"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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Teach Your Children

Think about the meaning of the word and phrase "Thanksgiving" and "Holiday Spirit." Click on the music controller below...then watch the videos.

Black Friday 2013

Black Friday 2012

Black Friday 2011

Black Friday 2010

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Yet Another National Shame

The US isn't very good at taking care of its children. Consider these shameful facts...
  1. The United States has a child poverty rate of nearly 25% -- one of the highest among the world's affluent or "developed" nations.
  2. The percentage of low income students in America's public schools has passed 50% in 17 states and is more than 40% in over 30 states.

Now we can add a third mark of shame to our national report card. The National Center for Homeless Education of the US Department of Education reports that the number of homeless students attending preschool through grade 12 during the 2011-2012 school year (1,168,354) was the highest ever and represented a 10 percent increase over the 2010-2011 school year.

All these facts have an effect on student achievement.

Diana Bowman, director of the National Center for Homeless Education said,
When a child experiences such prolonged hunger and fatigue, he or she isn’t able to come to school ready to learn, as basic needs aren’t being met.
Instead of blaming schools and teachers...instead of closing high poverty schools...instead of cutting funding for public education...we should hold policy-makers and politicians accountable. As John Kuhn wrote...

Stop labeling teachers, label the lawmakers
The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

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?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

Teachers are surrounded by armchair quarterbacks who won’t lift a finger to help, only to point. Congressmen, come down out of those bleachers and strive with us against the pernicious ravages of poverty. We need more from you than blame. America’s education problem is actually a poverty problem.

If labels fix schools, let us use labels to fix our congresses! Let lawmakers show the courage of a teacher! Hold hands with us and let us march together into the teeth of this blame machine you have built. Let us hold this congressman up against that congressman and compare them just as we compare our schools. Congressmen, do not fear this accountability you have given us. Like us, you will learn to love it.
When will Americans reach a level of shame that they will insist that accountability be shared?

Not much more needs to be said.


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, November 26, 2013

2013 Medley #24: Privatization of Public Education

Privatization of Public Education

Diane Ravitch in Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools wrote:
...federal programs have fueled and accelerated the privatization movement. The constant barrage of bad news, based on unrealistic goals, was used to justify hostile takeovers, profiteering, mass layoffs, and a death sentence for too many schools, in an effort to convince the public that this was the only way to address low achievement. The stories of escalating failure acted as a sort of "shock doctrine" that make almost any remedy seem palatable. The promoters of privatization promised miracles that would shame snake-oil salesmen. Their remedies, they claimed, would produce a dramatic increase in test scores and graduation rates. The media, always suckers for "miracle" claims, retailed stories of charter schools or so-called turnaround schools where everyone succeeded, without bothering to examine even the most obvious evidence suggesting exclusionary policies, expulsions, or attrition rates.


The Dirty Water on Mike Pence's Fascist CECI

Not content with owning the Governor's office, both houses of the state legislature, and the state school board, the privatizers in Indiana are bent on taking over the only state-wide office supporting public education -- the State Department of Education. To that end, Indiana Governor Mike Pence created a duplicate department of education -- a "department of privatizing education," if you will -- called the Center for Education and Career Innovation. The CECI is led by chief privatizer, Claire Fiddian-Green. The graphic below shows some of the public money being wasted on a duplicate, pro-privatizing, shadow Department of Education.Doug Martin follows the money...
Without having received one single vote from the Hoosier public, Claire-Fiddian Green will be making $120,000 in taxpayer money a year as Pence’s main CECI helmsperson*. Fiddian-Green was former Democratic mayor Bart Peterson’s princess at the school privatizing Mind Trust and carried the water for the group's CEO David Harris, the tie-wearing $200,000-a-year paid corporate slackie. Fiddian-Green comes from mega-drug giant Eli Lilly, which calls the shots on Indiana education policy from behind the scenes. After leaving the pseudo-liberal Teach for American-promoting Mind Trust, Fiddian-Green went on to run the Indiana Charter School Board, where she had a killer privatizing team with member Todd Huston, who gets a paycheck from those selling Bill Gates' Common Core. Now a legislator, Huston left his job as Tony Bennett’s chief of staff to land a gig with Cisco Systems, then turned around and sold Bennett video-conferencing equipment from Cisco which was never used, some of it never even delivered. It cost Indiana taxpayers $1.7 million.


Criticism abounds in Ohio charter school funding

Ohio legislators aren't even trying to hide their group favoritism for charter schools. Charters get more money...
Next year, for example, charter schools could get an estimated $7,392 per student in state aid while traditional public school districts will get only $3,895 per student on average, according to draft funding The Enquirer obtained from the Senate this week.

Reality Check: Ohio Charter Schools Are Exempt From Over 150 State Education Laws

...and they aren't required to follow the same requirements. Parents who think they're getting the same education as in public schools should think again. Here are just two of over 150 state laws from which charter schools are exempt...
3313.60: School course of study requirement

A sentence or two can’t quite do this one justice, and you really need to click the link and read the law to get the full effect, but a summary of the law reads like this: [A school district] shall prescribe a curriculum for all schools under its control … in any such curriculum there shall be included the study of the following subjects: The language arts, including reading, writing, spelling, oral and written English, and literature; Geography, the history of the United States and of Ohio, and national, state, and local government in the United States; Mathematics; Natural science, including instruction in the conservation of natural resources; Health education; Physical education; The fine arts, including music; First aid.

Charter schools? EXEMPT

3313.602(B) and (C) - Requirement that the “principles of democracy and ethics” be emphasized and discussed in appropriate parts of the curriculum and to encourage a school’s employees to be cognizant of their roles to instill in students “ethical principles and democratic ideals”.

This might explain why charter school proponents are able to, with a straight face and clean conscience, continue spreading the lie about them being “more accountable” than public schools — no need for those pesky ethical principles.

Charter Schools? EXEMPT [Emphasis Added]


Financial Report: Charter Schools Strangling Public Schools in Michigan

Not to be outdone by its Midwest neighbors, Michigan is also giving away tax-payer's money to privatizers.
But as overall enrollment was falling, charter schools were growing: They had 120,000 students in Michigan at the end of the last school year and the number of schools rose by 8 percent for this school year, to 298.

Michigan’s Electablog reports: “This is no accident. It’s a plan that’s been in place by those who wish to diminish the ability of teachers to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions and to redirect tax dollars earmarked for educating our children into the coffers of for-profit charter school companies.”
In short, this is the culmination of efforts to privatize public education, remove any rights of teachers, and replace public education with profit-making businesses.


Why ALEC Fabricated Public School Failures (and Why We're Not Surprised)

It's a simple formula which is being repeated all over the country -- Buy politicians, who blame schools and teachers for low achievement caused by high poverty and, in turn, throw public money to their donors. It doesn't really matter what the locals want (think: Choice?).
Governor Bob McDonnell received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from virtual learning company K12 Inc., and promptly requested the introduction of ALEC model legislation to expand virtual education in 2010.

It passed in the Virginia legislature, and K12 Inc. swung into action in Carroll County, one of the state’s most impoverished counties, to maximize the public money it would receive. Even when the school board voted to close K12 Inc. down because it did worse than traditional schools on 20 out of 22 measures, Virginia legislators with ALEC connections enacted a law in 2012 requiring high school students to take an online course to graduate.

CMD Exposes America’s “Highest Paid Government Workers”

Do any of the teachers in your community make $19 million a year paid for by the taxpayers?
K12 Inc. is a publicly-traded (NYSE: LRN) for-profit, online education company headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. On its own and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), K12 Inc. has pushed a national agenda to replace bricks and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with "virtual" ones. As K12 Inc. notes in its most recent 10-K, "most of (its) revenues depend on per pupil funding amounts and payment formulas" from government contracts for virtual public charter schools and "blended schools" (combining online with traditional instruction), among other products.

In 2013, K12 Inc. took in $848.2 million from its business, with $730.8 million coming from its "managed public schools" and thus the U.S. taxpayer (10-K, p. 69). In other words, over 86 percent of the company’s profits are due to taxpayers.

What does K12 Inc. do with all that money? According to new data, it does not educate children very well (only 27.7 percent of K12 Inc. online schools met state standards in 2010-2011, compared to 52 percent of public schools), but it does pay its CEO very well. From 2009-2013, Packard made over $19 million in compensation, and compensation to his top executives skyrocketed 96 percent in 2013. Thank you taxpayers!

How Privatizers Are Killing Our Schools

America is the land of child poverty. We lead the so-called "developed" world in this unenviable statistic. We should be ashamed, but, instead, we allow, and even encourage, politicians paid by privatizers to take taxpayer's money from public education and drop it in the pockets of edupreneurs. High achieving nations provide more resources for children with greater needs. We do just the opposite.
The privatizers clamor for vouchers and charters to improve education, but such methods generally don't serve those who need it most. According to a Center on Education Policy report, private schools serve 12 percent of the nation's elementary and secondary students, but only one percent of disabled students. Forty-three percent of public school students are from minority families, compared to 24% of private school students.

Meanwhile, as teachers continue to get blamed, the Census Bureau tells us that an incredible 38 percent of black children live in poverty.

Outsourcing America Exposed

Are private schools better than public schools? New book says ‘no’

The lie continues. Privatizers push charter schools and vouchers and claim that children will get a better education. Meanwhile for-profit companies benefit, not children and the choice belongs to the privatizers, not the parents.
Greater school choice for families and greater autonomy for schools leads to greater academic outcomes, right? Maybe not. Using two nationally representative datasets, we recently conducted one of the most comprehensive studies ever performed of school type and achievement in mathematics—a subject widely held to be the best measure of in-school learning. We analyzed instruction and performance for over 300,000 elementary and middle school students in 15,108 public, charter, and private schools. What we found surprised us. Students in public schools actually outperform those in private schools.

How to Improve Our Schools

Here's an article from a science blogger...proof that the truth is starting to spread.
But this also requires more than education. It also requires that we make sure those kids are well-fed from infancy forward, which means expanding our food aid system from the paltry food stamp program we currently have (and which is now being cut even more). A child who is undernourished in their early years is a child who is much more likely to fail educationally once they get to school. Poor children start off by giving wealthier kids a huge head start, guaranteeing inequality at every stage later.


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!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Time to Dump Duncan


Teach for America started out as a kind of Peace Corps for Education where high achieving college graduates volunteered to spend two years in hard to staff schools. Lately, though, it's become a source of temporary workers replacing laid off veterans in order to save money for cash-strapped school systems.
No longer are TFA corps members only filling spots that would otherwise go to long-term subs. In some districts TFAers are replacing veteran teachers who have been let go.
With school systems turning to Teach for America for cheap labor, and states passing anti-teacher legislation such as curtailing teachers' collective bargaining rights (Indiana, Wisconsin), and due process rights (North Carolina, Indiana), is it any wonder that the prospect of a teacher shortage has the nation's public schools worried?


Hoping to encourage young people to become teachers the US Department of Education has partnered with
the Advertising Council, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance, Teach for America, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and several other educational groups
…to help recruit new career teachers.

Yes, this is Arne Duncan's US Department of Education…the same Arne Duncan who cheered when an entire school teaching staff was fired.

It's the same Arne Duncan whose "Race to the Top" coerces states to use test scores for teacher evaluations, promote charter schools, excessive testing, testing and still more testing…none of which actually improve education or help public school teachers teach better.

Arne Duncan doesn't believe that advanced training in education matters. Perhaps he realizes that if advanced degrees in education meant something then his own qualifications would be suspect. He has no educational training. He has never taught in a public school...has never worked in a public school...has never even attended a public school. It's in his best interest to imply that teachers with education and advanced education degrees don't know any more than he does with his bachelors degree in Sociology.

Campaign Seeks to Recruit Top Students to Become Teachers
According to the Department of Education, as many as one million teachers could retire in the next four to six years. Hoping to attract young, high-achieving college graduates — particularly in science, math and engineering — the campaign, called Teach, uses video spots and radio announcements that portray teaching as creative, invigorating and meaningful, and as compelling a career as medicine, acting or engineering.
Does Duncan actually understand what he and his Department have done to the teaching profession? His policies have contributed to the declining morale among the nation's public school teachers. The creativity is being phased out. That which makes teaching meaningful is disappearing. Teaching to tests does not make for a compelling career. To try to convince young people that working conditions are anything but incredibly difficult and demoralizing is disingenuous.
Citing the model of several countries where students regularly score high on standardized tests, Mr. Duncan said that they pull their teaching corps from the top tenth to top third of college graduates. He said he wanted to persuade “very, very high caliber college graduates to come and work in our nation’s schools.”
Does Duncan expect us to believe that after supporting union busting state legislatures and governors, and eagerly participating in the privatization of America's public schools, the Department of Education is now working hard to get more young people to become public school teachers?

I agree we need to recruit good young people to become life-long educators, but we also need to support public schools instead of closing them. We need to support public school educators instead of blaming them for not solving the country's economic and poverty problems. Pardon me for being cynical, but I don't believe that Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education are serious about improving schools or providing a professional education force.

Arne Duncan's tenure as Secretary of Education has been a disaster for America's Public Schools. He needs to be fired.

See also:

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!


Ken Robinson Nails it!

Ken Robinson's TED talks are popular with teachers…this one shows why!
"What all the high performing systems in the world do is, currently what is not evident, sadly, across the systems in America…One is this -- they individualize teaching and learning…the second is that they attribute a very high status to the teaching profession…investing in professional development is not a cost, it's an investment…and the third is, they devolve responsibility to the school level for getting the job done."
"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..."


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!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Education is More Than Bubbling the Right Answer

Arthur Costa is Emeritus Professor at California State University, and Author of “Habits of Mind”. Drawing on his substantial experience as an educator, Costa speaks about self-evaluation, the construction of meaning and preparing for the 21st and 22nd centuries (see http://vimeo.com/7794243).

On Finding the Right Answer:
One of the biggest mind-shifts that educators have to engage in is to give up the notion of simply knowing right answers. And you know, today, in education, we're very right-answer oriented…knowing right answers is very important, but we also need to teach students how to behave when they don't know an answer.

...preparing students for the dilemma, the enigma, the paradoxes, the problems, the answers to which are not immediately known…knowing how to persist when an answer is not immediately known instead of just giving up, for example. Knowing how to turn to other people and to think interdependently and as you consider the future…most of the problems are going to be solved…by groups of people who are working interdependently around the globe to solve problems.

"Intelligence is not what you know, but what you do when you don't know." - Piaget.

More from Arthur Costa...

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, November 17, 2013

Did Bennett Really Lose in Indiana? -- Redux

I don't do this often, but I'm reposting what I wrote a year ago (11/9/12). It is worth another look given the current conflict between Glenda Ritz, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Governor Mike Pence, the Indiana General Assembly and the Indiana State Board of Education.

Indiana voters take note. You can't have it both ways. Either the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction is allowed to do the job for which she was elected, or the Supermajority on the State Board of Education, in the Indiana General Assembly and in the Governor's office will control education in the state.

It's time to write to the above officials in support of Superintendent Ritz. Next November will be the time to contact them via the ballot box!

Did Bennett Really Lose in Indiana

Tony Bennett and the state Republican leaders are full of excuses as to why Glenda Ritz pulled off the upset of the billionaire-backed Superintendent of Public Instruction. Ritz raised less than $400,000 in her quest for office, while Bennett raked in over $1.5 million from rich, out of state "reformers" like the Walton family and New York Mayor and public education privatizer, Michael Bloomberg. While Bennett was schmoozing the rich and raising money, Ritz was talking to teachers, parents and concerned citizens about the corporate takeover of public education in Indiana.

Now Bennett claims that the Common Core standards are in jeopardy of being lost in Indiana...and it was the fault of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) that he lost.

Tony Bennett Says Common Core in Jeopardy in Indiana
The reason, Bennett said, is that he knew the Indiana teachers' unions would be "formidable foes" in any election fight, and that his policy initiatives in the last four years would generate strong opposition from some in the state education establishment. Bennett is a big national voice on issues prioritized by so-called "education reform" advocates, but his education stardom wasn't enough to satisfy Hoosier voters, who gave Ritz 52 percent of the vote and Bennett 48 percent...
Notice the subtle language choices..."opposition from some in the state education establishment." He's referring to the ISTA, even though the state education establishment has been the forces of "reform" (including his DOE, the charter board, and the Indiana State Legislature) for the entire time he's been in office.

Fellow blogger, A Huntington Teacher responded with another view...
...Indiana teacher unions were not, in entirety, his foes. Yes, it was a union per se; a union of teachers, parents, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and everyone who knew what was really happening in education under Bennett.

...Bennett thinks Common Core's survival in Indiana, and also that privatization and vochers are in jeopardy in Indiana. That we can agree on. The difference - I'm not worried about it. I'm hopeful for it.
Ritz's supporters (and I'm one of them) have said that Bennett's claim that the ISTA beat him is wrong and, in truth, he beat himself. He, along with the legislature and governor, spent his term of office working to make teachers lives harder and public education weaker by supporting unproven "reforms" like vouchers, teacher evaluations based on the test, the end of collective bargaining, a state based teachers contract (as opposed to locally developed contracts), high stakes consequences for third graders and extensive support for charter schools at the expense of support for regular public schools. The reforms were popular with the billionaires who financed his campaign, but with the average teacher...and the average parent who appreciated their children's teachers...the average public school advocate...not so much.

But is that true? Is it true that Ritz was elected on a referendum on Bennett's policies?

The incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction will have a tough time changing things. The Republican leadership in the state is excusing Bennett's loss as due to his personality rather than his policies.

GOP firm despite education coup
Top Republican officials, including the current and future governor, argued vehemently Wednesday that their education reform mandate is intact despite the defeat of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett.

“The consensus and the momentum for reform and change in Indiana is rock solid,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said.

“Every other factor that matters is aligned in this state in the direction of progress and change and reform, of teacher accountability, of more choices for families, more ability for school leadership to lead.”

Gov.-elect Mike Pence said his election on an agenda of education change, as well as the House’s picking up a supermajority of members, points to Hoosiers supporting continued progress in the area...

“This is not an indictment in any way of reforms,” [GOP House Speaker] Bosma said. “Some of the education reform controversy deals with the tone and presentation of the reforms and how it’s explained. Occasionally the discussion moved into arenas that teachers found offensive.”
Electorally, they are correct. Those who voted against Bennett blamed him for all the losses felt by the public schools in Indiana...the difficulties at the local school level of finding enough money to keep programs alive and schools open...the takeover of local public schools by corporate charters...the loss of money to public schools due to vouchers...the pressure to adopt the Common Core. Nevertheless the people of Indiana voted the politicians who legislated the destruction of our public schools into law right back into office.

The voters in Indiana, while scapegoating Bennett for the attacks on public education which he articulated and represented, ignored the legislators who also made it happen. The GOP leadership is right to believe that "Hoosiers [support] continued progress in [education]" -- meaning that by our votes, we've agreed that everything Bennett did should continue.

The legislature passed Indiana's voucher program.
The legislature gutted the collective bargaining law for teachers.
The legislature established the Indiana Charter School Board.
The legislature voted into law teacher evaluation and performance based on test scores.

The legislative agenda of Tony Bennett and his Department of Public Instruction was upheld and approved by the voters in the last election.

Glenda Ritz may have been elected because people didn't like Tony Bennett. I know she wants to change those policies he put in place...but it's going to be tough for her to change the ones which have already been turned into law, because the voters spoke clearly on November 6th. School "reform" in Indiana got the go-ahead at the ballot box.

I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to see Superintendent-elect Ritz give us real school reform...more support for struggling schools instead of closures and punishments...real teacher evaluations based on professional development and "best practices" instead of student test scores...smaller class sizes...local control of schools and finally, less testing and more teaching. But I doubt that she can do it alone...with the Governor and a Supermajority in the legislature bound to stick to the status quo.

Her campaign literature emphasized things like...
  • more control to local school districts
  • stopping the flow of public money to private companies
  • preventing the lowering of standards for teachers
  • improving career and technical education
Those of you who voted for Ritz...but then voted for your legislator who did exactly the opposite of what she wants...it's time to start writing to your state senators and representatives. Tony Bennett's agenda is alive and well in the state legislature.


...and just for the record...

...vouchers don't help public schools improve by creating competition.
...teachers unions and contracts don't lower student achievement.
...a charter school is not a guarantee of better performance.*
...using test scores to evaluate teachers is invalid, inappropriate, and scientifically without basis.

Other articles about the Indiana Election

Bad losers in Tuesday’s election

Don't Count Your Chickens Before Elections: Tony Bennett's Defeat in Indiana

Major school reformer ousted by teacher as Indiana schools superintendent

The Most Important Education Vote Yesterday

A call for Obama to change course on ed reform


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, November 11, 2013

2013 Medley #23

Public Education, Poverty, Irony,
Elementary Teachers, Politicians.


TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data

Ethan Young defends public education with reason and intelligence. Too bad he's not a multi-billionaire...


Teachers Were Never The Problem

David Sirota has emerged as a welcome voice for public education. Here he again debunks the "reform" claims that 1) schools are failing and 2) it's the fault of the teachers unions. It's poverty…and it's getting worse.
As I've reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system's problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.

Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America's wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world—Finland's—is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers' unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing.

So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America's states now come from low-income families.


Union-Hating Steve Perry Is Coming To Rutgers!

Steve Perry, friend to Michelle Rhee, continues the lie that there are such things as "failed schools." The failure is much more expansive than that. Yes, there are teachers, administrators and school systems with problems which need to be solved, however, many of the problems are due to lack of funding and lack of resources needed to deal with the failed communities in which they are located. Failing bureaucrats, failing politicians, failing policy makers all deserve a share the blame when children are placed in a school unable to meet their academic and social needs.
I wonder: did the organizers of this conference chose Dr. Perry because of his judicious use of social media to engage in a civil conversation about education?
America has a long and ugly history of groups like the teachers’ unions fighting to keep minority kids from getting out of failed schools.


In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich

Wealthier schools get more money and more resources and the students achieve at a higher level than schools with high poverty. Is this surprising? Jonathan Kozol responds in two different ways...
...when my wealthy friends say to me, Jonathan, does class size really matter for kids like Pineapple, I'll just say, I don't know. It seems to work for your children, doesn't it?
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.'
Remember this when politicians blame teachers and their unions for "failed" schools.
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.


4 Corporate Education Reform Talking Points That Are Flat-Out Lies

We don't provide the same resources for students in poverty and then politicians, pundits and policy makers blame teachers, teachers unions and schools when those students don't achieve at the same level as the wealthy.
#1 A college and career-ready education is the path out of poverty.

This talking point was made up out of thin air. It was sold as a solution to a problem that no one has the political or economic will to fix. The plan was to put the schools on the spot, with the responsibility of fixing our poverty problem. When they failed, we adopted a new corporate model, with corporate standards, objective measure, and a birth-to-career program. Now, we can make sure our children fit into a guaranteed job track. It won’t (it can’t) fix poverty, but at least those kids will be working for the corporate dominance of their beloved country.

Lies of Plutocracy: Exploding Five Myths that Dehumanize the Poor

For those politicians who think that underfunded and under-resourced schools can relieve the fact that nearly one-fourth of our children live in poverty...
5. Education Necessarily Remedies Poverty

Another plutocratic myth suggests that a lack of education is the root of poverty, and that education is the answer to poor people's plight. This is also an assertion many liberals like President Obama regularly make. Joining them are conservatives like Newt Gingrich who, in the lead-up to the South Carolina primaries, defended his earlier remarks about the poor and food stamps, stating: "I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job."[17]

These ways of thinking legitimize the plight of the poor, effectively blaming victims of exploitation: blaming low-income workers' conditions on their failure to possess a real job, which means a job that requires a degree.


Five Things Most People Don't Know About Poverty and Student Achievement

Jenson brings incorrect assumptions to this article (see below).

For example, he says that
the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty...
The truth is that research has shown that the classroom teacher is the single most significant IN-SCHOOL contributor to student achievement. The teacher's influence can't counteract poor prenatal care, alcoholism, toxic air in our cities, lack of medical, dental and mental health care, food insecurity, family and community violence, and family mobility.

Jensen insults teachers with statements like, "most teachers simply don't know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don't try any more." and "teachers at the high-performing schools didn't complain about kids not "being smart" or being unmotivated." The implication is that teachers who work in high-poverty schools don't care, spend their days complaining and are incompetent.

Finally, he writes about "effective teachers" and how they "raise student achievement." This is clearly his way of saying "test scores." We know that test scores don't reflect knowledge or real learning…any more than "Google provide[s] knowledge." Facts, resources and information are important, but they aren't the whole of education.

Poverty is a cause of low achievement, not the other way around.
  1. Teachers often come into the profession as a chance to "make a difference." But making a difference can go both ways. If students achieve well, the difference is positive. If students struggle, our nation struggles. If teachers raised student achievement by 10%, the U.S. schools would not only rank among the top 5 in the world, it would also raise gross domestic product by 1% a year. Over the next two generations, this would boost the economy by 112 trillion (not a typo). The government has tried for 50 years and failed; but educators can erase poverty in our own lifetime.
  2. Here's what we do know, as of today: a) the classroom teacher is still the single most significant contributor to student achievement; the effect is greater than that of parents, peers, schools or poverty, b) the effectiveness of classroom teachers varies dramatically, especially within schools, c) research shows teachers in the top 20%, based on year-on-year progress with their students, will completely erase the academic effects of poverty in five years, d) most teachers simply don't know how be a high-performer and others have lost hope and don't try any more.


Why 'Bad' U.S. Schools Attract Students

The Chinese are paying thousands to send their children to American schools because of our ability to promote problem solving and independent thinking and in order to escape the test-crazed Chinese system. Irony anyone?
What is most interesting to note is that Chinese parents, who are known for their reverence for education, have a high regard for American public schools. If they are as bad as reformers assert, why do these parents send their children here for their education? The facile answer is that they do so because it allows their children to escape the pressure of preparing for China's college entrance exam.

But I think there's more to the story than that. Our entire public educational system tries to promote independent thinking and self-expression. These are the antithesis of the goals of schools in China. Further evidence of the esteem that China has for American education is seen in the number of its educators observing schools here ("Bowie school gives tips to visiting Chinese educators," gazette.net, Oct. 24). We must be doing something right. Yet don't expect to hear a word about any of this from critics.


In Praise of Elementary School Teachers

A second post from Walt Gardner…only because I was an elementary teacher and I like the kudos!
In light of the unique responsibilities that elementary school teachers shoulder on a daily basis, I take my hat off to them for what they manage to accomplish. I couldn't do their job. I wish others would pay them the same respect.


Finally, a public response to a personal email.

Here in Indiana we're watching the Governor and his appointed State Board of Education (along with the help of the supermajority legislature) wrest power over public education from the elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Glenda Ritz defeated Tony Bennett in last year's election with more votes than the governor received. Since then the majority party has done everything but stand in the schoolhouse doorway to keep Ritz from doing what the people elected her to do. For details see (among dozens of other examples) the following.

Vic's Statehouse Notes #154
Vic's Statehouse Notes #155
Vic's Statehouse Notes #156
Vic's Statehouse Notes #157
Vic's Statehouse Notes #158

Recently I got an email from a friend who sent me the link to the video at the top of this blog entry. In it she wrote about the conflict between the Superintendent and the State Board of Education.
PS--In an effort to share information...I sent this video to all of our State Board members--with a short grandmotherly admonition about my disappointment with the on going contentiousness between the Board and Glenda Ritz. (As an unrelated side note, the newest appointee to the Board--who is a Democrat and DFER guy--is as bad as the others…) How in the world did we ever end up in this state?
This got me thinking…it's not just "the majority party" which, in this state, is Republican. There are Democrats here in Indiana (as well as in D.C.) who have taken hold of the corporate bag of test, punish, and privatize.

DFER, Democrats for Education Reform, is the Democratic arm of the privatization movement.

Public school educators and public school supporters must acknowledge that the problem is not one political party or the other, it's the corporate tail wagging the education dog. The Gates, Broads and Waltons of the world are buying the politicians and the politicians in turn, in order to keep their power in legislatures and executive offices (state and federal), are sucking up to them.

The reason Superintendent Ritz's law suit was dismissed -- the reason the school board dismisses her election mandate -- the reason the legislature passes anti-union, anti-public education legislation, is simply that there's a lot of money to be made by privatizing public education. We're in an era in American Education of "I've got mine, and it's tough sh*t if you don't have yours."

It's never been about education. It's never even been about teachers (other than as a political force). It's about money. Those that "have" are doing everything they can to buy more and to hell with anyone who gets in their way.


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!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

On Sagan Day: The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan's timeless ode to Earth: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

"…to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we've ever known -- the pale blue dot."

Quote from Cosmos (1980)
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
Carl Sagan Day at the Center for Inquiry


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!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Michigan Jumps on the Third Grade Retention Wagon

The state of Michigan is considering making third graders repeat the school year if they don't pass "the test."

Bill would hold back third-graders if they don't pass MEAP reading test (October 2013)
Christy Hovanetz, a senior policy fellow at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a Florida-based nonprofit focused on what she described as innovative education reform, said 32 other states already have some sort of K-3 reading promotion policy in place. But she said some states have provisions that allow more flexibility than what the Michigan bill is considering.

In some states, for instance, third-graders who fail the state exam can demonstrate proficiency in other ways. Students in year one or two of learning English also aren’t held to the same rules as native speakers, she said. And some states limit how many years a student can be held back, over concerns that students “will end up driving to third grade,” Hovanetz said.
Unfortunately, retention in grade generally doesn't work as a remediation plan.

Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, said there should be no question that students should be able to read by the end of third grade.

“I’m just amazed that this could be so controversial,” Lund said.
Lund is amazed…perhaps because he knows nothing about education (Representative Lund has degrees in Economics and Political Science as well as an M.B.A.). Not all students learn at the same rate. Not everyone learns to walk at the same point in their lives. Not everyone learns to talk at the same point in their lives. Human beings are not automatons, programmed to respond the same way at any given time. Some children learn to read when they're 4 years old. Others still struggle with reading into their teen years and even as adults. For the latter students, retention doesn't help.

Perhaps Lund is amazed because he hasn't read the research on retention in grade. Holding students back is a failed attempt at remediation. Intense intervention works, but Lund, and legislators around the nation don't seem to be interested in that. It's expensive to hire and train educational specialists.
Rep. Thomas Stallworth, D-Detroit, described the debate as “provocative, but critical,” saying it’s particularly so for him because of the high rate of functional illiteracy in his district.

“We’re graduating kids that can’t read. I don’t know what the answer is. But I know it’s a problem,” Stallworth said.
The answer, Representative Stallworth, is to educate legislators on the relationship between poverty and achievement.


New research indicates that not only is retention damaging to students who are retained…but to their classmates as well.

Retained Students and Classmates’ Absences in Urban Schools (August 2013)
Research in grade retention has predominantly focused on the effect of this practice on the retained student. This study contributes to the limited body of research examining the effect of retained classmates on the outcomes of other students in the same classroom…this study evaluates how the percentage of retained classmates affects other students’ absence patterns, both unexcused and excused. Focusing on absences as an outcome is key, as they signal educational disengagement and highly correlate with schooling and lifelong success...the results indicate that a greater percentage of retained classmates increases other students’ absences. The effect is only present on unexcused absences, not excused absences, hence signaling an increase in disengagement in other students. Individual- and classroom-level moderating effects are evaluated, and policy implications for classroom assignment are discussed. [emphasis added]
Legislators ought to get out of the education business. They can help by reducing inequity in our economy, but they should leave the task of teaching our children to professionals. [Note: While the video linked in this paragraph is about 8 years old -- 2005 -- the trends have not changed.]

(More about the effects of retention in grade here and here.)


It's not just Michigan…other locations in the US have passed, or are considering, legislation which would retain third graders who can't pass "the test."

D.C., Indiana, Virginia

States draw a hard line on third-graders, holding some back over reading (March 2013)

A researcher comments...
"This is completely unsettling. I’m concerned about a number of those legislative initiatives,” said Shane Jimerson, a University of California at Santa Barbara professor who has studied retention for 20 years and found that, from a child’s perspective, being held back is as stressful as losing a parent.

“This is deleterious to hundreds of thousands of students,” he said. “But children don’t have a voice. If you were doing this to any group that had representation, it would not be happening.”
In Indiana, the last election for the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction was between Tony Bennett who favored third grade retention and Glenda Ritz, who did not.
Tony Bennett, Indiana schools superintendent, lost his elected position in November to Glenda Ritz, a teacher who ran because she was angered by Bennett’s third-grade retention policy.

“It was the final straw,” said Ritz, adding that her state should emphasize reading as early as kindergarten and help struggling readers well before third grade. She wants to stop retaining children based on standardized test scores.


Florida is the new model for those favoring retention. According to the research there is evidence that retention worked in Florida. However, retention was not the only variable. Students who were retained in grade were the beneficiaries of smaller class sizes and universal preschool along with other additional interventions. Was it retention which helped the students or the literacy coaches and smaller class sizes? The promoted comparison group received no additional special help.

Does Retention (repeating a grade) Help Struggling Learners?
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.

...It is no wonder that both the promoted children in Florida and retained children in Chicago did poorly compared to their peers. Both groups of struggling students did not receive any guaranteed special help during the studied year.


All About the Third Grade Reading Guarantee (Various: April 2012-May 2012)
Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee says that starting with students entering third grade in 2013-14, schools cannot promote to fourth grade students who score below a certain level on the state reading test. That level is slightly below the actual passing score on the state reading test, the Ohio Achievement Assessment.


No free pass for 3rd-graders (October 2013)
Move On When Reading, a law passed in 2010 that goes into effect this year, mandates that schools hold back third-graders who score in the lowest category of the reading portion of the Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards, known as AIMS.

The law exempts English-language learners and students in reading and language special-education programs. But it makes no exception for students who perform well in all areas except reading.


Diane Ravitch wrote, Is School Retention Child Abuse?
Ultimately, holding kids back does not get them the social and emotional support they need. Instead, it aggravates the very conditions that led to their original failure...“Ending social promotion,” it turns out, is just another slogan that politicians like to bandy about. It makes them feel strong; it makes them look tough; it wins plaudits from the hard-hearted tabloids; it allows the politicians to call themselves “reformers.” But it hurts children.
And this, from the National Association of School Psychologists

Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes
When weighing the pros and cons of a decision to retain or promote a student, it is critical to emphasize to educators and parents that a century of research has failed to demonstrate the benefits of grade retention over promotion to the next grade for any group of students. Instead, we must focus on implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies to promote social and cognitive competence and facilitate the academic success of all students.
There is no research based reason to claim that retaining students who are struggling academically will improve their achievement. On the contrary, the research on retention in grade over the last century indicates exactly the opposite. We should reject plans which call for mandatory retention of students based on test scores.


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!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - November, 2013

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

Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools

We need to change the terms of the national conversation. Public education is not failing. Our society is failing. At 23%, we have the highest child poverty rate in the world among advanced nations and we ought to be embarrassed by that. There is a direct correlation between poverty and achievement. To deny that is to deny reality.

"There is one certain conclusion that can be drawn from studies of education achievement: poverty has a negative effect on student learning. On every test, whether in reading or in mathematics, the results are stratified by family income. Students from the wealthiest families tend to have the highest scores, and students from the poorest families tend to have the lowest scores. Every standardized test produces these results, whether it is the SAT, the ACT, state tests, the National Assessment of Education Progress, or international tests."

Children Need the Arts

I don't think this is referring to drawing bubbles on a standardized achievement test...

Standardized Tests

When you give standardized tests to children who are too young to hold a pencil well enough to fill in the bubbles there's something seriously wrong.

Standardized tests have their purpose, but it's not for
  • evaluating teachers
  • evaluating schools
  • evaluating school systems
  • making high stakes decisions which affect students

Standardized Tests don't belong in a teacher's evaluation.

Corporate Reform's Vision

The corporate view of what education should be...

Real Teachers. Real Students.


The Connection Between TV and School Scores

Jim Trelease author of the Read Aloud Handbook, has this to say about children and television...
The greatest academic damage done may not be from the shows viewed but by what is not being done during those many hours each week of sitting passively in front of the TV: games not played, chores not done, drawings not drawn, hobbies not worked, friends not made or played with, homework not done, bikes or skateboards not ridden, balls not caught, books not read, and conversations not held. I hear parents call it “my babysitter”—but if there were a babysitter who deprived your child of all those activities, you’d ban her from your home, wouldn’t you?

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!