for the money, they say...teachers, according to popular wisdom, rack up huge benefits and pensions. It's true that the average salary of $57,000 looks like incredible wealth to those who are unemployed, yet, hedge fund managers and bankers who only manage to make $250,000 a year are seen as struggling to make ends meet.


But teachers, like most public service sector workers, don't choose careers as educators for the high pay. CNN reports...

Why one good teacher decided to quit
But it's not just the pay, DeRegnaucourt said, "It's the way we're treated."

Her colleagues have waited until just before school starts to learn what courses they'll be teaching, she said. Uncertainty makes it impossible to prepare, hard to succeed.

"Five years ago, 10 years ago, kids would ask me, should they become teachers? I was like, 'Oh, God, yes, I love what I do,' " she said. "Now, I tell my kids, 'You're really, really bright. Why don't you think about going into (this or that?)' They have the potential to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, CEOs and scientists . Why would I recommend to my kids, who I absolutely love, to struggle for years?"

Teachers are disrespected and underfunded. Their expertise is minimized, their experience and educational attainments are belittled

Why I Left Teaching by Jordan Kohanim
I told a colleague that I planned on leaving the profession, and he said something that hurt: "Your leaving won't change anything." With an emphasis on the anything. It felt like an arrow went through my heart.

In the long run, he's right, though. That is part of the reason I quit. I know ego drives us all, but I really believed I would make a difference. And I did—for about a dozen or so kids. But there is no way I could have made enough of a difference for enough time and kept my sanity.

I spent the last few years of my teaching career arguing with administrators about testing...about how the overuse and misuse of standardized tests is killing learning. I also finally realized that it's not the fault of the local administrators and principals...most of it is coming from the state (and the US DOE), but the frustration of having to direct all our attention towards "the test" -- knowing that we weren't giving our students the learning experiences they deserved -- was too hard to deal with.

I decided to leave teaching as a career...and take it on as a volunteer activity. I can teach students the way I know they need to be taught.

An online conversation about testing with some young teachers brought these responses.
"Are you telling me that we're supposed to be teachers? I thought my job title was test administrator. It's hard to give all the stupid tests to your students when [we] don't agree with them."

"Yes, we test more than teach! Day after day it keeps getting worse and worse! Unfortunate for all the kids!!! They are missing out on so many things. Very very sad!"
Teachers know what students need, but they're being forced to do things they know are pedagogically wrong in order to keep their jobs. Matthew Swope, ex-marine, ex-police officer, current teacher said it best...
Please help me do my job for your child and community. Stop demonizing me, my profession, and my fellow teachers...Let me teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Baseball Interlude: Three Hits for a Double

My team, the Chicago Cubs, aren't in the World Series this year -- generally teams which lose 101 out of 162 games don't make it to the post season. However, there are still some interesting things to watch...even when other teams are battling it out for the joy and glory that should, rightfully be mine.

The Tigers didn't need any encouragement to blow past the Yankees in 4 straight (cheers!), but it wasn't quite as easy for the Giants to defeat the Cardinals. It took San Francisco 7 games to send the St. Louis team home for the winter. (Cheers for that, too!)

One of the most interesting (or least interesting depending on whether you love or hate baseball) aspects of baseball is the constant attention to detail. Statistics in baseball aren't just for keeping track of which players are better and which teams are winning...they are the heart and soul of the game. Why else would you need to know what a batter's on base percentage (OBP) is against left-handed pitchers (LHP) with runners in scoring position (RISP) (I can hear the fans saying...yes, of course we need to know that...while the "I hate baseball -- it's so boring" crowd is still trying to figure out what an on base percentage is)?

So, if there's anyone left reading, here's a new stat question for you. How often does a player spur his team to victory by hitting a ball more than once with a single swing of the bat?

The answer is "probably more often than we would expect"...but it happened last Monday night and was caught on camera. Hunter Pence, an outfielder for the 2012 San Francisco Giants earned his $10+ million salary by hitting a double during a 5-run third inning to help the Giants win the 7th game of the National League Championship Series and the National League Pennant.

You can read about what happened here (they went on to win the final game 9-0), but the most interesting part of the play (at least to me) was that Pence's bat hit the ball three times during his swing sending the ball bouncing into the outfield for a double. Watch...
  1. the bat hits the ball squarely at the bottom of the black part of the bat
  2. the bat breaks, hitting the ball in the middle of the black part of the bat
  3. the bat continues forward hitting the ball at the end of the bat.

Notice that Pence doesn't stop his swing when he hits the ball the first time...or even the second time. This, for you young players out there, is called "following through on your swing" and it's what makes good hitters good. In fact...you can see he continues his swing way beyond the point of impact. The multiple hits on the bat only happens because Pence's first hit is straight and clean. If he had hit the ball on the top of the bat (or the bottom of the ball) it would have popped up or gone foul and never hit the bat a second time. So, it's a good swing and a clean hit with straight follow through. Great form!

Ted Williams once said, "I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball." There might be those who disagree with him, of course, however, I think hitting a baseball three times with one swing of the bat ranks right up there!


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, October 22, 2012

Reflections on Anger and Frustration

I'm still teaching

Two and a half years ago I decided to retire. I wrote in this blog that I was ready,
I have mixed feelings about retiring. I got into education by accident, 34 years ago. I never really chose to be a teacher...more like teaching chose me...
I haven't retired, though, not really. I'm still working with students doing exactly the same sort of things I did when I was "a teacher" only now I do it as a volunteer.

I am still affiliated with the teachers association (aka "union") that I was a member of for so many years, as the blog/webmaster. My blogging responsibilities have grown, though, and now I've added a second teachers association, two retired teachers associations, and a community group.

I am still writing about the failures of our society which politicians, pundits and policy makers blame on teachers, public schools, and the children who are struggling in poverty.

Data is King

Some of the teachers I'm working for are anxious that their students pass the IREAD-3, Indiana's punitive reading test for third graders which, if failed, requires that students repeat third grade. I understand their concern...but I don't take the 'need to pass the test' into the volunteer room with me. I approach the students like we did when teaching was education and not data collection. I work with the student, try to problem solve the difficulties he/she is having, and find ways for him/her to overcome those difficulties. We don't talk about skills needed to pass the test. We don't work on "test taking strategies." We read.

My former colleagues do the same, as much as they're allowed to, that is. They work hard, focus on helping their students learn and only focus on the tests because they're forced to by the local, state and federal educational bureaucracies.

School has changed since I stepped into my first classroom as a teacher in the Spring of 1976. It's changed from a place of learning and growing to a place where data is king and the needs of children are secondary.

Teaching has changed, too. When I started teaching I entered a "noble profession" honored by society and parents. True...there were some who were spouting the "those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" philosophy, but they were less noticed...fewer...less respected. The fault with public education (because, for as long as I can remember public education has always had "a fault") was with ineffective parents, lazy students, and only rarely with teachers.

In the 21st century, however, teachers take the brunt of criticism, as if the majority of the nation's 3+ million public school teachers were incompetent and ineffective...as if we caused the dot.com meltdown, the burst of the housing bubble, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the recession of 2008 (Remember Enron, anyone?).

Hate the teachers unions -- hate the teachers

Why is teacher and teacher union hating so popular? The KDP/Gallup Poll on the public's attitudes towards public schools still shows that parents with children in school are overwhelmingly optimistic and positive about their children's schools and teachers. It's only "those other schools" across the country which they claim are poor (see Where are all the Bad Teachers?)

Corey Robin claims that people hate teachers unions because they hate teachers. They hate teachers because taxes pay teachers...and they hate taxes.
...many kids and their parents held teachers in contempt. Teachers were not figures of respect or gratitude; they were incompetents and buffoons. Don’t get me wrong: like most people, I had some terrible teachers. Incompetents and worse. But like most people I’ve also had some terrible friends, some terrible co-workers, some terrible neighbors, some terrible doctors, some terrible editors, and some terrible professors. Mediocrity, I’d venture, is a more or less universal feature of the human condition. But among the upper classes it’s treated as the exclusive preserve of teachers...

...Every year there’d be a fight in the town over the school budget, and every year a vocal contingent would scream that the town was wasting money (and raising needless taxes) on its schools. Especially on the teachers (I never heard anyone criticize the sports teams). People hate paying taxes for any number of reasons...but there was a special pique reserved for what the taxes were mostly going to: the teachers.

So that’s where and how I grew up. And when I hear journalists and commentators, many of them fresh out of the Ivy League, talking to teachers as if they were servants trying to steal the family silver, that’s what I hear. It’s an ugly tone from ugly people.
Matthew Swope, an ex-marine, ex-police officer turned teacher claims,
I...went back to a school...took a $24k per year pay cut...saddled myself with 20 years of student loans. I spend in excess of $1000 a year of my own money to provide equipment and student supplies so I can do my job effectively. I take every student in my class, whether it was the year I am doing inclusion teaching or the year I have the AP kids. I turn none away nor should I. As an American citizen, It’s my task and privilege to educate everyone who comes through my school’s door. I make progress with every student but that progress cannot always be measured by a standardized test. I feed some of my kids. I’ve bought them clothing. I’ve visited them in juvie, hospitals, hospices and at the graveside. I’ve been praised, cussed, disrespected, honored and ignored by parents and administration...

I am not responsible for what happens outside of my 45 minutes a day with your child. I only accept that responsibility for my own two children...Please help me do my job for your child and community. Stop demonizing me, my profession, and my fellow teachers. See through the deceptive manipulation of the reform movement and high stakes standardized testing. Don’t buy into the propaganda about teachers unions and how evil they are. Don’t listen to political hacks like [Michelle] Rhee who are only in it for the opportunities to gut the profession and privatize it for the wealthy to plunder profits from.

Let me teach.
I think the public (as a whole) hates teachers and teachers unions because they've been misled by politicians, pundits and policy makers. They encourage the public to hate teachers and teachers unions for some very important (to them) reasons.
  • they want to privatize public education for whatever reason...their own personal gain or they actually think that everything is better when privatized
  • they don't want to take responsibility for the huge level of poverty in America (nearly 25% of our children live in poverty...the most of almost any advanced nation in the world)
  • they don't want people to notice that they are in the pockets of the corporate power of America; the ones who actually drove the country, and the world, to the brink of economic depression
  • they want votes and blaming teachers and their unions for all the ills of society is easy. Divide and conquer. "Look at those teachers with their easy jobs, long vacations, and huge pensions. Why do they deserve it and not you?"
Teachers are angry and frustrated at being accused of ruining society, which of course, they haven't done. Citizens in the 99% are angry and frustrated at being left out of the "American Dream." Millionaires and billionaires -- those who have the economic and political power -- don't want to give it up so they pit us against each other.

More on this...

Why Do We Become Teachers?
Why did you become a teacher? Off the top of their heads, some teachers might respond with an enthusiastic “because I love kids!” or, “my subject is awesome!” or “I grew up in a family of teachers and just always wanted to be one!” But what really drives us into this profession? We don’t know when we first enter teaching how relentless the days will be, how endless the meetings are, and how much we will have to always work. But we also don’t know how incredibly invigorating it will be to participate in the stimulation of young minds, to introduce students to the challenge of critical thinking, and to constantly learn more every day in the process of planning. But it is a lot of work. Statistics tell us that most teachers leave within 3-5 years of their first year. So why do I keep trying to get back into the profession?
Remember when reading was fun - Mrs. Mimi
Matching books to readers remains essential, but first comes instilling the love, the joy of reading. How many students are discouraged as readers because they are told that must only read books at a certain level and only at that level? Is that truly choice? Yes, it is key to make sure our students are working with books that will provide them with success while challenging them in appropriate ways, but we must remember that leveling is a TOOL not a RULE. Lately, I wonder if, like most things that start out as a good idea in schools, we have abused and over-used this tool.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 Video Medley #1

Merit Pay and Value Added Measures,
Diane Ravitch on PBS, Finland's Success,
Saving Baby Elephants.


Merit Pay, Teacher Pay, and Value Added Measures

Value added measures sound fair, but they are not. In this video Prof. Daniel Willingham describes six problems (some conceptual, some statistical) with evaluating teachers by comparing student achievement in the fall and in the spring.


Diane Ravitch: Overheard with Evan Smith

Ravitch: ...every woman who becomes pregnant [needs] good prenatal care...
Smith: That's not really an education issue, but...
Ravitch: Yes it is! It is an education issue because when women have babies born to them and they have not had decent prenatal care, very often those children are born with developmental delays, cognitive deficiencies. They then become special education [students] and we pay hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for each one of those children for the rest of their schooling when we could have just provided them prenatal care in the beginning and make sure that the children were born healthy.

Smith: Not every kid shows up at the school door equal...
Ravitch: We have 25% of our kids living in poverty. The schools didn't cause that. There is no other advanced nation in the world that has 25% of its kids living in poverty....what the tests are is a mirror of socio-economic disparity. The rich kids...are overpopulated at the top and the poor kids...at the bottom...all these tests have the same disparity. Poor kids at the bottom, rich kids at the top.
Smith: If you want to fix education you might do well fixing the poverty problem.

Watch Diane Ravitch on PBS. See more from KLRU.
HIGH ACHIEVING COUNTRIES: FINLAND Finland's education success
  • In Finland success is not measured by winners and losers...learning is more like a team game.
  • Giving pupils extra help is standard practice.
  • Children here do the least number of class hours per week in the developed world and get the best results.
  • There's no such thing as a failing Finnish school.
  • Parents know they have a key role to play, too.
  • ...relaxed schools...free from politicians...where nobody gets left behind.
NEUROSCIENCE and LEARNING Dr. Janet Zadina - Using Brain Research To Energize School Reform Why do we expect all students to be at the same place at the same time? How does stress affect learning -- particularly in students who live in poverty or under stress? What does the effect of stress have on learning? Understanding what's happening to your students' brains can help. A neuroscientist who survived Hurricane Katrina examines some ways to improve learning. OFF TOPIC: ELEPHANTS ATE team rescue another baby elephant from a well
Amboseli Trust for Elephants Amboseli National Park - Kenya
"We rescued this young eight months old calf early this week. Luckily the report came in early in the morning and we were able to get there quick before the mother was forced to leave by herders arriving to water their cattle. It was a happy ending as we were able to reunite the calf with her mother, Zombe."
Stop the Testing Insanity!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ravitch in Chicago

Here's a video of Diane Ravitch speaking at the City Club in Chicago. Her presentation begins at about 4:30 in the video.

Some Highlights:
Family income is the single most reliable predictor of test scores...
The reformers like to say that the test scores are the only measure of success or failure...
High stakes tests incentivizes schools to narrow the curriculum; to drop the arts, to eliminate recess, to drop history, to drop civics, to narrow the time available for anything other than what's tested because the life of the school depends on getting those scores up...
It incentivizes teaching to the test. It used to be, years ago, that teachers would say to one another as a matter of professional ethics, "You never teach to the test. You just don't do it. Good teachers don't teach to the test." And now, you must teach to the test. Districts and states are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on testing and on test-prep materials to help teachers teach to the test which is professionally unethical. It incentivizes cheating. We saw a major, major cheating scandal in Atlanta, Georgia...a major cheating scandal in Washington D. C...and now, just the other day, a major cheating scandal in El Paso, Texas where the superintendent literally pushed kids out of school in order to keep the scores of the district up. We've seen gaming the system. We've seen states lowering the passing mark so that more kids could be declared proficient...
I started teaching in the era when it was unprofessional to teach to the test. Now, The Indiana DOE has even gone on record publically saying that teachers in our state should teach to the test...just one more way we misuse standardized tests...
The misuse of testing falls particularly hard on the poorest kids...tests do not close the achievement gap. Tests reflect the gaps...so the more you test, the more you prove what you already know...you have to remember, tests are not the purpose of education. Developing young people's character is the purpose of education.
Reformers have a silver bullet...charter schools.* Now there are good charter schools, there are great charter schools, there are terrible charter schools. And study after study shows that when the children are the same the results are no different. There are some charter schools that succeed by skimming. They take the best kids in the poor communities. They push out the English language learners. They push out the kids with disabilities...many of the charters that have high scores have a high attrition rate. And overall, the charters are more segregated than public schools...
...the goal is privatization...Public education is an essential democratic institution. We cannot allow it to be handed over to entrepreneurs. If we want to improve academic achievement we cannot afford to ignore the effects of poverty on children.
"Reformers" frequently put down their critics for not giving any concrete solutions. Dr. Ravitch mentioned that her new book will be full of solutions.
What should we be doing?
  • We should really as a country invest in prenatal care for all the women who need it...
  • We also know from research about the importance of early childhood education...the achievement gap begins before the first day of kindergarten.
  • We should...[reduce] class size, particularly in the early elementary grades.
  • We should have, wherever it is needed, a nurse, a social worker, in every school. This is just common sense.
  • We should have arts and physical education in every school.
  • There should be after school activities for children.
  • In schools for the rich, the children get taught. In schools for the poor, the children get tested...we should reduce our reliance on high stakes testing. It does not help education. It harms education.
  • We should address the problem of racial segregation. Our society has turned its back on this issue.
Dr. Ravitch also mentioned the teacher evaluation system in use in Montgomery County, Maryland -- the Peer Assistance and Review program. The New York Times called it
a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve.
...worth looking into.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then.


Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, October 15, 2012

2012 Medley #20

Letters to the President, Corporate Charters,
Indiana Election, Testing.


There are only two more days. Please consider contributing your thoughts about NCLB and Race to the Top in the form of a letter to the President. Instructions can be found at the end of this blog entry.

A Powerful, Important Letter to President Obama

This was posted on Diane Ravitch's blog. It's a portion of a letter to the President from Nancy Carlsson-Paige. Click the link above to read the entire, excellent letter.
...Children of the wealthy and privileged such as your daughters attend elite private or public schools. Children of less affluent families who are relatively able students with better informed parents increasingly find their way to charter schools, many of which have access to private funding and greater resources. But the third tier is left for the majority of poor or working-class children who must attend underfunded, under resourced, mostly inner-city public schools.

...Please look closely at how your education policies are impacting children, especially our youngest and poorest children. Your focus on competition and market-driven reforms is resulting in greater inequities in our education system and an undermining of our public schools. A vibrant, flourishing public education system is the cornerstone of our democracy. Please be willing to re-examine and reverse the direction of your approach to education. Please don’t be the President who abandoned our nation’s children and our public education system.
Other teachers have posted their letters on Dr. Ravitch's blog as well. Many clearly express the frustration and anger felt by teachers at the destruction of public schools. The love these teachers have for their profession, and for their students comes through in their words. Their disappointment in the President's policies is vividly described. The frustration they feel as they have to sit by and watch public education being sold to the highest bidder is powerful and tragic. Some of them, with mixed feelings like I had, have left teaching behind. They've been defeated by the "reformers" who have used their billions to buy public education and America's children.

Here are some selections from Dr. Ravitch's blog...

Your Race to the Top program is misguided and destructive. You have said that you do not believe in “teaching to the test.” Yet your Race to the Top program has had the effect of forcing schools and teachers to spend an inordinate amount of time doing just that, much to the detriment of student learning and motivation. Schools should be collegial communities of learning, where principals support teachers, teachers support each other, and all support students’ understanding, motivation and personal growth. Instead, they have become anxiety-ridden places where principals and teachers exhaust themselves in an effort to produce the data that will prevent their schools from being labeled “failing.” And authentic educational experts assert that the data being pursued is flawed at best. Yet it is driving the educational process all across the nation. Race to the Top has become an abusive program that undermines the efforts of educators to do their real jobs of fostering critical thinking and creativity in their students.

When I listen to you speak it is clear to me that you have no clue about what it’s like to be a teacher, nor do you care. I believe “education” to politicians is one of those terms that is used to either fuel the anti-union fire or to appease the parents across the US who care about their child’s education. If you truly respected teachers and wanted the best for public school children, you would have actual teachers with many years of experience in the field advise you or work with you to develop policy...

I want you to know, that due to your policies and those of Andrew Cuomo, I have switched my party affiliation to Independent, after being a lifelong Democrat. I did NOT contribute to your campaign, nor will I. I have WITHDRAWN my PAC money from VOTE COPE and have urged my colleagues to do the same. NYSUT and AFT (my parent unions) might be supporting you, but the average teacher is NOT. I have called on Mr. Iannuzzi to represent MY feelings. I’m sure I’m one of thousands of NYSUT members calling for the same. I am an education activist and will continue to rally teachers across the US. Your silence has been deafening but perhaps it is what we needed to wake us up. To shake us into action and to fight for this thing that we all love-public education.

One year ago I moved 4,382 miles so I could teach. This December I will move back 4,382 miles and not be returning to the teaching profession. I cannot bring myself to return to a system that is so utterly broken and using our students as fodder in political games. Continuing Bush era policies couched under a new name (Race To The Top) hasn’t made them work better or improved learning conditions for millions of American students. By failing to offer a truly new vision of education policy, your administration has failed to grow hope where it has been sorely eroding; public schools...

Making mistakes, I tell my students, is how we learn. I also teach them, Mr. President, that it takes courage and vulnerability to admit our mistakes and as long as we don’t keep making them we’re doing pretty well.

Creating Race To The Top was a mistake and continues to leach the public out of public schools. It is time to take responsibility and own the mistake.

It takes intuition, compassion, willingness to go the extra mile for a kid and a geeky personality that gets a tremendous amount of satisfaction out of helping someone learn. This job is hard, has always been hard, no matter how smart you are. This is a job in which you could always do better. There is no upper limit, just daily reflection on how you could improve next time. Satisfaction comes in small doses, and sometimes in big ones when you see the success of your former students. We do not need to beat up teachers. Nothing at all good will come of it, but several very bad things will.


Today's lesson: charters do not outperform unionized schools

"Reformers" claim that charter schools perform higher than regular public schools. Some "reformers" blame teachers unions...other just blame teachers. Studies show that charters, as a whole, do not perform better than regular public schools.
Besides, the chief barometers for measuring good versus bad are standardized tests that bear little relation to anything of value that anyone would eventually do in a real profession, or in life. Plus, students can improve their scores by taking special classes, should their parents be able to afford them. Which is another way of saying that higher scores can be bought—like just about everything else in Chicago.

The Great Charter Charade
  • Charter schools, public schools, and private schools all have essentially indistinguishable ranges of student outcomes. Research shows there is nothing about the way school is packaged among the three that produces uniquely superior outcomes.
  • Charter schools do, however, appear to have a powerful segregating effect that is detrimental to the goals of universal public education.
  • Charter schools are allowed autonomy simultaneously with public schools losing autonomy; and the outcomes remain about the same.
  • Charter school advocacy exposes the failure of promoting solutions without identifying problems.
  • No compelling or substantial evidence exists showing that any form of competition creates better educational outcomes for the choices offered (such as charter schools) or the traditional schools. Isolated positive and negative data exist regarding the impact of competition.
  • Charter school outliers receive disproportionate media coverage, almost no media scrutiny, and nearly no follow up that confirms we simply do not have evidence of "miracle" schools. Comparisons of apples to apples, scalability, and long-term data are almost never included in media support of charter schools.


Indiana is a red state. It went for Obama in 2008, the first time in over 40 years a Democrat carried the state in a presidential race. The state legislature is dominated by Republicans, both the House and the Senate. The US Congressional delegation is as well. There is a slight chance that the Democrat will win former Senator Richard Lugar's Senate seat, however most polls indicate that it's too close to call at this time. The new Governor will likely be a Republican in 2012.

Tony Bennett is the Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction. His challenger, Glenda Ritz, is counting on a "grass-roots" movement to unseat the powerful, pro-privatization, big-money backed Bennett.

Tony Bennett Selling the Big Lie about Need for Hoosier Teacher Accountability
In sum, much of the turmoil surrounding the need for greater teacher accountability is because Bennett has said teachers need improvement and endorsed his own statement saying so...

...Indiana, it is time for a change. How can Bennett think he is putting students first by continually putting teachers last? A teacher’s working conditions are the student’s learning conditions. Bennett’s denigration of the Hoosier teacher results in the denigration of all public education students.

It will take years to fix the damage Bennett has wreaked on Hoosier schools. Four more years of Tony Bennett’s policies and the damage may well be irreversible.

Time to halt Bennett’s ambitions
While enthusiastically promoting vouchers and charter schools, Bennett has expanded state control of local schools and exercised authority to hand them over to for-profit operators. Through the rule-making process, he has weakened the licensing requirements for teachers and administrators and now champions the national Common Core academic standards – less rigorous than Indiana’s highly acclaimed standards – and a new test to replace ISTEP+.

Also troubling are his ties with out-of-state donors and corporate interests. He spent much of 2011 traveling the country, often at the expense of groups looking to privatize schools. His campaign donors include wealthy school-choice proponents. Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton gave him $200,000, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $40,000. Some of the largest have come from groups backed by hedge-fund managers. Bennett’s campaign chest is nearing $1.5 million. Compare that to the $39,000 Reed had raised at the end of her 2004 re-election contest. Ritz has raised about $100,000 to compete against Bennett.


Schooling Beyond Measure

Alfie Kohn reminds us that assessment hasn't always been limited to standardized tests. Measurement does not equal assessment. Assessment does not equal measurement. Teachers who are experienced and well trained "child watchers" are also necessary. Qualitative, rather than quantitative, assessment is what's needed in today's classrooms.
The reason that standardized test results tend to be so uninformative and misleading is closely related to the reason that these tests are so popular in the first place. That, in turn, is connected to our attraction to -- and the trouble with -- grades, rubrics, and various practices commended to us as “data-based.”

...In education, the question “How do we assess (kids, teachers, schools)?” has morphed over the years into “How do we measure…?” We’ve forgotten that assessment doesn’t require measurement -- and, moreover, that the most valuable forms of assessment are often qualitative (say, a narrative account of a child’s progress by an observant teacher who knows the child well) rather than quantitative (a standardized test score). Yet the former may well be brushed aside in favor of the latter -- by people who don’t even bother to ask what was on the test. It’s a number, so we sit up and pay attention. Over time, the more data we accumulate, the less we really know.

*References to charters generally imply corporate, for-profit charter schools. Quotes from other writers reflect their opinions only. See It's Important to Look in a Mirror Now and Then



Diane Ravitch and Anthony Cody, have teamed up with a plan to flood the White House email with letters in support of -- and against the privatization of -- public education. While President Obama's reelection is in no way guaranteed, he is, of the two main party candidates, the one who is most likely to listen. Sample letters and suggestions are on Diane Ravitch's blog.

There is no guarantee that the President will listen, but it can't hurt to let him know that there are many people who are unhappy with the corporate privatization of America's public education system.

For more information about participating, see Instructions for the October 17 Campaign for Our Public Schools.


Stop the Testing Insanity!