"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

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!


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