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

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

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

2014 Medley #8

Teacher Evaluations, Vouchers, Charters, Michelle Rhee, ADHD, Testing, 
Defunding Public Education


Washington State Legislature Considers Tying Test Scores to Teacher and Principal Evaluations

The current wave of teacher evaluation schemes seems to be the same sort of process. "Reformers," legislators, and other policy makers, convinced that "the problem" with public schools is bad teachers, have latched on to a quick and easy way to evaluate educators and schools -- use student test scores. The fact that test scores are invalid for evaluating teachers doesn't seem to matter. Using student test scores is the DIBELS of teacher evaluation techniques...it's quick...it's easy...and it provides a number with which to make a judgement -- albeit an inaccurate one.

Misusing standardized test results displays the ignorance of those who make laws about education. What teacher is going to want to continue teaching difficult to educate students when they know that they will be blamed for their students' failures to overcome disabilities or the effects of poverty? This sort of legislative malpractice is guaranteed to demoralize hard working teachers and their students.
...high-stakes tests hurt low-income students the most, exactly those students the accountability movement professes to be attempting to help. At my school (approximately 90% free and reduced), we have seen teaching positions go unfilled for months at a time. Our reputation is not what we would hope, and many of our students are faced with significant life challenges. The first response I received from my staff when I alerted them to the possibility that some of them may soon have test scores compose a part of their evaluations was: "Thank you for the information. And now I want to quit."

Faced with the reality that a) nobody, not even "experts," has discovered a surefire method for improving student test scores and b) this affects teachers' livelihoods; many teachers in low-income schools will be delivered a strong incentive to find a more affluent school to teach in if they want to continue in this profession.

And take it from me - someone who's worked in inner-city DC and the South Bronx - most of the people who work in these kinds of schools in 2014 are among the most dedicated people you could ever hope to work with.


Vouchers vs. Charters: Comparing Quality School Choice Policies

First, I don't have anything against teachers who work in charter or private schools. Good teachers need jobs, and the students who attend all schools, public, private or corporate, deserve to have good teachers.

Second, I don't have any problem with private schools. They provide an important service. What I object to is reducing the tax revenue needed for public schools and giving it to private and privately run schools. Public schools are a public responsibility and should be fully funded with tax money. Private schools should be supported by those who use them -- especially since the vast majority of private schools that receive public funds (aka vouchers) are religious schools.
When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and, when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig'd to call for the help of the Civil Power, it is a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one -- Ben Franklin
I enjoyed this article in which a charter school advocate discusses the research showing that vouchers don't work. I agree...vouchers are a theft of public funds diverted to private corporations or religious institutions, However, you can read similar research on charter schools here and here . Charters aren't any better than public schools (corporate-run charters may take public dollars but they are not public schools) even though they find ways to reduce the number of difficult to educate students they enroll.
School choice is about giving parents the opportunity to select the best education for their children from a variety of options. But choice itself isn’t enough. To truly be worthy of public investment, school choice programs should also improve academic outcomes for the target population. When the evidence suggests that a particular approach doesn’t improve academic outcomes we need to think very carefully before adopting it.

As a caveat, I will not debate the merits of school choice in this article. My purpose is merely to examine one of the most popular options for school choice at the moment, school vouchers, and determine if it is worth of our public investment and if not, offer alternatives...

...what does the evidence say about the impact of vouchers on student outcomes? To date we’ve seen little to no positive demonstrated impact on student achievement from these programs.


Even at charters, school choice limited

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on charter schools...no better than public schools.
The reports from some of these corporate charters of 100 percent graduation rates and 100 percent of students attending college seem too good to be true. They are. A closer look shows they come at a cost. For example, KIPP has posited it serves mostly low-income and minority students and still gets better results than public schools. What they don't brag about are the high attrition rates that cull their classes to the most high-achieving students.

A nationwide study of KIPP by researchers at Western Michigan University criticized the high attrition rates —about 40 percent for African-American males — and the fact that they serve few students learning English or with disabilities. KIPP also spent around “$18,500 per pupil in 2007-08, about $6,500 more per student than the average for other schools in the same districts,” according to Education Week.

Same story with BASIS. At the original campus of BASIS charter school in Tucson, Ariz., the class of 2012 had 97 students when they were sixth-graders. By their senior year, the number had dwindled to 33, a 66 percent drop.

Families churned out of such charters end up back at their neighborhood public schools, which welcome them, regardless of race, class or level of ability.


Myth 7: Charter schools make all schools better.

In their new book, 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education, David Berliner and Gene Glass dispel the myths being used to destroy America's public education system. Their take on "competition" and "choice"...
Myth 7. School choice and competition work to improve all schools. Vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter schools inject competition into the education system and “raise all boats.”

Do charter schools really make all schools better? Up until now, the only effect the charter school movement has had on traditional public schools has been on the latter's marketing budget.


Rhee’s Misguided Mission: Former D.C. Public Schools Chief Jumps On Voucher Bandwagon

While exposing her for the charlatan she is, this article is, IMHO, too kind to Michelle Rhee. The woman is a menace to public schools, public school educators, and public school students everywhere.
Rhee graduated from Cornell University in 1992 with a degree in government and later obtained a master’s in public policy from Harvard, neither of which really suggested a future in education.

Yet Rhee ended up joining Teach for America (TFA), a program that seeks to place recent college grads, usually from elite schools, in classrooms populated by kids from low-income households. TFA sees this is a way to close the “achievement gap,” which basically means that kids from wealthy families tend to do better on standardized tests than poor kids of the same age. That’s a nice mission. The problem is, TFA spends very little time actually preparing its teachers for classroom instruction and has been criticized as little more than a resume builder for select college grads...

Rhee still has her sights set on breaking teachers’ unions, but her group is pretty gung-ho about vouchers, too. On its website, StudentsFirst says, “Until states can guarantee equal access to an excellent public school for every student in every zip code, we must find a way to provide better choices for all families. Voucher programs can provide additional options for ensuring all boys and girls get the great education they need to succeed in life.”

In reality, vouchers are usually just an excuse to weaken public schools and redistribute some of their money to religious organizations. They don’t improve educational outcomes nor are they a solution to existing problems with public schools.


The truth about ADHD: Over-diagnosis linked to cause championed by Michelle Rhee

Though it mentions her name in the title, this article is not actually about Michelle Rhee, other than she is a strong proponent of the "test and punish" method of destroying public education.

ADHD is a real neurological disorder, but in the past it's been over diagnosed by lazy and/or poorly informed doctors, and schools trying to control the behavior of students. It's also been under diagnosed.

An accurate diagnosis must include proof that ADHD behavior, which many children and adults exhibit in varying degrees, impairs functioning in more than one area. In other words, a child showing hyperactive behaviors which do not interfere with his successful life functioning does not warrant an ADHD diagnosis.

That being said, the overuse, misuse and abuse of standardized tests has been responsible for desperate parents and teachers searching for a way to improve test scores. Unfortunately, some doctors have gone along and provided the medical diagnosis for ADHD where none exists.
There has been a lot of public agonizing lately about the steep rise in diagnoses of ADHD over the last two decades. There is growing, and justifiable, worry that a lot of kids are being put on stimulant medications who don’t need them.

What there hasn’t been is a plausible theory about what’s driving this explosion of diagnoses — 40 percent over the last decade and more than 50 percent over 25 years. The CDC now estimates that 12 percent of school age kids, and as many as 20 percent of teenage boys have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Blame has been directed at parents, for being so poor at discipline that they reach for a pill to make unruly kids settle down. Teachers are blamed for being so inept at maintaining order that they want students medicated into submission. Psychiatrists are blamed for being the pawns of drug companies peddling ADHD meds. But blaming doesn’t explain it. It’s not credible that an increase of this magnitude comes from individual parents, teachers and doctors suddenly pathologizing ordinary child and adolescent behavior. In my experience, most parents are quite reluctant to put their kids on psychotropic medication unless they’re in serious distress.

Now comes a book that, finally, offers a data-based analysis that could begin to account for an increase on this scale. “The ADHD Explosion,“ by Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Scheffler, considers all kinds of factors that may contribute to the surge, from diagnosis by undertrained and harried pediatricians to pharmaceutical advertising. But the eye-opening insight from Hinshaw, a clinical psychologist, and Schleffler, a health economist, who are colleagues at University of California, Berkeley, is the correlation between educational policies and the prevalence of ADHD diagnoses.


Yes, let's drop the SAT essay. While we're at it, let's drop the SAT.

The best line from this letter by Stephen Krashen is the title.
There is no point in testing writing form, i.e. the use of conventional writing style, grammatical accuracy. Research consistently tells us that writing form comes from reading, not from writing and not from study.

Writing itself is a powerful tool for solving problems and making yourself smarter. This requires mastery of the composing process (e.g. knowing that as you revise you come up with better ideas). This cannot be tested.

Research also tells us that high school grades are a good predictor of college success. Adding a standardized test does not improve the prediction. So there is no point in having the SAT.


Vic’s Statehouse Notes #177 – March 11, 2014

The Indiana governor and legislature continue to attack public schools. In the past few years the governors and legislators have behaved like termites eating away at the foundation of public education. Indiana has enacted a cap on property taxes, a reduction of education funding, a redirecting of funds to private and charter schools, and a redirecting of funds towards more and more testing.

The latest tax reduction which will reduce needed funds to public schools is just the latest in a long line of moves meant to further weaken the foundation of public education. When there is no money to provide the services required, the privatizers will claim that the public schools have failed.
Governor Pence wanted to help businesses, and he didn’t mind doing that at the expense of revenues for schools, libraries and local government. He worked hard to make this happen in a sometimes reluctant legislature. Now that they have followed his lead, at least $2 million per year in school property tax revenue is at risk, just at the time when the great competition between public and private schools for the hearts and minds of parents is revving up, a competition created by the voucher program passed by the General Assembly in 2011 and expanded with Governor Pence’s strong support in 2013.

There is something wrong when Indiana’s grand experiment in a competitive marketplace is set up and then public schools are threatened with a new cut in their funding. It doesn’t look like fair competition to me. It looks to me like public school revenue support is being undermined in a creative new way every year, and the favoritism shown by the Governor for private schools in the competition and his willingness to let public school funding erode remain obvious. [emphasis added]
In real terms, this affects local schools and students...Big changes loom for Fort Wayne Community Schools

Who is the #1 Enemy of Public Education?

And not just in Indiana...
Policies coming out of Washington D.C., and in many state capitols, are demoralizing teachers, undermining the traditional role and governance of boards of education, de-professionalizing the teaching profession, re-segregating American communities and reducing the traditional dynamic of learning to a testing obsession.

Many chief state school officers in recent years are moles of the privatizers or lack the conviction to fight for the public common school system. Hence, state legislatures and governors, in many cases, receive no resistance to their privatization agenda.

Often local public school personnel, including boards of education, feel helpless to stem the tide of public school bashing and the privatization movement.

Enough is enough. It is past time to hold all state officials accountable for their support of policies that lead to the privatization of public education.

Ohioans and the citizens of the nation, when mobilized, can uproot the anti-public education agenda of America’s oligarchs and their plutocratic political allies.

"Anyone who denies that the "reform" movement isn't abetting a wholesale transfer of public monies and property to private concerns is either corrupt or willingly obtuse." -- Jersey Jazzman


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!


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