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

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

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

Friday, January 31, 2014

Please sir, I want some more...

The Utah Department of Education's web site states that...
Utah's Child Nutrition Programs (CNP) seek to improve the nutritional well being of all Utah children so they may reach their full potential. Research shows that children who are well nourished learn and develop much better than those who lack adequate nutrition.
In keeping with this concern for the well-being of all Utah's children, a "child-nutrition manager" in a Utah elementary school took lunches away from about 40 students because they were behind in their lunch money payments.

The school issued an apology of course, but not before this popped into my head...


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!


An Impact on Other Lives

"A life is not important except in the
impact it has on other lives." -- Jackie Robinson

Today, January 31 is Jackie Robinson's birthday. He was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1919.

Eulogy for Jackie Robinson...by Jesse Jackson. From Ken Burns, Baseball

Video for Jesse Jackson's eulogy for Jackie Robinson is only available to see on Youtube. Click the link below.


Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

"There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free." -- Jackie Robinson


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, January 29, 2014

2014 Medley #2: School Choice

School Choice: Charters and Vouchers


Indiana has one of the nation's most extensive voucher plans, along with charter schools popping up everywhere. The privatizers are finding ways to strip more and more tax money out of the hands of public schools and their duly elected school boards. Instead money is being shifted to church coffers or corporate board rooms. The neighborhood schools are disappearing as school districts become overrun with publicly subsidized private "choices" for parents. Schools not in urban areas, where most of the privatizing is taking place, are feeling the pinch, too, having to consolidate and downsize...cutting teachers and programs...in order to keep their schools running.

The concept of America's public schools as a public responsibility has given way to a short-sighted drive for "my money, my choice" with little regard for the community. The right-wing attack on community membership in the form of taxes has built a selfishness among Americans...as the "no more taxes" crowd screams their mantra, infrastructure crumbles, public sector workers are demonized and the government is run by government-haters. Parents who in the past would have chosen and paid for private schools for their children are now grabbing up vouchers and complaining that they have had to support public schools for years with their tax money. The fact that public schools benefit the entire community, state and nation, doesn't seem to matter.

When the "choice" crowd first got started it was under the guise of improving education for all. Competition will force public schools to improve they said. Private schools and charter schools are the panacea which would improve education for all. We now know that's not true, and the privatizers are playing on the selfishness and fears of the public.

School Choice Undermines Urban School Districts
While vouchers are always proposed as so-called solutions for poor children said to be “trapped in failing public schools,” in many states a child is not required even to have attended a public school before receiving a voucher...A new report by StateImpact Indiana documents that during the initial two years of Indiana’s relatively new voucher program, “income-eligible students had to have spent two semesters in public school” to be granted a voucher made up of funds taken from the state’s public school budget. But the rules keep being adjusted and the number of children who previously attended a public school continues to drop. “Indiana will pay an estimated $81 million in private school tuition this year, up from $15.5 million in 2011-12.”

...According to a Washington Post commentary on the Moody’s study: “…some urban districts face a downward spiral driven by population declines. It begins with people leaving the city or districts. Then revenue declines, leading to program and service cuts. The cuts lead parents to seek out alternatives, and charters capture more students. As enrollment shifts to charters, public districts lose more revenue, and that can lead to more cuts. Rinse, repeat….”

What Could Be Wrong With ‘School Choice’?

It's not about children and improved educational outcomes any more. Now it's just about doing whatever it takes to bring down the public school system, put more money into church schools and take what little tax money that's left and put it into the hands of the corporate education reform industry.

Is it just Republicans and conservatives? The Democrats in the Obama DOE are running a privatization plan with Race to the Top as well...
Thomas wrote, “In the 1980s and 1990s, before a substantial body of research had emerged, vouchers were heralded as the panacea for a failing public school system. Once the shine wore off those lofty claims – since research shows little to no academic gains driven by any choice initiatives – school choice advocates began to change claims and approaches, attempting to stay at least one step ahead of the evidence throughout the process.”

...Laura Clawson recently observed, “While Republican politicians don’t see it as a civil right for poor kids to eat or have health care or a place to live, when it comes to charter school expansion or vouchers to attend private schools, suddenly it’s all about civil rights.”

Her conclusion was, “Republicans say ‘school choice’ but they mean privatization.”

So what do Democrats mean? [emphasis added]

The ugly truth about “school choice”
The Koch brothers want you to think the movement's about racial justice and empowering parents. They're lying.

...But there are a few serious problems with the school choice movement. Though it attracts mainstream conservatives like [Bill] Cosby, as well as Democrats like President Barack Obama, it is not, at its core, a bipartisan endeavor. Its most important backers are rightwing organizations like the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and other groups supported by billionaire rightwing ideologues like the Koch brothers. They want to dismantle public education altogether and run schools as businesses, judged as “successes” or “failures” based on abstract data taken from high-stakes standardized test scores.


Few charter schools among Indiana’s overachieving schools

Studies nationwide have shown that charters haven't done better than traditional public schools (TPS). Indiana is no exception.
It’s not just that charter schools got worse overall grades than traditional public schools. That’s not surprising, because many charters enroll disproportionate numbers of kids from low-income families. But even adjusting for poverty, charter schools fared worse.

Thirty-five percent of the state’s high-poverty schools – a total of 162 schools – received grades of A or B. But only three of those 162 were charter schools. Among all charter schools, 21.5 percent got an A or B, and most of those are not high-poverty charters...

School grades don’t prove that charter schools are doing a bad job, of course. There are issues with Indiana’s grading system; and the whole idea is applying a single letter grade to a school seems suspect. But the results do strongly suggest there’s no magic to “charter-ness” – that charter schools don’t have a monopoly on what works.

Diane Ravitch Rebukes Education Activists' 'Reign Of Error'

What was the original intent of charter schools?
What's wrong with charter schools is that they originally were supposed to be created to collaborate with public schools and help them solve common problems. Because they have now been taken over by the idea of competition, they have become part of the movement to turn education into a consumer product rather than a social and a public responsibility. ...

What I mean is that you go shopping for a school. I don't believe in school choice. I believe that every neighborhood should have a good public school. And if the parents don't want the good local public school and they want to send their child to a private school, they should do so — but they should pay for it.

Why charter schools need better oversight
What’s apparent from all these charter school scandals is that these schools need way more scrutiny and, yes, government regulation. But the charter movement and its ardent backers in state legislatures are adamantly against that. Charters, we’ve been told, “need to be free to innovate.”

Yet for all the “freedom to innovate” that charter schools have, the results of these schools generally fall far short of being, well, innovative.


National School Choice Week: It’s Really About Vouchers

There's a very strong Culture War factor with privatizing public education. The Religious Right has been "against" public schools for decades (For example, in 1979 Jerry Falwell wrote, "I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them."). Now they have political partners in conservatives and the 1% who are anxious to cash in on the public school tax money feeding frenzy.
Vouchers, of course, aren’t really about choice. Oh, there’s choice, all right – for the schools. They get to decide which students they will admit. They get to decide what to teach them. They get to decide who will teach there. They get to decide if they want to impose theology onto students...

So who does support vouchers? These days, it’s a three-headed beast. The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church wants a taxpayer-funded bailout for its flagging private school system. Religious Right activists hate “godless” public education and want tax funding for fundamentalist academies so they can teach things like creationism. Extreme free-market advocates (the Heritage Foundation, the Koch Brothers’ American Legislative Exchange Council, Betsy DeVos’ Americans for School Choice) want to dismantle public education because, well, it’s public – and therefore it must be bad.

This fight long ago stopped being about improving education. We know that vouchers don’t do that. This is all about ideology. Private sectarian groups – churches that raise millions every year tax free – want to pick your pocket to pay for their schools.

How ‘School Choice Week’ Misleads Americans About Vouchers

With the legislative new year in Indiana, privatizers got right to work. One bill going through the Indiana General Assembly currently (SB322) would allow voucher accepting private schools to opt out of the state test, ISTEP, if they took another national standardized test. This would effectively remove state accountability from the school...and prevent the state from awarding a grade using the states privatizer promoted and passed A-F grading system. So much for accountability.
Study after study shows that vouchers do not improve student education or academic achievement, fail to offer families informed school options, lack accountability to taxpayers and deprive students of rights and protections they would otherwise have in public schools. Although states have been successful in passing and expanding voucher programs, the programs themselves still remain unsuccessful education policy.

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, January 28, 2014

Teaching as a Luxury


A few days ago I posted a video of a 100 year old who was still teaching. She started when she was 81, so at this point, she is really just "mid-career." I taught for 35 years...if she does the same she'll retire at age...116.

Most teachers don't last that long, however. Nearly half of all teachers leave the field within their first 5 years. Many find out the hard way that they aren't cut out for teaching...or that it's not as easy as they thought it would be. Many didn't realize that it's not a 6 hours a day, 9 months a year job, but one that takes hours and hours of preparation, thought and work. Many can't handle the emotional investment in the lives of children.

The old adage which states that "those who can't, teach" has it backwards. Teaching is doing...and it's those who can't who must move on to some other, less important line of work.


On January 17, 2014 (Ben Franklin's 308th birthday), a middle school language arts teacher, Elizabeth Natale, wrote an op-ed piece for the Hartford Courant, titled Why I Want To Give Up Teaching.
Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children.
Over the past few years I've posted frequently about why teachers quit. The focus of the answer is almost always something about how No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, the Common Core, Value Added Measurements on teacher evaluations, firing educators and closing public schools, or other so-called "reform" plan which, without a research base, has devalued the teaching profession or made testing the be-all and end-all of public education.

Natale's article, however, has the wrong title. Read what she has written and you'll see that she doesn't want to "give up teaching." What she really wants to give up is struggling to be an educator under the current "reform" status quo. Like public school educators all over the nation, she's struggling to do what's best for her students while politicians and policy makers transfer public funds to private schools and turn the public schools left standing into under-funded, for-profit, test factories.
Until this year, I was a highly regarded certified teacher. Now, I must prove myself with data that holds little meaning to me. I no longer have the luxury of teaching literature, with all of its life lessons, or teaching writing to students who long to be creative. My success is measured by my ability to bring 85 percent of struggling students to "mastery," without regard for those with advanced skills. Instead of fostering love of reading and writing, I am killing children's passions — committing "readicide," as Kelly Gallagher called it in his book of that title. [emphasis added]
She no longer has the luxury of teaching. Let that thought simmer in your mind for a while...


Are there any other teachers out there who feel like the joy has been sucked out of their classrooms because they're spending too much time thinking about tests, preparing for tests, administering tests, and analyzing tests?

Are there any other teachers out there who are tired of the corporate education reform industry driving public education policy?

Are there any other teachers out there who would like to go back to focusing on the needs of children?
Teaching is the most difficult — but most rewarding — work I have ever done. It is, however, art, not science. A student's learning will never be measured by any test, and I do not believe the current trend in education will lead to adults better prepared for the workforce, or to better citizens. For the sake of students, our legislators must reach this same conclusion before good teachers give up the profession — and the children — they love.
How can we improve public education instead of destroying it?

There have always been those who have interrupted the teaching process, but the "reformers" have taken things a step further. They have disrupted the teaching and learning process to the extent that teachers don't have time to "close their doors and teach" without fear of being pushed out. The insane focus on data and testing has left teachers exhausted and demoralized. Test scores may have risen, but learning has suffered. The "reforms" foisted upon American children and their teachers have not improved real learning. The corporate education reform industry has gotten rich as the combined political force of both major political parties sells off America's public schools. Teachers struggle to continue real teaching while politicians in statehouses across the country micromanage their every move.

America's public school educators are nearly three and a half million strong. We need to raise our voices.

Educate yourself and others. Get involved. Write letters. Work for America's public schools.


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, January 25, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - January, 2014

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.

The Move to Privatization

The Indiana legislature is busy at work trying to privatize public education. Directed by Governor Mike Pence, people like Rep. Robert Behning, a florist who is apparently an expert on education, have done things like expand the nation's most offensive voucher plan, expand opportunities for charter operators to take over public schools, reduce the ability of local school boards to effect changes in their districts, flunk third graders who can't pass "the test," remove collective bargaining for teachers and force schools and school systems to use test scores to evaluate teachers.

What are these fools, their colleagues in the legislature, the high paid lackeys in the Pence run shadow department of education (CECI), and the state school board planning for this year?

This year's goal is to remove the requirements that teachers need to be educators, that principals have to be master teachers first and that superintendents have any experience in education. The want to take more money from public schools and transfer it to private, mostly religious schools through expanded vouchers. They are offering a bribe bonus for teachers to leave public schools and teach in charter schools. And they are doing everything they can to circumvent the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction because she's a professional educator and is actually interested in doing what helps children rather than in lining the pockets of political donors.

With all these advantages for charter and private schools, the public schools will continue to be starved for resources and students, teachers, and administrators will be forced to continue the "do more with less" plan. When schools struggle without these resources the governor and his stooges in the legislature, the state school board and his duplicate department of education will claim that public schools are failing and we need to divert more resources to private and charter schools.

It's a simple plan. 1. Destroy the public schools' ability to do their job by transferring resources to religious, private and privately run (aka charter) schools. 2. Blame the teachers and their unions for the inability of public schools to perform miracles. 3. Close public schools and divert even more resources to religious, private and privately run (aka charter) schools.

Who Did You Vote For?

How did we get here? In the last election Indiana voters rejected Tony Bennett and his destroy-public-education plan and elected Glenda Ritz as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

However, those same voters reelected the gubernatorial candidate who supported Bennett and the legislators who put Bennett's plan into law.

Kruse Wants to Speed Up Privatization
Privatization isn't going fast enough for Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn). He wants to get help in privatizing Indiana's public schools from parents, teachers and school boards.
Indiana - Two Different Directions and Public Schools Lose
One the one hand, Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz to end the Bennett program of privatization and testing, but on the other hand, they elected Mike Pence and a super-majority of legislators to continue the Bennett program of privatization and testing.
Indiana's Education Policy -- Cognitive Dissonance in Action
The cognitive dissonance which Indiana voters thrust upon themselves continues. Pence and the supermajorities in both houses of the state General Assembly are bent on starving public education while feeding private schools with taxpayer money. The denial of resources to the schools most in need will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. The state is abandoning the children who need the most help...and, once their failure is assured, the "reformers" will use that as an excuse for more privatization.
Aside from getting out the vote we need to make sure people know who they're voting for. Those who voted for Glenda Ritz have shot themselves in the foot -- and seriously hampered Ritz's ability to do her job -- by electing friends of Tony Bennett to the governor's office and to the legislature. We need to educate the public.

A False Choice

Next week is School Choice Week and the privatizers are out in force touting the benefits of letting the public schools founder for lack of support and transferring public tax money to religious and private schools.

Reframing the Refrain: Choice as a Civil Rights Issue
What is surprising is that unbridled choice proponents harp about the limitations of traditional public schools but rarely discuss the predominance of the peer-reviewed research literature that demonstrates limited or no effect of choice (i.e. vouchers and charters) on student success. Are there examples of student success in charters? Of course, as is there also in public schools. However, the most prominent study of charter schools across the nation showed that nationwide only 15% of charters perform better than traditional public schools.
False Choices
...conservatives are using vouchers and the seductive rhetoric of "choice" to further their goal of privatizing our schools and removing them from public oversight and responsibility.

Raising the Bar Isn't Education

Testing doesn't improve learning. Raising the bar doesn't improve learning. Reducing the effects of poverty and improving instruction will help.

Bill Moyers interviewed Neil DeGrasse Tyson this past week. During their discussion of science literacy they touched on testing. Tyson's response to Moyer's comment about the effects of child poverty is great..."so what else is new." If only the "reformatizers" were statistics literate!
BILL MOYERS: There's something else to this. And, I mean, some people say this educational stagnation that we are experiencing, it's because we have one of the highest child poverty rates in the developed world. They point to the fact that high-poverty schools in America posted dismal scores on these tests, whereas wealthy schools did very well. In fact, students in the wealthiest schools scored so highly that if they were treated as a separate jurisdiction, they would have placed second only to Shanghai in science and reading and would have ranked sixth in the world in math. So inequality matters.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: Yes. That's, yeah. And your point is? That’s always been the case.

Here's to the Crazy Ones

Test -- learn only facts -- test -- drill on nonsense words -- test -- test -- test...

Our international test scores have always been low...but for decades America thrived anyway.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in the interview above said,
NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON: --put too much emphasis on what the meaning of the test is. I, test people, it's a way to find out what you know. But don't then say, if you don't know this, therefore the rest of your life is screwed. No, no, because go find people who are successful in this world. Find, you know, talk show hosts and comedians and novelists and attorneys and go get the politicians. Put them in a room, say, how many here got straight As throughout school? None of them are going to raise their hands. By the way, throw in inventors, throw in all these people, none of them are going to raise their hand, okay? Bill Gates dropped out of college. Michael Dell dropped out of college.

Those people are not-- the success of those people is not measured by how they performed on the exam that you wrote as professor. Because they're thinking in ways that you have yet to think, because they're inventing tomorrow. And the only way you can invent tomorrow is if you break out of the enclosure that the school system has provided for you by the exams written by people who are trained in another generation. [emphasis added]

Steve Jobs also dropped out of college.

By the way, I make it a point to deny the credibility in educational policy of Bill Gates along with Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Barack Obama, Joel Klein, Rahm Emanuel, Margaret Spellings, and any other lawyer, public policy wonk, politician, or professional athlete who thinks just because they have money or a bully pulpit they know what it's like to be a teacher. None of those people know squat about educating real children.

But that doesn't mean that Bill Gates, for example, doesn't now anything about anything. I don't believe that you have to finish college in order to be a success in life. However, instead of dumping millions to destroy public education, Gates should stick to what he does know...tech stuff. Develop all the technology you want...but let people who know what they're doing figure out how to use it with children.

Think Different

As long as we're on the subject of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs...

On January 24, 1984, Apple introduced its first Macintosh computer...the first "windows" machine.


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, January 22, 2014

I Retired Too Soon

I retired in 2010 when I was 62. Old enough to retire, right? Well, here's a story about a woman who started teaching at age 81...and continues teaching today. She just celebrated her 100th birthday. She's not teaching a sit-down class, but Home Economics in an age 2 through grade 5 school. The best thing about this story is the effect on the students...listen to what they say...listen to what they have learned. Think about what's important in the classroom...

Maybe I'll go back to the classroom in 10 or 20 years...


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, January 20, 2014

From the Bottom of Duncan's Barrel

It's 2014...the year in which all the children in America will be proficient in reading and math...and it's all thanks to The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Why are these people smiling?

Alas, it won't happen. Over the last dozen years No Child Left Behind and its Democratic twin, Race to the Top have not improved America's education as promised. Charter schools don't do better than traditional public schools. Vouchers don't improve public schools through competition. There's still an achievement gap. Punishing students, teachers and schools for low test scores hasn't incentivized higher achievement. Testing, testing, and more testing hasn't helped anyone except test developers, publishers, distributors and their donations to the campaign coffers of politicians.

The "no-excuses," pro-privatization, so-called "reformers" easily ignore any actual research and use the power of the media and money from billionaires to lay the blame on parents, educators and their unions, or some vague "education bureaucracy". These reformatizers ("reformers" + privatizers) are more interested in the corporate bottom line than the academic success of children.


One of their spokesmen, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, recently told us that we American educators are "bottom of the academic barrel" -- in other words, stupid. We are, as the old saying implies, unable to do anything else. See Teachers and Tests.
While teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel and are disproportionately teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Duncan said, teachers in South Korea are selected from the top of the class and are rewarded for working with low-income students.
It's interesting that he would say that, given that his administration has 1) participated in punishing teachers and schools who work with low-income students and 2) developed a policy which has encouraged public schools to replace trained, experienced teachers with untrained novices. High achieving nations such as South Korea invest more money where it's needed. In the US we spend less money on our low income students. We invest less in their materials, their facilities, and their teachers. Much of what we do spend is redirected away from students into the coffers of test manufacturers like Pearson.

Duncan said,
'Our children who need more get less,' he told parent leaders from around the nation
Secretary Duncan seems to understand this yet Race to the Top is a competition which delivers much needed funds to "winners" rather than focusing on schools in need, leaving out millions of high-poverty students.

Rather than providing incentives for states and districts to close schools which are struggling -- almost exclusively schools with high numbers of students living in poverty -- Race to the Top might work better if it encouraged states to provide more resources to those same schools. Instead, the money is used to close schools filled with low achieving students, fire teachers and administrators, open charter schools lacking public oversight and shuffle students into other schools...which then became low achieving schools.


Secretary Duncan doesn't stop with educators, however. It seems that American parents just don't care about their children's education.
Parents in the United States do not demand the same kind of educational excellence as those in other countries, he said.
Parents do demand educational excellence, of course. What Duncan means to say is that parents in the United States are so confused by the education debate that they don't always know what educational excellence is. Is it what their children's teachers are doing on a day to day basis -- and they approve of their children's teachers in overwhelming numbers, or is it what the corporate education reform industry and their employees in the media are saying about America's public education? The latter plays upon the well-established American tradition of mistrust of high achievement.


Despite No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top, despite A Nation at Risk, and the response to the Soviet threat of Sputnik, despite the fact that Americans talk self-righteously about improving education and use our children as a political tool, the fact is that the United States, as a nation, hasn't really valued education. In his 1962 work, Anti-intellectualism in American Life, Richard Hofstadter wrote...
Americans would create a common-school system, but would balk at giving it adequate support. They would stand close to the vanguard among the countries of the world in an attempt to diffuse knowledge among the people, and then engage drifters and misfits as teachers and offer them wages of draymen.
Today, the corporate education reform industry is pushing the same thing. Rather than respecting educators and improving teacher preparation the reformatizers whine about the imaginary plague of "bad teachers" and then dump untrained, cheap labor into positions in the classroom and administrative offices. See here and here.

Parents, educators and many of America's students themselves undoubtedly do care about education. I'll even go so far as to give the benefit of the doubt to some politicians and policy makers, at least when it comes to their own children. However, as a nation we have not invested wisely in education and it's because, as a nation, we're not really serious about educating our children. We're much more interested in which teams will play in the Superbowl, who's on Dancing With the Stars, or the newest smart-phone app.

The corporate education reform industry is after the money we spend on public education, not improved education. If they can get more profits by hiring temps to fill the classroom so much the better. If they can make money by writing the standards, then monopolizing the test-prep and tests of those standards then so much the better. The corporate bottom line is not the same as the needs of children.

Blogger Peter Greene offers this proof of America's lack of serious concern for public education...
If we were serious about education, we would not allow our public school system to be hijacked and dismantled by rich and powerful amateurs.

If we were serious about education, our media would direct its questions about education to teachers. We would all know the names and faces of the best teachers in this country, and they would be the ones being offered 50K a pop to talk about schools.

If we were serious about education, we would not stand for having it "measured" by means as frivolous and meaningless as the barrage of high stakes tests we subject students to.

If we were serious about education, we would fight like hell to keep the federal government's grubby grabby hands out of our state and local systems.

If we were serious about education, we would make heroes out of the people who provide it and protect them from the attacks of people who didn't know what the heck they were talking about.

If we were serious about education, we would make sure that schools had the top funding no matter what, even if that meant that other segments of government had to hold bake sales.

If we were serious about education, we would treat as a bad joke the notion that well-meaning untrained rich kids had any business spending a year or two in a classroom for resume building.

If we were serious about education, we would laugh the Common Core out of the room. Hell, if we were serious about education, we would never have proposed the Common Core in the first place.

If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America's students.
The last point is important. Secretary Duncan, like most of the Secretaries of Education before him, is not an educator. He is supposedly in charge of America's K-12 public schools, yet he has never taught in a public school, he has never even attended a public school. He has no educational training other than watching his mother tutor struggling students.

He doesn't know anything about teaching. He doesn't know anything about public education students. In his 5 years in office he hasn't taken the time to learn. He's a sociology major and a professional basketball player. He has no business leading the nation's public schools. If we were serious about education we'd fire Arne Duncan.


Comments on "Arne Duncan: School Expectations Are Too Low in the United States"
When researchers control for poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world on international tests: (Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).
Another Duncan Doughnut
To Duncan, the top of the "barrel" would probably mean the Ivy Leaguers like himself, who become the 5-week TFA wonders; the ones who, on average, flounder through their first 2 years in inner-city schools before fleeing for greener pastures.
Towards the Privatization of Public Education in America. Imposing a Corporate Culture
Students will not become genuine learners unless they are imbued with a love of learning, meaning they regard learning as an end in itself, an asset not easily measured. Every teacher is fully aware that in competitive environments students will concentrate their efforts on achieving a high grade, not on truly understanding the material. They will memorize for tests and then forget everything. They will take great pains to hide their ignorance, not raise critical questions, let alone questions about material they do not understand. We know that in moments of desperation the vast majority of high school students at one time or another will cheat, which is hardly one of the skills we want them to acquire.
Why We Can't Wait to Close the Achievement Gap
...schools and children don't exist in a vacuum. We must intensify our efforts to improve the environments in which our children live -- providing access to healthcare, including mental health treatment and reducing violence in our communities and increasing parental involvement are just a few such ways.


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, January 14, 2014



The Indiana State Board of Education is once again looking at the qualifications for educators and are examining the proposed changes described in REPA III (Rules for Educator Preparation and Accountability) this week.

In 2012, the Tony Bennett-run school board tried to force REPA II through in Bennett's last days in office. Bennett was apparently trying to get them approved before then Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz could take office. Because of procedural problems, however, the state attorney general prevented implementation. Vic Smith reports.
When the Attorney General’s office reviewed what the State Board had changed in the published rules, they halted implementation of the rules based on procedural problems in the rule-making process. The Attorney General’s ruling meant clarifications had to be drafted and additional public hearings had to be scheduled. State Board member Tony Walker, apparently eager to implement REPA 2, expressed great frustration about the delay during one State Board meeting. Teacher educators, in contrast, were pleased by the Attorney General’s ruling and hoped it would mean the end of REPA 2.
I made some comments at the time because REPA II called for lowering standards for teacher, principal and superintendent licensing.

Now, REPA III has brought the same thing back again. Vic Smith wrote
REPA 2 was Dr. Bennett’s parting shot to try to lower standards for getting teacher and administrator licenses. He asked the State Board to pass the revised rules in December of 2012 after his election defeat. They were passed but with so many amendments that the Attorney General ruled that the rules could not be finalized until they were clarified and given another round of public hearings.

The CECI has now picked up the ball and is calling them REPA 3. They contain at least four really bad ideas:
1) Individuals with any four year degree can get a 5-year “Adjunct” teaching license.
2) Training required to get a principal’s license would be reduced.
3) Training required to get a superintendent’s license would be reduced.
4) Administrative certification can be offered by non-higher education organizations. Whether for-profit private organizations can become training sites for administrators and adjunct teachers is not clear but remains a possibility that should be clarified before the hearings.
...and later...
...[The] problem is the assumption that pedagogical training is a trivial part of becoming a teacher. Why would anyone bother to look into a School of Education teacher training program, especially a rigorous one, if they know they can teach with any bachelor’s degree after passing a content area test? Has the Governor concluded that to know something is to be able to teach it to students? We know better.
A couple of years ago I read a prediction by Stephen Krashen. He predicted that Arne Duncan would eventually claim that
...teachers don't need any kind of degree in education or any course work in education.
Duncan hasn't said that yet...Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the CECI (his shadow department of education) and supporters of REPA III have beaten him to it.


Does teacher quality, including pedagogical training, actually matter?

In her book, The Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond discussed just this issue.
Ronald Fersuson demonstrated that...that the single most important measurable cause of increased student learning was teacher expertise, measured by teacher performance on a statewide certification exam measuring academic skills and teaching knowledge, along with teacher experience, and master's degrees. The effects were so strong, and the variations in teacher expertise so great, that after controlling for socioeconomic status the large disparities in achievement between Black and White students were almost entirely accounted for by differences in the qualifications of their teachers. [emphasis added]
There are two important things to note in that paragraph. First, the teacher expertise included teaching knowledge. Knowledge about teaching is important...not just content knowledge! Second, just to make sure that we're clear on the issue of poverty, this study was done "after controlling for socioeconomic status" (Teachers are the most important IN-SCHOOL factor in student learning. Out of school factors play a much bigger role. See Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success by Berliner, et al).

Other pertinent comments from Darling-Hammond
The strongest predictors of student failure were the proportion of teachers without any training or certification...
Among the school resource measures, the level of teacher experience and a related measure -- the percentage of teachers without a full credential -- are the variables most strongly related to student achievement.
[NOTE: These are all referring to the effect on student achievement after controlling for socioeconomic status.]

Would any members of the school board continue to go to a dentist who allowed an untrained person to work with patients in his/her office even if that person knew a lot about teeth? Would any members of the school board use an attorney who allowed an untrained person to speak for his/her firm in court, even if that person knew a lot about the law? Would any member of the school board got on board a plane flown by an untrained person, even if that person knew a lot about aerodynamics?

Professional work needs to be done by professionals.


To read Vic Smith's discussion of the REPA III language click here.

If you'd like to tell the School Board how you feel about REPA III, public comments on the proposed language will be accepted until January 31, 2014. Go the SBOE website at http://www.in.gov/sboe/REPAIIIcomment.htm to enter your comments. The proposed rule language can be found here.

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, January 10, 2014

Making Up For Lower Taxes



The cry from the Friedmanesque Free Market Fanatics is that we all need to pay less in taxes. Conservative politicians, who have convinced conservative Americans to elect them, are following through on that philosophy. So now American's taxes are lower than at any time in the last 6 decades.

Taxes, however, are important. They are necessary to keep the country and important services running. Our infrastructure is failing, our public schools are getting shortchanged by corporate charters and vouchers (and just today the Indiana House Education Committee passed on a bill that would once again expand Indiana's voucher program). Taxes are a way of paying dues...a membership fee in society. George Lakoff in his book Don't Think of an Elephant 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. [emphasis added]
If we're all paying less in taxes...where are the services coming from? Who's paying to keep up the roads and bridges, schools, and parks?

The logical outgrowth of the obsessive policy of no taxes is that the public sector is starved for funds, at least in the area of education. And this is used as a reason to turn public school buildings and money over to corporate run charter schools and vouchers schemes for private schools. Public money, what little there is, is being syphoned away from public schools and redistributed to corporations and religious entities. And the public has very little to say about how the money is being spent...and how the schools are being run. There are no publicly elected school boards overseeing private schools. Corporate charters are led by the bottom line, not necessarily what's best for students. Public schools are being starved and then blamed for lower achievement because they haven't the facilities and materials to do the job they're supposed to do.

It's not just local oversight that's missing...in Indiana, at least, it's at the state level as well. Governor Mike "less government" Pence added an additional layer of bureaucracy to Indiana's education infrastructure by creating a new agency which duplicates and overlaps the Department of Education and its elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. The new agency, CECI, led by charter school advocates (including the Governor, himself), and its appointed members are taking even more money from the public coffers. Six of the sixteen appointed members of the new agency are drawing salaries of over $100,000. Vic Smith, of the ICPE, the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, explains.
In August, Governor Pence created the Center for Education and Career Innovation, a $5 million duplicative education bureaucracy, to divert control of Indiana education policy from Superintendent Ritz to his office. He was willing to do this, risking his national reputation for efficiency and small government, because of deep differences on educational policy.
The idea of public schools as a necessary part of a democratic society is lost on these people. When they see failing students, they don't see poverty and the failure of policy makers to provide compensatory funding and programs. They see an opportunity to turn a profit for themselves or their friends.


Who makes up the difference for underfunded public schools? In wealthy neighborhoods, the citizens can afford to subsidize the funding for their schools -- effectively raising their own taxes. In poor neighborhoods, on the other hand, there's no one to make up the difference resulting in less professional development for teachers, deteriorating facilities, less money for supplies and teaching materials, less extra curricular opportunities, fewer books in school libraries (if there even is a school library), less money for wraparound services, and so on...so teachers invest their own money.

The average American public school teacher makes $56,383, a 1% decrease in real dollars over the last decade. In Indiana, the average is $51,456, a loss of about 10% over the last decade (lowest is South Dakota at $39,580 a change of -0.6% over the last decade). Yet teachers regularly spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars out of their own pockets each year to supply their classrooms. States cut funding and the politicians brag about how they are saving money...but then teachers subsidize the state and spend their own money on their students.

In fact, teachers regularly spend so much of their own money that at least one lending institution has a special offer for teachers to get loans for classroom supplies (click the image for a larger version). The fact that teachers spend their own money for supplies which should be provided by their employer is bad enough. Now someone is going to make a buck by loaning them the money they need to do their job, and charging them interest for it.

Teachers Offered Personal Loans to Buy School Supplies
If you’re looking for just one image that says a thousand words about what’s wrong with America, here’s a contender. It is a screenshot of the website for the Silver State Schools Credit Union:

Yep, it’s an invitation to K-12 teachers to go into debt to do their job.
While the Corporate Education Reform Industry works overtime to redistribute money intended for public schools into private hands...while policy makers and politicians regularly bash teachers and public schools...teachers are subsidizing poorly funded public schools to the tune of $1.6 billion!

So much for lower taxes.


I just saw this offer...

17 Teacher-tested Ways to Find Free or Cheap Stuff for Your Classroom


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, January 7, 2014

2014 Medley #1

Thoughts for the New Year,
Grade Retention,
Why Teachers Quit, A Teacher's Life


An Urban Teacher's Education: Life Lessons: 2013

A new year brings out the lists: lists of the best and the worst from the previous year, most important articles, 10 best books, 10 best New Year's Resolutions and so on. Most items on such lists are written as short, tweet-length items so they can be absorbed quickly. Sometim
es, though, it's important to look deeper.

One of my favorite teacher bloggers is James Boutin, a language arts and social studies teacher in the Seattle, WA area. His reflective essays are infrequent, but always well thought out. He recently posted his annual "Life Lessons" list reviewing his own learning of the year ending. Life Lessons 2013 is well worth the read in its entirety.
1) "You cannot have an atmosphere of respect given an impossible task."
At the CES conference this past November in San Francisco, my colleagues and I were listening to Deborah Meier talk about the state of schools today. At one point, she noted, "You cannot have an atmosphere of respect given an impossible task."

Ms. Meier is right.

Most public education workers have been given an impossible task. It is easy to hide that it is an impossible task because most of the American public is unaware of what's being asked of those who work in schools. But, as I discussed in more detail in a previous post, the sum of tasks expected of the public school worker (from teacher to principal to paraeducator) is, to put it both bluntly and accurately, absurd.
The atmosphere of respect includes self-respect as well. How do teachers balance their own self-respect when they are asked to do things which they know are not good for their students? How can administrators ask their teachers to respect them and themselves when they are continually asking them to do things which are educationally unsound at best or, at worst, damaging? Corporate Education "reformers" have forced public educators into no-win situations. Educators who don't comply lose their jobs...those who do comply lose their self-respect. The choice is no-choice.

See also: How Standards-Based Instruction is Murdering School

EdGator: Five New Years Resolutions for Public Education Supporters

John Kuhn provides us with some New Year's Resolutions. Number 1 is why I'm here. Number 4 makes me thankful for my friends at NEIFPE.
1. Be active online, in the papers, and in your state capital. In the blogosphere, in the halls of your legislative bodies, in the letters-to-the-editor section, and during every single election, public education supporters can’t afford to sit back...

2. Be active locally. The corporate reformers aren’t merely interested in statewide and national elections. They have found more bang for their buck at the local level...This will happen in your state soon, if it hasn’t already.

3. Embrace your expertise...The teacher’s kind-if-firm voice is exactly the antivenin that our nation needs in order to counteract the poisonous greedchismo of the dominant voices in our current policy environment...

4. Join others. Relatedly, if you are serious about protecting the promise of public education, you have little choice but to join others in holding back the tide of corporate reform...

5. Be great...we have the opportunity day after day to go into our classrooms and our administrative offices and invest ourselves in activities that make a difference in children’s lives. When we do our jobs well, we win the support of our communities and our parents and students...

Peg With Pen: A Quick Guide to Resisting from Within for Educators

Another of my favorite teacher-bloggers. Peg-With-Pen expands on and adds to John Kuhn's list. Again...this is just part of it. Read it all...
2. Open the door. I know the teachers reading this have been told again and again to shut the door and do what is right for children. I beg of you, begin to open the door. Open it and let the light burst into the hallways. Let them hear your children laughing, singing, learning and engaging in what is real and true. When the children are not allowed to do so, open the door and let the world see this as well - let them see what corporate education looks like. Invite the parents to come in and help. Let them see the truths – good and bad – the parents will watch, listen and many will act to ferociously protect the children from the dangers that lurk in our buildings...

5. Read. We must read and educate ourselves...Get the Reign of Error by Diane Ravitch immediately.

6. Align yourself with like-minded folks...

7. Use your teacher knowledge to deconstruct the madness of corporate education reform. For example, here I use the Conditions for Learning to let Obama know how ridiculous and harmful RTTT is. What do you know? How can you use it to debunk the corporate ed. reformers who know nothing about teaching and learning?

18. Ignore the mandates around you however you can. This is different for everyone so I cannot advise. I know what works for me. Find out what works for you – there are ways to ignore and refuse to participate in common core, test prep and more. I simply ask myself, at the end of day, did I listen to my students? Did I help engage learners and did they see how their learning will further the purpose of their lives? If I didn’t do that, something has to change. Make changes however you can and do not berate yourself because it wasn’t good enough – or you think you should have done more – you will always wish you could do more. Try again tomorrow. Nothing is forever. Change is always possible.


As reading scores stagnate, state considers holding students back

Here is yet another group of ignorant state policy makers who don't know anything about education and then make rules about educating kids. Next they'll legislate leeches for illnesses. The National Association of School Psychologists has a good handout for parents including alternatives to retention. Unfortunately, alternatives cost money and the US has become the land of the cheap.

Question 1...have Iowa's reading scores really stagnated or are they simply in line with poverty levels?
Third-graders who fail to meet state literacy standards may be held back under new rules being considered by the Iowa State Board of Education. But some experts say that's not the route to go.

Under the proposed rules, parents of a struggling reader in third grade would have the choice of enrolling the pupil in an intensive summer reading program. If the parents refuse summer school, the child would be held back. The board plans to cast a final vote to accept these rules early this year.

"We really aren’t looking at it as being punitive,” said Dave Tilly, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education, "but we really want to get parents to take their child’s literacy development very, very seriously.”
Not punitive? Policy makers have failed to invest in education for all children. Retention punishes students for the adult failure. Support struggling schools, don't close them. Provide wraparound services for all schools. Lower class sizes. Address issues of poverty and inequity in funding. Saying it's not punitive is either a lie or the comment of someone who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Question 2...why not have an "intensive...reading program" before the child fails?


‘I would love to teach but…’

Another experienced teacher decides that she's had enough of the Corporate Education Reform Industry.
Originality, experimentation, academic liberty, teacher autonomy, and origination are being strangled in ill-advised efforts to “fix” things that were never broken. If I must prove my worth and my students’ learning through the provision of a measurable set of objectives, then I have taught them nothing because things of value cannot be measured. Inventiveness, inquisitiveness, attitude, work ethic, passion, these things cannot be quantified to a meager data point in an endless table of scrutiny...

I would love to teach, but I refuse to be led by a top-down hierarchy that is completely detached from the classrooms for which it is supposed to be responsible...

I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests that take advantage of children for the sake of profit...

I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day wishing I had some time to plan my fantastic lessons because the county comes up with new and inventive ways to steal that time, under the guise of PLC meetings or whatever...

I would love to teach, but I will not spend another day in a district where my coworkers are both on autopilot and in survival mode...

I would love to teach, but I’m tired of my increasing and troublesome physical symptoms that come from all this frustration, stress, and sadness...

I would love to teach, but I’m truly angry that parents put so much stress, fear, and anticipation into their kids’ heads to achieve a meaningless numeric grade that is inconsequential to their future needs, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures...


from the Badass Teachers on Facebook

Finally, most teachers have carried that tote-bag of papers to be graded around with them to various places. Below, a Facebook response to the question, "What is the most unusual place you have graded papers?" Here are just a few. The last one says it all...
  • Mine is probably in a sleeping bag, by flashlight, on a Cub Scout camp out.
  • while bartending....
  • in the cheap seats, during batting practice, at an Orioles game!
  • While cooking dinner.
  • Sitting in the emergency room with broken ribs.
  • While riding on a golf cart between shots
  • Yankees game.
  • Hotel room.
  • On the tube in London, on the beach in Brighton.... Best Spring break ever.
  • in a courthouse waiting to be called for jury duty
  • At a Detroit Red Wings hockey game at Joe Louis Arena.
  • At church (Wednesday night).
  • Bathtub.
  • In a dental chair... with the dentist's tools in my mouth.
  • Bowling alley while my son was in his league, and during webeloes meetings and on my back deck when it was 35 degrees outside...
  • in the car while waiting for really long freight trains to pass.
  • during chemo and waiting to go into surgery....the life of an English teacher!!
  • While getting an infinity TATTOO on the top of my foot!
  • Toilet
  • on a flight. I labeled each paper, "graded at 32000 feet"
  • Basketball games, on a bus going to a basketball game, on the beach, at the hairdresser, I am in the hospital now and wish i had my papers to grade
  • Fifth floor veranda of Disneyland grand California hotel.
  • In an auditorium during an all day dance competition.
  • On a sailboat
  • This makes me sad. All of us not being able to really be present because the workload is overwhelming and never-ending.

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!