"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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Quotes

This is the 151st and last post of 2013 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it's pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.


2013 Medley #2
"I'll say it until the day I die: I am proud to be an American public school teacher. I am proud of the great kids of this country. I am proud to be a part of a system that produces such fine young men and women." -- Jersey Jazzman


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Feb.2013
If we privatize public schools now, then the public oversight will be lost and our descendents will have a hard time recovering it. Public schools don't belong to the parents of children attending them today. They belong to us all...everyone who has ever attended...everyone who has ever paid taxes...everyone who has ever been a part of the community.
Teachers' Low Job Satisfaction - Let the Bashing Continue
"The American teacher stands on the front lines of poverty and inequity that our fellow Americans refuse to acknowledge, on the front lines of the real social condition of our nation–not the advertised one–and we stand together. When we look over our shoulders, there’s no one there backing us up. The rest of the army is off pretending there is no fight to be had here, no excuses to be made, no hardships to decry, no supply lines to worry about, that things in American society are just hunky-dory outside of the fact that the teachers just don’t care enough..." -- John Kuhn, Superintendent of superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District, Perrin, Texas


A Superintendent's Voice
"...History will recognize that the epithets they applied to your schools said more about leaders who refused to confront child poverty than the teachers who tried valiantly to overcome it. History will recognize that teachers in these bleak years stood in desperate need of public policy help that never came. Advocacy for hurting children was ripped from our lips with a shush of "no excuses." These hateful labels should be hung around the necks of those who have allowed inequitable school funding to persist for decades, those who refuse to tend to the basic needs of our poorest children so that they may come to school ready to learn." -- John Kuhn


Can You Buy Your Way to a Better Education?
"People agree with everything I say," Kozol continued. "They say, 'Yes, it is unfair they don't get as much per pupil as our children.' Then they say, 'Tell me one thing. Can you really solve this kind of problem by throwing money at it?' And I say, 'You mean, can you really buy your way to a better education? It seems to work for your children.'" -- Jonathan Kozol


Myths Taken as Reality
When something is repeated often enough it becomes "common knowledge" even if it's not completely true. "Reformers" and others who have the destruction of America's public education system as part of their agenda, repeat the myth that "American schools are failing" over and over again. They have done that so often that it's accepted as truth. Unfortunately, it's wrong.
Thank a Teacher
"Bail out the bankers and bankrupt the school teachers -- we will still teach...I will never follow the lead of those who exclude the kids who need education the most so that my precious scores will rise. I will never line up with those whose idea of reform is the subtle segregation of the poor and desperate. I want no part of the American caste system." -- John Kuhn


This Just In: New Data Confirms Old Data
"When people have said 'poverty is no excuse,' my response has been, 'Yes, you're right. Poverty is not an excuse. It's a condition. It's like gravity. Gravity affects everything you do on the planet. So does poverty.'" -- Gerald Bracey
An Open Reply to President Obama
...even though you, Mr. President, have said that we have too much testing, your Race to the Top program requires teachers to be evaluated using student test scores. Standardized tests used to evaluate student achievement were not made to evaluated teaching and learning. I don't know if you learned anything about tests and measurements when you were in law school, but if you did you would know that tests should only be used for that for which they were developed. If you develop a test for use as a measure of student achievement, then that's what it should be used for...and only that.


Reading Aloud: Still the Most Important Part of Reading Instruction
"The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children...It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades." -- from Becoming a Nation of Readers, quoted in The Read Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease
The Schools America's Children Deserve
Money doesn't solve all the problems by itself. It must be spent wisely. One of the things about the "increase" in school funding in a lot of places, or the "huge amount of the state budget directed at public education" in some states is that the money is being spent on testing and test prep materials. The students don't get the full benefits of increased revenues...but the testing industry does.
Talking Education: Educate Yourself
Our teachers are drowning in a sea of standards and testing, scripted curricula and increasing class sizes, accusations and blame. Is it any wonder that many of them have neither the time nor the energy to fight back against the billions of dollars worth of insults and abuse hurled against them as a profession?


Make a Positive Impact on Students
Teachers touch the future by relating to their students. Our students will learn from us and remember us for the kind of people we are, not for the homework we assign, the lectures we give, or the standardized tests we administer. Content knowledge, pedagogy and assessment are important, of course, but in order to make a positive impact on students' lives, which is after all the main reason we are in this profession, teachers must build positive relationships with them.
Fighting Myths with Facts
Myth #4) Poverty is just an excuse.

False: Poverty matters.

"Thousands of studies have linked poverty to academic achievement. The relationship is every bit as strong as the connection between cigarettes and cancer." —- David Berliner, Our Impoverished View of Ed. Reform, Aug. 2005
Test Scores: Punishing Teachers
The myth of the bad teacher resonates with the general public in part because nearly everyone has been to school and has seen teachers teach. Everyone remembers a "bad" teacher -- often defined as "a teacher my parents or I didn't like" (This is not to deny that "bad" teachers exist, but many, if not most, are weeded out in the first 5 years of their career where nearly 50% quit or are "counseled" out). The memories of their childhood and/or young adulthood in school leads people to believe that teaching is simply providing information and being nice to children. The problem with this is that the memories are distorted by the fact that they are childhood memories complete with the lack of judgment and experience that comes with childhood.


Share the Responsibility
You can't make children learn just by raising or changing "standards," increasing test cut scores, belittling and de-professionalizing teachers, while at the same time ignoring out-of-school factors. Spending millions on test-prep, test administration, and test result analysis is not investing in education. No amount of testing, and union bashing is going to help students who come to school hungry, sick, cold, terrified, and/or homeless.
Retention: Punishing Children
The fact is that as a nation, we don't really care about student achievement. We care about test scores. If we really cared about student achievement we wouldn't be closing schools whose students are struggling. We wouldn't be evaluating teachers using test scores and punishing those teachers who work with the most difficult to educate students. We wouldn't be rewarding "successful" schools with more funding, and we wouldn't be replacing experienced educators with trainees.


Duncan Shows His Ignorance - Again
Arne Duncan, remember, has no experience in educating children. His stint as CEO of Chicago Public Schools was focused on closing public schools and opening privately operated charters. Duncan's college degree is in Sociology, the study of human social behavior, not education. His college and previous professional experience is in basketball. His closest brush with actual teaching was watching his mother tutor students. He never taught in a public school. He never even attended a public school.

It's therefore understandable that he knows nothing -- absolutely nothing -- about the process of teaching and about what goes on in the classrooms of America's public schools. He apparently doesn't know that teachers are constantly evaluating their students. Standardized tests are, of course, not the only way that student evaluation occurs (and by this statement I am making an unfounded assumption that standardized tests do, indeed, evaluate student learning). Teachers give tests, quizzes and homework, lead discussions and observe student behavior and work...and in doing so, gain an understanding of a student's progress.
Growing Poverty Affects Schools
"Every dollar that fattens the educational industrial complex–not only the testing industry and the inexperienced, ill-trained Teach for America but the corporations now collecting hundreds of millions of dollars to tell schools what to do–is a dollar diverted from what should be done now to address directly the pressing needs of our nation’s most vulnerable children, whose numbers continue to escalate, demonstrating the utter futility and self-serving nature of what is currently and deceptively called 'reform.'” -- Diane Ravitch


2013 Medley #23
"The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students." -- Eduardo Porter, New York Times
Ken Robinson Nails it!
"Education doesn't go on in the committee rooms of our legislative buildings. It happens in classrooms and schools. And the people who do it are the teachers and the students and if you remove their discretion it stops working..." -- Sir Ken Robinson
Yet Another National Shame
"I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make 'Adequate Yearly Progress'? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read 'exemplary' in the suburbs and 'unacceptable' in the slums?" -- John Kuhn


2013 Medley #27
Politicians, policy makers and pundits claim that it's the schools and teachers who are to blame for low achievement. They do this in order to redirect the blame away from themselves and the inadequate safety nets provided for people living in poverty, the loss of jobs, and the inability of our leaders to deal with the effects of poverty.

The facts that nearly 25% of the nation's children live in poverty and that approximately 50% of all school children are poor, are ignored when talking about academic achievement even though the correlation is clear.

President Bush II referred to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" when he was pushing for passage of No Child Left Behind. What we have now is the "hard bigotry of neglect and denial" towards our children who live in poverty.

2013 Medley #28
The failure of policy makers to deal with the side-effects of poverty (low birthweight of infants, drug and alcohol abuse, toxicity in cities, lack of health care, food insecurity, violence, lack of mental health services, mobility and absenteeism of children in school, lack of high quality preschools, lack of summer programs for children) is the number one problem affecting education in America.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Medley #28

Poverty, Testing, Teachers' Voices,
The 1%'s War on Public Education


Indiana school grades align with poverty

Is anyone surprised by this? We've known for decades that test scores mirror socio-economic level. The failure of policy makers to deal with the side-effects of poverty (low birthweight of infants, drug and alcohol abuse, toxicity in cities, lack of health care, food insecurity, violence, lack of mental health services, mobility and absenteeism of children in school, lack of high quality preschools, lack of summer programs for children) is the number one problem affecting education in America.
The 2013 grades, approved recently by the Indiana State Board of Education, track pretty closely with the percentage of children who qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches. The fewer poor kids, the higher the grades, and vice versa.


The invisibility of teachers

Teachers, let your voices be heard. Write letters to your legislators, to the governor and the president. Vote Education! Your students are counting on you.
Invisibility and hibernation represent well the education profession because educators are more and more rendered invisible and as a result have hibernated, literally in their rooms (shut the door and teach) and figuratively in their muted voices (teachers are to be objective, neutral, apolitical).While the main elements of the current education reform movement—expanding charter schools, implementing and testing Common Core (CC), Teach for America (TFA), value-added methods (VAM) of teacher evaluation, merit pay—have created a significant amount of political and public debate (debates that by their very nature lend credibility to all of these reform policies), absent from that debate has been an essential message about the field of education: All of these education reform policies suggest that no field of education even exists.

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Teachers

The profession of teaching has changed since I walked into my first classroom in 1976. Educators need to speak up to correct the misconceptions (see the comments after this article) and to speak truth about what's really happening in America's public schools.
But in the teaching profession, the pressure of No Child Left Behind has left its mark. The onus of student success has fallen on the teacher, and the student’s own motivation is our responsibility also. Cultural differences, economic differences and parental style differences are the teacher’s responsibility to fix. Too many low scores on the dreaded STAAR test can spell the end of your career — an end to your livelihood. An end to being able to support a family.

Instead of the usual chatter during teacher training, there is now only the silence of shell-shocked professionals. While the presenter reads us another PowerPoint, we stare vacantly at one another and wonder when we can actually get into our classroom to synthesize our learning into lesson plans and activities.


The Waltons' War On Public Education: Heirs Of Wal-Mart Founder Spend Millions Supporting School Vouchers

The Waltons are among the main supporters of vouchers which rob public schools of needed funds.

These are the same people who run the corporation at which workers need public assistance to survive. In other words, through our tax money we are subsidizing their payroll.

Together the members of the Walton family have more wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans. "...it is now the case that the Walton family wealth is as large as the bottom 48.8 million families in the wealth distribution (constituting 41.5 percent of all American families) combined."

So, shop at Wal-mart if you choose, but be aware that your money is going to subsidize people who are doing damage to America's public schools.
Things haven’t worked out real well in Wisconsin, where studies showed students in Milwaukee and Racine (the only districts currently eligible for vouchers) scored lower than their public school peers in both reading and math in 2012.

Louisiana’s voucher program is a mess too. Some schools there aren’t properly tracking the state funds they receive, including a Christian school that used voucher money to pay its sponsoring church for bus and facilities use.

And in Washington, D.C., federal tax dollars are being used to support a school that uses the “Suggestopedia” method of teaching (the underlying theory is that students can learn by tapping into the power of suggestion).

No matter how much money the Waltons, the DeVoses or anyone else spends in support of vouchers, the educational outcomes from those programs aren’t going to change. Vouchers just don’t work.

How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars

The Waltons...Bill Gates...Eli Broad (and here )...Mark Zuckerberg...Jeff Bezos (and here)...the list goes on. Fabulously wealthy people are working overtime to destroy America's public education.
The U.S is ratcheting up a societal-level war on public education. At issue is whether we are going to make it better — build it into something estimable, a social asset that undergirds a noble and prosperous society — or whether we’re going to tear it down so that private investors can get their hands on the almost $1 trillion we spend on it every year. The tear-it-down option is the civilian equivalent of Ben Tre, but on a vastly larger scale and with incomparably greater stakes: we must destroy public education in order to save it. It’s still early in the game, but right now the momentum is with the wreckers because that’s where the money is. Whether they succeed or not will be up to you.

Obama to Name NewSchools' Ted Mitchell to Top Higher Ed Post

Just what we need...another "reformer" in the Obama Department of Education.
In an important move for the higher education community, it looks like Ted Mitchell, the CEO of the NewSchools Venture Fund, will become the under secretary nominee at the U.S. Department of Education, several sources told Politics K-12. He would replace Martha Kanter as the top higher education official at the department and likely become a member of Secretary Arne Duncan's inner circle of advisers. The position requires Senate confirmation. UPDATE: The nomination was made official on Tuesday, Oct. 29.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


2013 Medley #27

Poverty, Testing, Charters, Class Size, 
Readaloud, Retention in Grade


Education Isn't Broken, Our Country Is

Politicians, policy makers and pundits claim that it's the schools and teachers who are to blame for low achievement. They do this in order to redirect the blame away from themselves and the inadequate safety nets provided for people living in poverty, the loss of jobs, and the inability of our leaders to deal with the effects of poverty.

The facts that nearly 25% of the nation's children live in poverty and that approximately 50% of all school children are poor, are ignored when talking about academic achievement even though the correlation is clear.

President Bush II referred to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" when he was pushing for passage of No Child Left Behind. What we have now is the "hard bigotry of neglect and denial" towards our children who live in poverty.
Story after story, blog post after blog post, one op-ed after another cite the importance of an educated workforce in order to maintain or regain our rightful place atop the global economy. Politicians suggest that poverty would be eradicated if only our schools were more like those in Finland. If we don't fix education -- politicians and pundits proclaim -- we are in for big trouble. News flash: We're already in big trouble.

We don't have an education problem in America. We have a social disease. It is as though we are starving our children to death and trying to fix it by investing in more scales so we can weigh them constantly.

Charter schools, Common Core, voucher programs, online education, Teach for America... None of these initiatives, whether financially-motivated opportunism or sincere effort at reform, will make a dent in our educational malaise, because the assumptions are wrong.

As is often the case in our "blame the victim" culture, it is generally believed that improving education will cure poverty. This invites the inference that poor education created poverty. But it is simply not true. Poverty created poor education...

What are Tests Really Measuring?: When Achievement isn't Achievement

The testing industry has taken over the curriculum of America's schools. In order to generate scores states have focused on standardized tests to the detriment of student learning. Testing has replaced learning as the goal of education.

See also Roll Back Test Misuse and Overuse at FairTest.
Our educational world has been turned over wholesale to testing, despite ample evidence that test scores are many things (markers of privilege, markers of genetic predispositions, markers of teaching-to-the-test), among the least of which are student achievement and teacher quality.

If we don’t have the political will to de-test our schools, the evidence is clear that the stakes associated with testing must be greatly lessened and that the amount of time spent teaching to the tests and administering the tests must also [be] reduced dramatically.

Even when test scores go up, some cognitive abilities don’t
In a study of nearly 1,400 eighth-graders in the Boston public school system, the researchers found that some schools have successfully raised their students’ scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). However, those schools had almost no effect on students’ performance on tests of fluid intelligence skills, such as working memory capacity, speed of information processing, and ability to solve abstract problems.


Charters vs. Public Schools on NAEP 2013

Charters are no better than regular public schools at educating children.
Nicole Blalock, who holds a Ph.D. and is a postdoctoral scholar at Arizona State University, compared the performance of charter schools and public schools on NAEP 2013.

She acknowledged the problems inherent in comparing the two sectors. Both are diverse, and demographic controls are not available.

Nonetheless, she identified some states where charter performance is better, and some where public school performance is better.

The result, as you might expect: Mixed.

Bottom line: charters are no panacea.

Indiana public schools ‘out-grow’ charter, private schools
School-choice advocates argue that children will get a better education if they can leave public schools for charter or private schools, especially in urban areas. The Indiana Growth Model tells a different story.

It suggests public schools, overall, are performing better than charter schools or the private schools — most of them religious schools – that are getting state vouchers.


Does Retention Help Struggling Learners?

Indiana's fourth grade scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) went up. Could this be due to the fact that more students were retained in 3rd grade as punishment for not passing "the test?" Did retention actually help any students or just provide for higher scores on the fourth grade NAEP scores?
CONCLUSION: No. Evidence showing a benefit of retention is virtually non-existent whereas evidence showing no effect or harm is plentiful.
Politicians shouldn't be the ones who decide whether or not a child is promoted to the next grade. State laws mandating retention when students fail a test are inappropriate. The people who know the child best -- the child's parents and teachers -- should work together to make decisions on promotion.
Although some test score gains in Florida are held up as a model, any such gains were achieved by much more than just accountability reforms. Florida also has universal preschool, class-size limits and guaranteed high-quality literacy coaches, among other well-financed innovations...

There is no published research testing the effectiveness of retention in Florida. There is one study finding that retention plus being assigned to a highly effective teacher and receiving 90 minutes of additional literacy instruction per day is more effective than being promoted with no such guaranteed, high-dosage interventions...

Although proponents of retention might take the Florida case in isolation as suggesting that "retention done well" benefits the ost struggling students, the existing evidence suggests instead that "promotion done well" may provide equal or greater benefits in the short-term, and is very likely to be a less harmful strategy in the long run.

The Third-Grade Crackdown Club

During my 35 years as a professional educator (as opposed to now as a volunteer) I taught primary students in the classroom. Following that I diagnosed learning problems and worked as a reading specialist. I attended or ran dozens of meetings about students and the question of retention often came up. In every case the argument for retention was based on one of three "reasons."
  1. The child needed more time to grow. Unfortunately, research has shown that retention doesn't usually provide for that since most retentions place a child back in the same or similar class with few other interventions to address the actual problem.
  2. The child needed to be punished for not achieving. No one actually spoke those words aloud, of course, but the reason was there. He (and it was usually a "he") "didn't do his work" in his current grade and therefore received grades of F.
  3. We have to do something. When we don't know what to do we often do things that are inappropriate.
The research on retention is clear. Allowing legislators -- most of whom have never set foot in a classroom and don't know the first thing about teaching children -- to dictate terms of retention in grade for 8 and 9 year olds is at best, foolish. At worst it constitutes child abuse.
...retaining students is costly-- an average of $10,000 per retention--and the money would be better spent on tutoring. Oddly, in a time when economic efficiency is righteously pursued in public education, this doesn't seem to be a factor. Lawmakers and commenters seem bent on penalties, but it's hard to put a finger on who deserves blame when kids aren't reading fluently by the third grade...

As a middle school teacher who's attended dozens of retention meetings, this is my observation: most retentions of older children aren't based on inherent academic weakness. They happen because kids have checked out, stopped trying. Failing a grade is used as both threat and punishment. Although it's rare, there are cases where retention is the right decision. But that call should be made by teachers and parents, not at the statehouse.


On Teacher Workload and Pretending

Class size matters most for students who need the most attention. We continue to provide fewer resources to those students who need more.
Students from safe environments who know how to learn, are motivated to learn, and already have background knowledge in the subject at hand are significantly more manageable in class. But even when you have all of those factors working in your favor, an increase in class size still portends a massive increase in work when it comes to parent communication, assessment, and tutoring - all tasks that fall outside of the school day, and therefore often slip the minds of those in this "debate" who don't work in schools.

For teachers who work in schools that serve unsafe communities with students from less educated families who don't see education as a vital component for their future, increase in class size carries an even heavier burden. It means that you have to be extraordinarily skilled at classroom management, be willing to devote a tremendous amount of time planning your classes, and have the competencies and social-emotional characteristics that allow underprivileged students to trust you and learn from you.


The Importance of Reading Aloud to Your Students

Read aloud to your students of all ages. Read aloud to your children. For more information see http://readaloud.org and http://www.trelease-on-reading.com
Studies show that reading aloud, especially to younger children, is crucial in the formation of language acquisition, preparation of pre-emergent reading skills and brain development. Studies also show that reading aloud to older children and teens allows them the application needed to cross between their own world and the world of the book that is being read. It allows them to assimilate and synthesize information. It allows them to strengthen their verbal communication skills when discussing the book with other students and teachers. It allows them the opportunity to think outside the box and share those thoughts with others who may not have seen it that same way. It allows for an increase in newly acquired vocabulary usage, which is crucial to college prep exams and basic college courses.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Wish List: 2014

My Public Education wish list for 2014 in no particular order. This is a work in progress, so I will likely come back and add more.
I wish that...

...Diane Ravitch or Linda Darling Hammond would replace Arne Duncan as US Secretary of Education. If not one of them, then someone who knows something about public education and has actual education experience in a public school.

...all schools offered a well rounded curriculum which included music, PE, and art, as well as core subjects.

...Bill Gates (and other billionaires) would stop "helping" public education unless he wants to donate money with no strings attached. Here are some suggestions of places where his billions might help: Detroit Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, Philadelphia Public Schools.

...politicians would restrict public funding (taxes) to public schools answerable to publicly elected school boards.

...schools needing more funding would get it rather than being punished for their level of unemployment, homelessness or poverty.

...schools in poor communities in many cases spend thousands of dollars less per student than those in more affluent areas do. As a result, poor schools can’t compete for the best teachers and principals, buy the best technology and support rigorous academic and enrichment programs.

“Ten million students in America’s poorest communities – and millions more African-American, Latino, Asian-American, Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native students who are not poor – are having their lives unjustly and irredeemably blighted by a system that consigns them to the lowest-performing teachers, the most run-down facilities, and academic expectations and opportunities considerably lower than what we expect of other students,” according to the report.
...legislators would LISTEN TO TEACHERS instead of just political donors who want to make a buck in education.

...politicians and policy makers would accept their responsibility for poverty in America.

Poverty is the most relevant factor in determining the outcome of a person's educational journey, and in Finland, the child poverty rate is about 5%. In the U.S., the rate is almost five times as high.
...millionaires, billionaires and corporations would be willing to pay their full share taxes. As George Lakoff wrote,
Taxation is paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America. If you join a country club or a community center, you pay fees. Why? You did not build the swimming pool. You have to maintain it. You did not build the basketball court. Someone has to clean it. You may not use the squash court, but you still have to pay your dues. Otherwise it won't be maintained and will fall apart. People who avoid taxes, like corporations that move to Bermuda, are not paying their dues to their country. It is patriotic to be a taxpayer. It is traitorous to desert your country and not pay your dues.
...tests in general and standardized tests in particular be used only for diagnosis of student learning needs. The testing insanity needs to end.

...anyone wishing to teach in America's public schools be required to have a full four year degree in education and in their subject area. Elementary teachers should choose a subject area as an area of concentration.

...children were allowed time to play.

...all American public schools housed a well-stocked library run by certified librarians.

...teachers taught half days and spent the other half of their day planning and in collaboration with their colleagues. More school days per year (240 for example) would give students the number of hours of education they needed. This would reflect the truth of how many hours American teachers actually work and, with competitive salaries, would compensate them for all the time spent grading and planning. (Salaries comparable to Civil engineers - $84,140, Psychologists - $86,380 or software developers - $90,470, for example.)

...American legislators understood that citizens are willing to pay more for public education.

...every child would have someone read to them for at least 15 minutes every day.

...public schools could return to developmentally appropriate curricula especially in early childhood education.

...the President would quit supporting so-called school turnarounds and start supporting the schools and their teachers instead.

...teacher evaluations would not be based on student test scores. Instead, Linda Darling-Hammond has some good ideas...

...states and local communities, in collaboration with their schools, had more input into curriculum decisions.

...there was a national class size limit of 18 in early childhood, 20 in elementary grades and 22 in every other grade and class.

...the leadership of America's teachers unions would dump their affiliation with "reformers" and get back to supporting teachers and students.

...instead of retention in grade schools would insist on intense intervention for struggling students.

...school systems all around the nation would adopt the ideas listed in The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve including, but not limited to,
Smaller Class Sizes
Robust Wrap-around Services
Age-appropriate Early Childhood Education
Quality School Facilities
Inclusion of Parents in Children's Education
Full Funding
...Americans recognized that public education is a public good, like parks, libraries, roads, fire departments and police services. (12/23/13)


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - December, 2013

Someone commented to me that the "pictures" I include on these monthly "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words" posts usually have plenty of words with them. I agree...so this should more correctly be titled "A Picture Enhances a Thousand Words." Be that as it may, the title is not important...it's the content.

Here are some graphic images from around the net -- plus my own 2 cents worth of comments. Click on any image to see the full sized version.

Our Society's Soul

Most enlightened nations in the world direct more of their education resources towards the children who need them the most. In the US we provide more for those who already have more. It's not "rewarding success" like "reformers" would have us believe. It's rewarding wealth with more wealth and punishing the poor for being poor.

President Bush II referred to the "soft bigotry of low expectations" when he lit the fire to destroy the nation's public education system through No Child Left Behind. The fact is that
  • No Child Left Behind
  • Race to the Top
  • state and federal support of charters
  • state voucher schemes
  • evaluation of teachers using test scores which reflect family income more than actual achievement
  • state rules reducing requirements for educators
  • municipal and state actions to lay off veteran teachers and hire TFA temps
  • grading schools based on test scores

...all reflect the hard bigotry of neglect and denial towards the nearly 25% of our nation's children who live in poverty. What does this say about our society's soul?


The priority of our nation is not education. Politicians, pundits and policy makers may bluster about "failing schools," and "bad teachers," but our nation's real obsession is with getting money now, not the future of our nation based on the success of our children.

We've lost sight of our goal of securing "...the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..." Instead we've developed into a people focused only on ourselves and the immediate gratification of our desire for material things. In the long term, this focus will leave our Posterity searching for wisdom in a world of greed. We have become a nation of short-sighted, selfish people.

Thought Without Learning is Perilous

"Don't label a school as failing one day and then throw your hands up and walk away from it the next. Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of a year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test...You didn't devote your lives to testing. You devoted it to teaching, and teaching is what you should be allowed to do." -- Candidate Barack Obama, Summer 2007.

A Handsaw vs. Sequoia

Bill Gates, the Koch Brothers, Eli Broad, the Walton Family...It sometimes feels like those of us trying to cut down the tree of "reform" are using a handsaw against a sequoia. Perseverance is key, however. We have to keep the goal in mind -- fully funded, equitable, free and appropriate public education for all of America's children.

Standing up to Money

Fighting money from Gates, Broad, Walton, et al, is difficult, but not futile. We can't give up!

Encouragement Matters

Not everyone learns at the same rate. Standardized tests, by definition, rank students based on the assumption that every child will learn exactly the same thing at the same time.

Sick Days are Hard Work

Teaching is such a personal job...that's why even the best teachers have trouble making substitute plans. Just writing down page numbers, listing lesson plans, or setting a schedule isn't sufficient to replace the relationships a good teacher builds with her students.

Play is Children's Work

Play is the young child's most important medium for learning (and it works for older children and adults, too!). Kindergarteners shouldn't be practicing filling in bubbles on test prep worksheets. For more on the importance of play see Play and Children's Learning from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

2013 Medley #26

Poverty, Testing and Privatization


To the editor

Stephen Krashen repeats...and repeats...and repeats...facts about the relationship between poverty and test scores. his first sentence is telling..."The media has learned nothing..."
Published in San Francisco Chronicle 12/03/2013

The media has learned nothing from the extensive research done on international test scores in the last decade ( U.S. Students Get Stuck in Middle of the Pack on OECD Test, December 3). Study after study shows that the strongest predictor of high scores on these tests is poverty, a conclusion that is backed by a number of other studies showing that students who live in poverty have poor diets, insufficent health care, and lack access to books, all of which contribute to low academic performance. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world.

In contrast, no studies show that increased testing, increased rigor, and a more controlled curriculum help school achievement. The solution, in other words, is not the common core, which Susan Ohanian has described as "a radical untried curriculum overhaul and . . . nonstop national testing." The solution is to protect our youngsters from the impact of poverty.

— Stephen Krashen

Daniel Wydo Disaggregates PISA Scores by Income

Diane Ravitch posted this analysis of the PISA scores. American students who attend schools with low poverty score near the top of the world, as Krashen has repeatedly said. The problem is poverty, not America's public schools.
Science literacy
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=556 [1st in the world]

Finland – ranked 4th in the world
Reading literacy
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=559 [1st in the world]

Finland – ranked 5th in the world
Mathematics literacy
U.S. schools with less than 10% free/reduced – score=540 [5th in the world]

FInland – ranked 11th in the world

A poverty, not education, crisis in U.S.: Column

USA Today, not the usual source for pro-public education information, tells us what we've known for decades. Poverty matters and it's the national "crisis" not education.
Poverty is the most relevant factor in determining the outcome of a person's educational journey, and in Finland, the child poverty rate is about 5%. In the U.S., the rate is almost five times as high. Unlike us, the Finns calculate the rate of poverty after accounting for government aid, but the differences remain substantial...

Here's one data point worth remembering. When you measure the test scores of American schools with a child poverty rate of less than 20%, our kids not only outperform the Finns, they outperform every nation in the world...

Two new studies on education and poverty were reported in Education Week in October. The first from the Southern Education Foundation reveals that nearly half of all U.S. public school students live in poverty. Poverty has risen in every state since President Clinton left office.

The second study, conducted by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, reveals that poverty — not race, ethnicity, national origin or where you attend school — is the best predictor of college attendance and completion.

America’s Shameful Poverty Stats

It's understandable that Americans would want to deny such an embarrassing situation. The United States has one of the highest levels of child-poverty in the developed world. That we would allow almost one fourth of our children to live with food insecurity, poor or no health care, poorly funded education facilities, and homelessness, is shameful and it's a reflection of our national morality that it continues.

If a foreign power were to subject one fourth of our children to this treatment we would go to war...yet the mostly wealthy, mostly white men who make up our congress (google: millionaires in congress), both Democrats and Republicans, generally agree that public schools are to blame for low achievement and do nothing to change the status-quo which favors their own mostly wealthy, mostly white children.
That our poverty numbers have risen to such a high level exposes the fact that as a society, we are choosing to ignore the needs of tens of millions of Americans—as we have done for much of the period since the War on Poverty went out of fashion and the harsher politics of Reaganism set in. These ignored Americans include kids like the ones I interviewed in Los Angeles, forced to choose between applying to college or dropping out of school and getting dead-end jobs to support parents who had lost not only their jobs but their homes, too. They include the elderly lady I met outside Dallas, who was too poor to retire but too sick to take the bus to her work at Walmart. Her solution? She paid her neighbors gas money to drive her to a job that paid so little she routinely ate either 88-cent TV dinners or went to bed hungry. They include, too, the residents of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward I met in 2011, who, six years after Hurricane Katrina, were still living in appalling conditions in a largely obliterated community...

Does money affect children’s outcomes?

Think money doesn't matter in public education? The article below discusses exactly why money matters...and why poverty matters. This was written in the UK. While the child poverty rate in the UK is only 12.1 compared to America's 23.1 it's still high. The research can help us as well...if we listen.

Key points
  • This review identified 34 studies with strong evidence about whether money affects children’s outcomes. Children in lower-income families have worse cognitive, social-behavioural and health outcomes in part because they are poorer, not just because low income is correlated with other household and parental characteristics.
  • The evidence was strongest for cognitive development and school achievement, followed by social-behavioural development. Income also affects outcomes indirectly impacting on children, including maternal mental health, parenting and home environment.
  • The impact of increases in income on cognitive development appears roughly comparable with that of spending similar amounts on school or early education programmes. Increasing household income could substantially reduce differences in schooling outcomes, while also improving wider aspects of children’s well-being.
  • A given sum of money makes significantly more difference to children in low-income than better-off households (but still helps better-off children).
  • Money in early childhood makes most difference to cognitive outcomes, while in later childhood and adolescence it makes more difference to social and behavioural outcomes.
  • Longer-term poverty affects children’s outcomes more severely than short-term poverty.
  • Although many studies were from the US, the mechanisms through which money appears to affect children’s outcomes, including parental stress, anxiety and material deprivation, are equally relevant in the UK.

U.S. Rare in Spending More Money on the Education of Rich Children

Adding Insult to Injury

We spend less money on our students who need more. It seems that, where our children are concerned the US is a "leader" in exactly the wrong areas. We lead the developed world in child poverty as well as low education funding for our poor students.
“The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students,” writes Eduardo Porter for the New York Times. This is because a large percentage of funding for public education comes not from the federal government, but from the property taxes collected in each school district. Rich kids, then, get more lavish educations...

This makes us one of the three countries in the OECD — with Israel and Turkey — in which the student/teacher ratio is less favorable in poor neighborhoods compared to rich ones. The other 31 nations in the survey invest equally in each student or disproportionately in poor students. This is not meritocracy and it is certainly not equal opportunity.


The Great Voucher Fraud

The voucher plans in places like Milwaukee, Louisiana, Indiana, Washington DC and elsewhere are designed to divert public funds to private schools.
Fifty years after the March on Washington, D.C., ardent voucher pro­ponents such as Jindal would have Americans believe that they are something like modern Martin Luther King Jrs., seeking enhanced opportunities for all. They claim that parents should be able to use taxpayer money to educate their children as they see fit rather than being locked into certain schools, and they say taxpayer-funded “scholarships” – a euphemism for vouchers – are the only way for low-income families to escape failing public schools.

But the reality is far different. Despite the best efforts of “school choice” advocates to spin the effectiveness of vouchers, decades of accumulated evidence paints a different story: Vouchers do not improve educational outcomes, they take money away from struggling public schools, they’re cash cows for institutions offering questionable education, they aid students already attending private institutions and they ignore the needs of special-education students.

“It’s Not a School Problem” -- Diane Ravitch

Privatizers want to close public schools and replace them with voucher accepting private schools. When some charter schools "failed" in Fort Wayne, Indiana they were reopened as private schools so that they wouldn't be subject to closure for lack of success. Grading schools using an A-F measure isn't meant to improve education. It's meant to blame poverty on public education.
...that’s the point of, for an example, the A to F grading system. No school ever got better because it was given a D or F grade—that’s a way of setting them up for closure. And we’ve never, I mean, I look back as a historian, and we’ve never in the history of American education had a movement that was designed to close huge numbers of schools.

Schools For Scandal: New Government Report Another Blow Against D.C.’s Voucher Plan

A recent report by the General Accounting Office has shown that the Washington D.C. voucher plan does exactly what voucher plans were designed to do...
...an investigation last year by The Washington Post found that the amount of the vouchers, $8,000-$12,000, is not enough to pay the annual tuition at the exclusive private schools in the region – most of which don’t want voucher students anyway.

As a result, vouchers in D.C. are largely subsidizing Catholic schools or private schools of questionable quality that sprang up to take advantage of the program....

It turns out that the program simply lacks any serious oversight.

The GAO report found that the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, a non-profit group that is supposed to run the program, “does not effectively oversee participating schools, has not implemented effective policies and procedures, and is unable to efficiently manage day-to-day program operations.”

...Let this be a lesson to all of us: Voucher proponents talk about “choice” and “options” and merely wanting to try a new approach to see if it works. The D.C. fiasco has shot down all of those arguments. There are precious few choices, and the option to admit students always remains with the people who operate private schools, not the parents.

Still the plan lurches along. Maybe it’s time to admit that the forces driving this scheme are hatred of public education (and indeed government-sponsored programs generally), a desire to undermine church-state separation by propping up flagging Catholic schools and a data-proof belief among anti-government ideologues that a private system is always better than a public one.

The ugly truth about “school choice”

Click the link above to read the details behind each point...
1. It’s not about racial justice and equal opportunity.
2. It’s not about making public education stronger.
3. It’s not about supporting teachers.
4. It’s not about giving parents what they want.
5. It’s not a bipartisan, secular movement.

All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Musical Interlude

December 16th
Beethoven's 243rd birthday.

I found a YouTube site with color coded analyses of all of Beethoven's nine symphonies. For all you music nerds, I've included the entire Ninth below.

For the rest of you...listen to a few minutes at each of the following locations...

15:50, 27:10, 41:40 (Song of Joy theme begins), 1:00:25

From Wikipedia, about the first performance of Beethoven's Ninth (Choral) Symphony.
Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre's Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him. However, two years earlier, Umlauf had watched as the composer's attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio ended in disaster. So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost totally deaf Beethoven. At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos. He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.

There are a number of anecdotes about the premiere of the Ninth. Based on the testimony of the participants, there are suggestions that it was under-rehearsed (there were only two full rehearsals) and rather scrappy in execution. On the other hand, the premiere was a great success. In any case, Beethoven was not to blame, as violinist Joseph Böhm recalled: "Beethoven directed the piece himself; that is, he stood before the lectern and gesticulated furiously. At times he rose, at other times he shrank to the ground, he moved as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself and sing for the whole chorus. All the musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing".

When the audience applauded—testimonies differ over whether at the end of the scherzo or the whole symphony—Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting. Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience's cheers and applause. According to one witness, "the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them." The whole audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven, who could not hear the applause, could at least see the ovation gestures. [Emphasis added]


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Beware the Foxes


The Indiana Legislature has a supermajority of Republicans so it's not surprising that they are opposed in almost everything they do by the Democratic minority.

Republicans have favored, and Democrats have opposed, almost all the public education legislation of the last few years which favors privatizers, opposes public schools and their teachers, and channels money away from public education through for-profit charters and vouchers:
  • the end of collective bargaining and due process for teachers
  • the increase in funding for charter schools (which, for the umpteenth time do not perform better than regular public schools)
  • the voucher plan and the expansion of the voucher plan which transfers public funds to private and parochial schools
  • the evaluation of teachers using test scores
In addition, the requirements for becoming an educator (teacher or administrator) in Indiana have now been lowered so that an education background is not necessary.

Is this a case of the Republican Philosophy of public education versus the Democratic Philosophy of public education? Only partially -- the exception being vouchers -- because in other places, the Democrats lead the fight for so-called "reform" of public education. To see the bipartisanship in the corporate quest to destroy America's public education system we here in Indiana have only to look next door to our neighbors in Illinois...

Illinois Education Reform: Gov. Pat Quinn Signs Bill Into Law
[The bill] makes teacher tenure and layoffs contingent on student achievement and makes it easier for school districts to dismiss tenured teachers deemed ineffective based on student performance.
The phrases "student achievement" and "student performance" mean test scores, of course.
Quinn was joined by legislators, a school marching band and other stakeholders such as Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Jonah Edelman, head of reform group Stand for Children and Jo Anderson, senior aide to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who lauded the bill. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- who will benefit directly from the law by gaining the power to extend his city's school day -- also attended.
Aside from the sell-out IFT president, Jonah Edelman is notorious as an anti-public education "reformer" as readers of Diane Ravitch's blog are aware. Arne Duncan (and by association, his representative) is no friend of public education. And you can read here to see what Rahm Emanuel has done to the children of Chicago...

The Democratic supermajority in the Illinois legislature and the Democratic governor have supported much of the same "education reform" plan as the Republican supermajority and Republican governor in Indiana. The Democrats in Illinois have gone further in one area, though...they have attacked the teachers' pension fund.

The Arrogance of Sen. Biss: Cuts teacher pensions and offers workshop for finding retirement security
The sheer arrogance of Illinois Sen.Biss (D) glares from his latest emailed newsletter. After he cut teacher pensions, he offers a workshop for finding “retirement security” – via his buddies.
See blogs by brothers Fred and Mike Klonsky for more about the teacher pension fight in Illinois.


Someone once said that our two major party politicians are like members of the canine family. Republicans, he said, are wolves: it's clear where they stand on the issues. Their disdain for public education is open and vicious. On the other hand, the Democrats are like foxes: they smile at you to make you think they're your friends – and then, when you least expect it, they devour you.

I'm not suggesting to those who are fighting the privatization of public education that they ignore what their local politicians have done when election time rolls around next November. However, we must remember that no matter what the partisan label a politician has next to his or her name the campaign contributions from the Broads, Gates, Waltons and other school "reformers" will go a long way towards corporatizing politicians of both parties.

The corporate takeover of public education is bipartisan. Work for the defeat of the "wolves," but beware of the "foxes."



Democrats" Against Public Education"
The nation’s third largest school district, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has a total of 681 schools. The announcement follows the plans to shut 26 public schools in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and 15 public schools in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC. Detroit, Michigan has closed 130 schools since 2005, including 40 in 2010, and has plans to close another 28.

These closings are part of Obama’s administration’s program of “school reform,” which is aimed at victimizing teachers, shutting down public schools and privatizing education through the expansion of charter schools.
What’s Wrong with Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)?

DFER Candidate for Governor, Democrat John Gregg

Hedge Fund Operative Gordon Hendry Joins Indiana State Board of Education
Gordon Hendry may, in fact, be on the state board to carry out the Democrats for Education Reform’s hedge fund agenda for education, since word on the street is the DFER is seeking to buy out the Indiana Democratic Party. There have been signs. In April of 2013, in order to help hide campaign funding, Larry Grau—Hoosier waterboy for the New York hedge fund managers--filed the papers for an Indiana PAC where the hedge fund money will start rolling. Since the hedge fund managers know that Hoosiers may kick the Republicans to the curb in the upcoming elections, they see this as the perfect opportunity to move in for the kill. It would be wise for voters to start monitoring the campaign donations of their local Democrats now.
Voices: What Indiana’s ed reform upset means
Interestingly enough, at the same time Ritz’s teacher-backed insurgency prevailed, a Democrats for Education Reform-backed reform slate took strong control of the Indianapolis Public Schools board.
Voters embrace education reform locally, but not in state race
Change within the Indianapolis Public Schools board is coming faster than expected even for The Mind Trust, the locally based education reform group pushing for a sweeping transformation of the district.

Tuesday’s election saw three reform-minded IPS board candidates—Gayle Cosby, Caitlin Hannon and Sam Odle—win their races by sizeable margins. Another candidate, reform-minded incumbent Diane Arnold, ran unopposed.

Combine the four with like-minded board members Samantha Adair-White and Annie Roof, who won in 2010, and The Mind Trust could have allies in six of the seven seats.



All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!