"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, April 30, 2014

Segregation: 60 Years After Brown

In a few weeks we'll mark the 60th anniversary of the (May 17,) 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. Even after 60 years, however, the U.S. is still struggling with racism and segregation.


Last weekend President Obama spoke out against the racism reflected by the comments of Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA franchise, Los Angeles Clippers.

Obama: Donald Sterling’s Racism Is Part Of ‘The Legacy Of Race And Slavery And Segregation’
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there, the vestiges of discrimination,” he said. “We’ve made enormous strides, but you’re going to continue to see this percolate up every so often. And I think that we just have to be clear and steady in denouncing it, teaching our children differently, but also remaining hopeful that part of why statements like this stand out some much is because there has been this shift in how we view ourselves.” [emphasis added]
The President included segregation as one of the problems that still exists in America. Does he realize that his administration is contributing to the problem of segregation by forcing states to increase the number of charter schools?

Race to the Top, the Obama/Duncan plan to privatize America's public schools, requires states to, among other things, increase charter school caps. Charter schools do not, in general, perform better than public schools, and are often worse. But what's relevant to President Obama's comments, though, is that charter schools are often responsible for increased racial segregation.


Charter Schools and the Risk of Increased Segregation
...the policy on charter schools remains a centerpiece of the administration’s initiatives (as it was, in a different form, in the Bush Administration), despite abundant evidence that the policy is inconsistent with the longstanding goal of promoting school integration.
Perhaps the increase in segregation is unintended. In 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education struck down the concept of separate but equal schools. States could no longer maintain separate facilities for students based on race. However, in 2007, the Court found that using race as a means to desegregate schools was also not allowed. This allowed continued de facto segregation. In other words, it is legal for schools to be segregated if the segregation is by, among other methods, "parental choice." Whether segregation is desirable or not doesn't seem to be an issue any more.

The fact is that desegregation worked -- in that it helped the achievement of black students thereby reducing the racial achievement gap (The results were not universal, so desegregation alone is not sufficient to end the achievement gap, however, the gains made during the time the U.S. desegregated schools were real). The challenge to the nation today is to find a way to increase school integration without using race as a means to desegregation...

In any case, whether it is intended or not is irrelevant. School segregation is increasing and charter schools are contributing to the increase.
It is not that government has an agenda to increase segregation. Proponents of charter schools believe they’re giving low-income and minority students opportunities they otherwise would not have had. That belief is true in some cases; all charter schools do not result in segregation. But far too many do, and the trend is unfavorable. It takes a lot of care through targeted funding and oversight to mitigate the pressures that lead to yet more segregation. But whatever motivations drive the choices families and schools make, it is important that government does not exacerbate the problem of segregation by ignoring the unintended consequences of its policies. The risk is an increasingly divided public education system. [emphasis added]
It's been asked before if President Obama is even aware of what his administration's education policy is...what it expects the states to do...and its consequences -- intended or unintended. Does he know that charter schools increase racial segregation?

A new round of segregation plays out in charter schools
The Civil Rights Project at the University of California Los Angeles, which has documented charter school segregation for years, has found that in several western and southern states white students are disproportionately represented in charter schools. These patterns “suggest that charters serve as havens for white flight from public schools,” according to a 2010 report from the group.
Choice Without Equity:
 Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards
Seven years after the Civil Rights Project first documented extensive patterns of charter school segregation, the charter sector continues to stratify students by race, class and possibly language. This study is released at a time of mounting federal pressure to expand charter schools, despite on-going and accumulating evidence of charter school segregation.

Our analysis of the 40 states, the District of Columbia, and several dozen metropolitan areas with large enrollments of charter school students reveals that charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation. While examples of truly diverse charter schools exist, our data show that these schools are not reflective of broader charter trends.
“The United States continues to wrestle with the legacy of race and slavery and segregation, that’s still there..."

Yes, Mr. President, it's still there.


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, April 29, 2014

Musical Interlude: It's Got That Swing


Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born to two musicians on April 29, 1899.

He began his own musical career -- starting piano lessons -- at the age of 7. At 15 he wrote his first song (1914)...and spent the next 60 years writing and playing music.

I'm not going to write a lot about him other than to say that his music influenced me as a teen. There's quite a bit of biographical information on the web if you're interested. Some interesting reads are...

The first clip is from the documentary by Ken Burns, Jazz. It's a short clip of Ellington playing his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag."

Two of Ellington's signature pieces...the first, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" -- this version is Ellington's orchestra with Louis Armstrong. You can only listen to on YouTube (click the image to listen), but it's worth it...

Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"

Finally, a late version (1964) of "Take the "A" Train." During the introduction Ellington introduces his arranger and collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. Music starts at about 1:25. Vocal by Ernie Shepard.


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, April 24, 2014

Random Quotes, April 2014

Thoughts and ideas from various sources.


Sometimes the courage needed to stand up to the "reform" nonsense permeating public education is the courage to put one's livelihood at risk. Traditionally, teachers are well behaved and respect authority. "Reformers" and their legislative minions count on that...

Encouraging Courage by Alfie Kohn
It takes courage to stand up to absurdity when all around you people remain comfortably seated. But if we need one more reason to do the right thing, consider this: The kids are watching us, deciding how to live their lives in part by how we’ve chosen to live ours.


Having schools full of "test-prep technicians" instead of professional educators makes the privatization of public education easier.

Report: As Teacher Demographics Change, Districts Must Prioritize Retention by Alyssa Morones in Education Week's blog, Teacher Beat
Nearly one third of teachers exit the field within the first three years—a fraction that's even larger in urban school systems, where more than two thirds of teachers in those schools leave within 5 years. The attrition rate in high poverty schools is 50 percent greater than it is in other schools. Teachers of color leave at much higher rates than white teachers, a problem that's notable in light of schools' struggles to recruit more minority teachers.

Such turnover is costly. According to one study from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future cited in the report, teacher attrition costs school districts more than $7 billion to recruit and induct new teachers. Finally, because lower-income urban schools have a particularly hard time with teacher retention, their students on average receive weaker instruction because beginner teachers tend to be less effective than experienced ones.

These demographic changes are coupled with what appear to be a shift in teachers' thoughts on teaching as a long-term profession.

A national survey of teachers found that over half planned to leave the profession; new teachers who entered the profession through non-traditional routes, including Teach For America, were even more likely to express this outlook.


Finally...the perfect title for "reformers"...

Purveyors of Reformy Nonsense - aka PoRN Stars.

Duncan to Rest of US: Shut Up by Peter Greene in Curmudgucation Blog
At the risk of setting off the redundant redundancy alarm myself, let me repeat that neither King nor any of the other Purveryors of Reformy Nonsense are fighting the status quo. The PoRN stars have had years upon years to show us all how their complex of standards based test driven high accountability baloney will save us all, and it isn't happening. NY is special because it has had every single element the PoRNs want-- the charters, the TFA, the testing, the teacher evaluations, the centrally produced teacher-proof CCSS curriculum materials (okay, they haven't killed tenure yet)-- and yet none of those programs has produced anything remotely like success. In New York State the reformy nonsense IS THE STATUS QUO.


Who should we listen to in the current discussion about public education? The educators who spend their lives working with children and understand how learning works, or hedge fund managers, legislators, or billionaires whose view of education stems from childhood memories or from seeing public schools as a "market?"

Arne Duncan may know about basketball...Bill Gates may know about technology...and locally, Mike Pence may know about being an attorney...Bob Behning might know about flowers...and Dennis Kruse might know about auctions...

But not one of them knows about education. Not one of them knows as much as a first year teacher. Not one of them knows as much as the experienced special education para...or the music teacher...or the school librarian. Not one of them knows anything about how to help a struggling child learn...

From What They Don't Teach You by Erin Osborne
Elementary teachers take the brunt of teacher hate. Tony seems to think teaching thirty children colors and the alphabet must be simple. Come on, it's the alphabet! Of course, Tony doesn't remember how long it took him to correctly write the alphabet. He conveniently doesn't remember the hours his parents and teacher spent drilling and correcting. He was too young to recall that they thought he might have been dyslexic for a time but just needed some extra support.

Tony doesn't remember learning his multiplication tables or the planets in the solar system. He doesn't remember the first time he read a book by himself and where he learned about the settling of America. He wasn't born knowing how to share, to work together in a group, how to listen and respond to another human being. He was taught these things.


Teachers are not against accountability...they just think that everyone who creates the conditions under which public schools have to operate should share in the accountability. Accountability should fall on policy makers, politicians, parents, and communities as well as educators. Schools don't exist in a vacuum.

John Kuhn wrote,
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?
Yet, the myths and lies about public schools and public school teachers continue.

Top 5 Myths and Lies About Teachers and Their Profession from NEA Today.
Well-funded misinformation campaigns succeed in part by leaving no rock unturned in the quest to smear whatever person or institution they are targeting. In these cases, is there any meaningful difference between a hoax, myth, rumor or an outright lie? Not really, because they all serve to discredit and undermine, regardless of intent.

For more than ten years, public schools have been assaulted by a barrage of destructive policies that have been fueled by the widespread dissemination of misinformation. It begins with corporate cash flowing into new think tanks and advocacy groups, or films like “Waiting for Superman” and “Won’t Back Down.” And it all eventually trickles down to the neighbor a few doors down who asked you, “I support public schools and I love my own child’s teacher, but, gosh darnit, why can’t bad teachers ever be fired and what’s wrong with being held accountable?”

Needless to say, the conversation over public education needs to change course but is still largely bogged down in the morass of distortions and warped opinions


From Reign of Error, by Diane Ravitch
Good schools are akin to families, in which every member of the family is different and every member of the family matters...


For decades politicians, policy makers, and pundits have been blaming schools for putting our nation at risk. One wonders how the U.S. managed to emerge as a world leader.

Education at Risk: Fallout from a Flawed Report by Tamim Ansary in Edutopia. A discussion of A Nation at Risk.
What we now call school reform isn't the product of a gradual consensus emerging among educators about how kids learn; it's a political movement that grew out of one seed planted in 1983...


Why are we listening to people who don't know what they're talking about? What educational qualifications do Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, or Jeb Bush have?

Are Teacher Evaluations Education ‘Reform’s’ Biggest Bust? from the Educational Opportunity Network.
...a key underpinning to the whole teacher evaluation program pushed by the Obama administration was cast into doubt. As Education Week’s Stephen Sawchuck again reported, the American Statistical Association, “the world’s largest community of statisticians,” examined the practice of basing teachers’ performance evaluations on students’ standardized test scores – a key criterion for getting Race to the Top money or an NCLB waiver – and warned against this approach.

We know that test scores do not accurately reflect a teacher's ability in the classroom as shown by research.

Reliability and Validity of Inferences About Teachers Based on Student Test Scores
Teacher VAM scores should emphatically not be included as a substantial factor with a fixed weight in consequential teacher personnel decisions. The information they provide is simply not good enough to use in that way. It is not just that the information is noisy. Much more serious is the fact that the scores may be systematically biased for some teachers and against others, and major potential sources of bias stem from the way our school system is organized. No statistical manipulation can assure fair comparisons of teachers working in very different schools, with very different students, under very different conditions. One cannot do a good enough job of isolating the signal of teacher effects from the massive influences of students’ individual aptitudes, prior educational histories, out-of-school experiences, peer influences, and differential summer learning loss, nor can one adequately adjust away the varying academic climates of different schools. [emphasis in original]


The Teacher as Sisyphus by David C Berliner.

No classroom is like any other. Not even with the same teacher. Every year something is different -- the makeup of the students, the outside influences, the administrative support or foul-ups and the experience of the teacher. Every year, every teacher and every student experience something different than they ever have before.
Four variables:
  1. some one
  2. teaching some thing
  3. to someone else
  4. in some setting
There are only four variables for schools and teachers and school administrators to control, so the general public thinks that teaching seems easy. It certainly sounds easy, until you remember that four is exactly the same number of variables that make up our DNA. And just as those four nucleotides result in billions of different people, and great variation even within the same family, those four educational variables result in no two classrooms ever being alike. Class-to-class and year-to-year variations, even in the same schools, end up requiring remarkably different skills to teach and to administer well. Teaching and schooling is hard work because you cannot ever be sure of what you will draw as a class or what the dynamics will be at a school.


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, April 19, 2014

Just Another Excuse to Bash Teachers

The Indianapolis Star Editorial Board apparently agrees with State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry that something must be wrong with the teacher evaluation system in Indiana since so many teachers scored as Effective and Highly Effective.
Indiana’s system for evaluating how well its 55,000 public school teachers are doing their jobs smacks of absurdity on multiple levels.
The Star lists three "absurdities" which prove, at least in their minds, that there cannot possibly be that many good teachers in the state. The not-so-hidden-assumption is the usual, "We know there are bad teachers and if this evaluation system doesn't reveal them, then there's something wrong with the system."

The assumption is based on the myth of the "bad teacher" being responsible for all the ills affecting society.

Absurdity No. 1: The ratings released by the Indiana Department of Education this month are clearly inflated. About 97 percent of teachers landed in the highest two categories -- “highly effective” and “effective.” Only about 2 percent were rated as “needs improvement.” And less than one-half of one percent -- about 200 teachers statewide — received the lowest rating of “ineffective.”
This must be incorrect because, the Star maintains, it's normal for "managers to overrate employees' performance." This may be true...and it may also be true that education managers (principals) have overrated employees' (teachers) performance. However, there's no proof that this is true. Saying the numbers are "clearly inflated" isn't sufficient. Maybe the bad teachers have already quit, been counseled out, or been fired within their first five years (nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within that time). The Education profession has a way of cleaning house before teachers gain too much experience.

Absurdity No. 2: The ratings don’t match results. A lot of data measuring student achievement is available, some encouraging and some deeply discouraging, but there’s a bottom line statistic that can’t be ignored: Indiana ranks 42nd in the nation in the education level of its workforce. That’s a fatal flaw for a state that must compete in a global economy where a good education is increasingly an essential commodity.
Is the Star trying to blame the education level of the state's workforce on K-12 educators? It's hard to tell because there seems to be an immediate "walk-back" from this...
Educators argue, and rightly so, that they’re not fully responsible for that statistic and other key indicators. Education attainment has been undercut by Indiana’s long history as a strong manufacturing base, which for decades inadvertently weakened the value of an education; growing poverty rates in the state; and in many cases, a frustrating lack of parental support. [emphasis added]
...but they go on to write...
But taxpayers invest so heavily in schools -- 53 cents of every dollar in the state budget goes to K-12 education -- precisely because state leaders and the public recognize the importance of education to Indiana’s future. The problem is that taxpayers’ aren’t getting sufficient return on their investment.
In other words..."Hoosiers aren't educated enough and while we aren't going to come out and say it's the fault of the K-12 educators it's someone's fault and we really want to blame someone...whoever."

How about the fact that a third of Indiana residents who graduate from state supported universities and colleges leave the state after graduation...and almost half leave within 5 years of graduation (effectively lowering the educational attainment rate)? Is that the fault of K-12 educators, too?

Someone needs to take the blame for that after all, and since the Star won't criticize the favored legislature or governor, then it must be the fault of those pesky unionized teachers.

Absurdity No. 3: Some state leaders want to reward performance that’s less than satisfactory. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz floated the idea that even those 2 percent of teachers saddled with “needs improvement” rankings should receive pay raises.
I didn't know that...maybe we do need a different system for evaluating teachers after all. How about something like this...
The Montgomery County Public Schools system...has a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve.

The program, Peer Assistance and Review — known as PAR — uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans...

In the 11 years since PAR began, the panels have voted to fire 200 teachers, and 300 more have left rather than go through the PAR process, said Jerry D. Weast, the superintendent of the Montgomery County system, which enrolls 145,000 students, one-third of them from low-income families. In the 10 years before PAR, he said, five teachers were fired. “It took three to five years to build the trust to get PAR in place,” he explained. “Teachers had to see we weren’t playing gotcha.”

Doug Prouty, the teachers’ union president, said, “It wouldn’t work without the level of trust we have here.”

Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s state superintendent of schools, called PAR “an excellent system for professional development.” Senior staff members from the United States Department of Education have visited here to study the program, and Montgomery County officials have gone to Washington to explain how it works. In February, the district was one of 12 featured in Denver at a Department of Education conference on labor-management collaboration.
Unfortunately, the plan, which has worked so well, doesn't include evaluating teachers using student test scores, which Indiana now requires...

The Star continued
Let’s reward great teachers with strong compensation. But don’t dilute limited resources by handing out more money to those who aren’t getting the job done.
Is that like allowing failed charter schools to reopen as private schools and receive tax supported vouchers? Is that the kind of dilution of limited resources they're talking about?

The Indianapolis Star ought to admit it...they just want another excuse to bash public schools and their teachers.


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, April 18, 2014

Lending Teachers A Voice


For some "reformers" having teachers resign in large numbers is likely cause for celebration. They might not admit it, though, since the latest PDK/Gallup Poll shows that most people (72%) "trust and have confidence in" the teachers who work in their schools. Still, teacher turnover lowers the personnel costs for schools because, for the most part, new teachers are cheaper than veteran teachers. If you keep replacing older teachers with new teachers, then personnel costs go down.

So those "reformers" who approve of (and encourage) experienced teachers quitting will likely be cheering the situation in Wake County (Raleigh), North Carolina - population 974,289.


Wake County has had a significant increase in teachers leaving the system, state and profession -- up 41% since last year. The reasons are varied, but for many it's because North Carolina has abandoned the path that led it to higher achievement.

In her 2009 book The Flat World of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond wrote about North Carolina.
A combination of substantial investments in early learning and K-12 education -- coupled with raised standards for students, teachers, and school leaders and supports for professional learning -- helped improve student achievement in North Carolina and reduced the achievement gap over 2 decades from 1983 through about 2003.
Things have changed since then, however, as "reformers" have taken over public education in the state. Diane Ravitch chronicles the demise of public education in North Carolina.
...North Carolina is controlled by an extremist governor and legislature intent on destroying public education...
In October, 2012, Ravitch posted a letter from a North Carolina teacher, Kris Nielsen. Nielsen listed 21 different reasons why he was quitting...why North Carolina had become toxic for teachers and students in public education. Among them,
...I will not spend another day under the expectations that I prepare every student for the increasing numbers of meaningless tests.

...I refuse to watch my coworkers being treated like untrustworthy slackers through the overbearing policies of this state, although they are the hardest working and most overloaded people I know.

...I refuse to watch my family struggle financially as I work in a job to which I have invested 6 long years of my life in preparation. I have a graduate degree and a track record of strong success, yet I’m paid less than many two-year degree holders. And forget benefits—they are effectively nonexistent for teachers in North Carolina.

...I’m tired of watching my students produce amazing things, which show their true understanding of 21st century skills, only to see their looks of disappointment when they don’t meet the arbitrary expectations of low-level state and district tests that do not assess their skills.

...I refuse to hear any more about how important it is to differentiate our instruction as we prepare our kids for tests that are anything but differentiated. This negates our hard work and makes us look bad.

...I’m tired of watching parents being tricked into believing that their children are being prepared for the complex world ahead, especially since their children’s teachers are being cowed into meeting expectations and standards that are not conducive to their children’s futures.
More and more teachers are joining Nielsen and leaving the profession in North Carolina.

'Alarming' Wake teacher turnover numbers to be released Thursday
[Principal] Jordan said three teachers have already left Underwood [Elementary School] during the 2013-14 school year, and two more have told her they won't be back next year.

"One teacher left California 11 years ago, and is still making $20,000 less in teacher pay than when she left California," Jordan said. "She loves her job, but unfortunately, due to the financial responsibilities for her family, she has to look for a different profession."
Is anyone surprised by this? Not Wake County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Doug Thilman.
“While these figures are alarming, they are not surprising. Given the flat pay scale over the past few years, the recent legislated removal of both career status and higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees, increased teacher turnover has been expected,” Thilman said.
What's the prognosis for the teaching profession in North Carolina?

Wake Schools: 600 teachers have quit this school year
Maher said fewer students are looking to be teachers, which could lead to hiring problems down the line.

"As today’s teachers leave their classrooms for other careers or other states, the supply of new teachers to fill those empty slots is declining,” said Maher said in a statement. “The pipeline is drying up, and this has both immediate and lingering long-term effects on the quality of teachers in North Carolina classrooms and ultimately student achievement.”


What happened in Wake County? What changed North Carolina from a state making progress in K-12 education to one in which teachers are leaving in droves? The answer is the last few years of North Carolina politics.
...charters and vouchers; Teach for America; flunking third graders who don’t pass a reading test, and other punitive actions. At the same time, they enacted generous corporate tax breaks.
Sound familiar? There's more...
The legislature has passed law after law stripping teachers of any and all rights and privileges.

Teachers can no longer get a raise for earning an advanced degree (just shows you what the legislature thinks of education).

The legislature killed off its successful North Carolina Teaching Fellows, which produced well-prepared teachers who made a career of teaching, yet found $5-6 million to bring in Teach for America, guaranteed not to stay in teaching.

North Carolina has one of the worst climates for teachers in the United States, and it has gotten progressively worse over the past three years since hard-right Republicans took control of the legislature and the governorship.
Indiana is following in North Carolina's footsteps....
Who's buying Indiana's politicians to do their bidding? Charter Schools USA, K-12 Inc., and Connections Academy?


How does this affect students?

Study Says Teacher Churn Hurts Student Achievement
...teacher turnover harms student test scores in both mathematics and reading. It says that it harms academic performance most among poor and black students. It says that high rates of teacher churn affect both the students who lose their teachers and even those who didn’t. The researchers are cautious about why this is so, but they think it may have to do with the continual disruption of the school’s community and culture. It is hard to have collegiality and a cohesive staff when staff members come and go in large numbers.
(Click HERE to read the study.)

Politicians with no experience in education are being bribed with campaign donations from education privatizers. The result is the promotion of state and national policies which are damaging the teaching profession and pushing experienced teachers out of the classroom. All the babble about having "a great teacher in every classroom" or about "rewarding great teachers" is just so much hot air.

If we as a nation are serious about improving education for all our children we would improve the professional lives of teachers instead of making things more difficult for them.

A Warning to Young People: Don't Become a Teacher
I have watched over the past few years as wonderfully gifted young teachers have left the classroom, feeling they do not have support and that things are not going to get any better.

In the past, these are the teachers who stayed, earned tenure, and built the solid framework that has served their communities and our nation well.

That framework is being torn down, oftentimes by politicians who would never dream of sending their own children to the kind of schools they are mandating for others.

Despite all of the attacks on the teachers, I am continually amazed at the high quality of the young people who are entering the profession. It is hard to kill idealism, no matter how much our leaders (in both parties) try.
...or perhaps we're not serious about improving education since that would interfere with making a buck.


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, April 14, 2014

2014 Medley #10

Tenure, Privatization,
Unions and Teachers, ADHD


Kansas lawmakers pass school finance bill merging funding equity with education reforms
Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers.

They say the proposal is intended to ensure that school administrators are free from regulations that would keep them from firing substandard teachers.

“If you talk to administrators, they want this,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, an Olathe Republican. “They want really good teachers to thrive. They don’t want to be in a position to protect those teachers who are under-performing.”

State law had required administrators to document conduct and provide a hearing for teachers they want to fire after three years on the job.

The bill means terminated teachers would no longer be able to request a hearing.
K-12 teachers in America know, however, that "tenure" is not a guarantee of a job for life. It's simply a guarantee of due process.

In a comment to another post about the Kansas legislature stripping teachers of due process someone wrote,
No Government employee, not one one [sic], deserves tenure. They are no better than the rest of us.
The commenter is right that government employees "are no better than the rest of us." However, he's wrong because he doesn't understand what tenure means in K-12 education. Everyone, even government employees, deserves due process.

More articles reminding anyone who will listen that tenure equals due process.

The myth of teacher tenure
It is a myth that teacher tenure provides a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure is no more than a legal commitment (set by the state and negotiated union contracts) to procedural due process, ensuring notice and providing a hearing for generally accepted reasons for termination, such as incompetency, insubordination, and immorality.
Five Myths About Tenure and FILO
2. Tenure Guarantees a Job for Life

A zombie argument that won't die no matter how many times it is shot in the head. Tenure guarantees due process. Tenure guarantees that districts can only fire teachers for some good reason. That is it.
Dear Bill Maher: Here's Why You're Wrong About Tenure
...tenure is not a guarantee of a job for life: it is simply a guarantee of due process. Let's make it easy, quick, and inexpensive to remove a bad teacher: everyone is for that. But let's make it fair. Tenure is nothing more than a guarantee that firing a teacher is just that. 


Privatizing Wisconsin schools is no answer

Reduce funding for public schools through tax cuts and budget cuts. Then, give away what's left to private corporate charters and private schools through vouchers. It's not about improving education. It's about changing public education to a national privatized education system.
Our recent ranking as the worst state for African-American students' reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress is an embarrassment, and these experiments haven't helped one bit.

For the past 20 years, we have been messing around with Milwaukee's school system through a series of charter and voucher schemes that have not been proven to have better outcomes than public schools. Despite it being part of their intended purpose, these schools have done nothing to close the achievement gap between African-American and white students.

Yet the Wisconsin Legislature continues to work to dismantle public education through a series of new laws to further expand charter and voucher schools statewide.

Charter Schools: The Promise and the Peril

The first mistake in this article is the claim that "A charter school is a public school..." It's not. It's a private school, run by private corporations (some for-profit, some not for-profit) taking public money.

The second mistake is the statement that, "A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization..." Some charters are, indeed, run by nonprofits, however that is by no means true in every case.
A charter school is a public school governed by a nonprofit organization under a contract—or charter—with a state or local government. This charter exempts the school from selected rules and regulations. In return for funding and autonomy, the charter school must meet the accountability standards as defined by its charter.

Emanuel avoids direct answer on charter school performance

Rahm Emanuel is looking out for the charter schools run by his buddies. He won't admit that they were brought in to privatize the Chicago Public School system, beat the union, and fill his friends' pockets. He won't admit that they don't do a better job than the Chicago Public schools did with the same students.
The number of privately-run charter schools in Chicago has grown — from none in 1996 to more than 130 today, with more set to open later this year. Charters and other privately run schools now serve nearly one of every seven Chicago public school students.

But, even as many parents have embraced the new schools, there’s little evidence in standardized test results that charters are performing better than traditional schools operated by the Chicago Public Schools system, an examination by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University has found.

In fact, in 2013, CPS schools had a higher percentage of elementary students who exceeded the standards for state tests for reading and math than the schools that are privately run with Chicago taxpayer funds.

Charter-mania, high-stakes testing and teacher-bashing: Can Rhee’s approach be stopped?

The status quo "reform" agenda isn't working...and hasn't worked for the last 3 decades. It's time to end the testing insanity and go back to teaching and learning.
And so here we are in 2014, the year which 100 percent of kids were supposed to be proficient on the standards. And you know, we’ve got 90 percent of the schools in the country that are now declared quote, you know, “failing” – which some people thought was the goal of the law to begin with. But we really haven’t made strides on meeting a 21st century learning agenda, because we’ve driven all of the instruction around low-quality multiple-choice tests.

Education “reformers” resort to Fox News-style scaremongering

Read Shock Doctrine. It defines the process that the privatizers have been following perfectly.
  1. Wait for or create a disaster.
  2. Rush in with money for privatization.
...so-called education reformers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by spreading confusion. Their sound bites are their strongest weapons — but for that to remain so, they need to ensure that sustained, reality-based discussions never take hold, because their words ring hollow to the well-informed.


10 Myths and Facts about Teacher Unions

Part of the move towards privatization is based on union hate.
Myth 4: Unions only defend bad teachers

Fact: Unions defend the due process rights of all teachers equally. There are bad teachers, just like there are bad bankers and bad grocery store managers. A union, however, seeks to help all employees grow in their abilities and performances for the best interests of the employee and the employer.

Myth 10: Unions are ruining education

Fact: States, districts, and schools with a strong union culture have a strong component of collaboration. In fact, the states that perform the best in the U.S. are strong union states. The same can be said about most schools. Likewise, while the focus seems to continue to be on "defending the taxpayer," unions are often times the only organization left defending the best interests of students and teachers.

Teachers: A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors

Anthony Cody asks if teachers are ready to stand up...
But the truth leaks out. Reed Hastings reveals his aspiration to use the expansion of charter schools to sideline elected school boards across the country. Charter schools, sold on the basis that traditional schools are broken, rarely do better, and in many cases do worse than the schools they replace. Teach For America novices turn over at such high rates that they promote instability wherever they go. The destruction of due process feeds high turnover, as is already seen at many charter schools where it is absent or weak. And the instability and churn that is the hallmark of corporate reform is damaging to students and their communities.

Guest commentary: Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions

The following is a perfect example of how the U.S., as a nation, doesn't care about its children.
It's interesting how so many people with limited or no classroom teaching are quick to weigh in on educational issues. From Bill Gates and Eli Broad to Michelle Rhee and now Tony Smith, these self-proclaimed education "reformers" are short on education experience and long on placing the blame for educational failures where it doesn't belong.

The recent opinion piece by Tony Smith, former superintendent of Oakland Unified School District is full of misleading and false statements that only serve to distract us from the real problems facing our schools.

Contrary to what Tony Smith and the plaintiffs in the Vergara v. California case contend, laws protecting teachers' rights don't punish children. When students in our poorest neighborhoods receive a substandard education, it's not because hordes of "bad teachers" are being protected at their expense.

Our students are punished by the chronic underfunding of schools, which denies them access to smaller class sizes, a balance of new and veteran teachers, a curriculum that includes both the arts and career training, and sufficient support services.


Confirmation of neurobiological origin of attention-deficit disorder

ADHD is a real, neurologically based condition.
The neurobiological origin of attention-deficit disorder (ADD), a syndrome whose causes are poorly understood, has just been confirmed by a study carried out on mice. Researchers have identified a cerebral structure, the superior colliculus, where hyperstimulation causes behavior modifications similar to those of some patients who suffer from ADD. Their work also shows noradrenaline accumulation in the affected area, shedding light on this chemical mediator having a role in attention disorders.
See the results of the study 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!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Too Many Effective Teachers?


Indiana released an analysis of school staff performance evaluations recently...and some people don't, can't or won't believe the results.

Indiana school board members say teacher ratings unfair
“I find it hard to believe that a system of evaluation where only a handful of people are said to need improvement is accurate or effective,” at-large board member Gordon Hendry said. “Clearly, the system failed.”
State school board member Gordon Hendry is upset because too many teachers in Indiana are doing a good job. His point seems to be that there can't possibly be that many good teachers in Indiana, so the system must be flawed.

In other words...we know that there are bad teachers, but our method of catching them didn't work.

To be fair, Hendry isn't the only board member who questioned the results of teacher evaluations.
Indiana districts that haven’t raised salaries in years could have felt pressure to rate teachers higher to make sure they were eligible for an increase this year, board member Cari Whicker said.

“We have a system set up where it’s punitive,” she said. “There’s a feeling of, we have to give everyone a good score so that people finally get a cost of living adjustment.”
Whicker, a public school teacher, also seems to doubt the results -- at least according to this story. Her attitude seems to be that we've forced schools/principals/evaluators into cheating -- giving teachers higher scores than they deserve -- because educators need a raise.

The implication is that there must be more bad teachers out there. Everyone knows there are more bad teachers, right? All you have to do is read the papers to know that there are bad teachers everywhere...Michelle Rhee says there are. Arne Duncan says there are. Everyone knows it. If our evaluation system didn't catch all the thousands (millions?) of bad teachers out there then there must be something wrong with the evaluation system.

One assumption is that bad teachers are responsible for low test scores, therefore low test scores are proof that there are bad teachers.

The director of a state "reform" group, Stand for Children, a group in favor of privatizing public education, thinks the evaluation system is wrong, too. Why? Since so many kids didn't pass the test it must be because their teachers aren't any good?

Making the grade
The state director of Stand for Children, an education reform group, points to passing rates on ISTEP+ as evidence that Indiana’s new teacher evaluation systems are flawed. Justin Ohlemiller asks how 87 percent of teachers are rated effective or highly effective if one in four students didn’t pass the standardized test.
Since 75% of Indiana's students passed the test only 75% of Indiana's teachers are "good" -- is that it? So where are all the bad teachers?


Isn't it possible that most of the teachers who are in our classrooms are doing a good job? Do there have to be more bad teachers than 13% of our state's teaching staff?

Maybe the bad teachers are among the nearly 50% of teachers who leave the profession within their first 5 years?

Maybe the bad teachers are among the 15% of teachers who leave the classroom every year. Maybe they were fired, were counseled out, were asked to resign, quit, or retired?

The teacher turnover rate is a growing and expensive problem for school systems. In 2011 the turnover rate for teachers was 16.8%...20% in urban schools. Maybe the bad teachers are among the ones leaving.

Finally, I would never claim that there are no bad teachers in Indiana's public schools. In fact, I would go so far as to say that there is room for improvement among even the best teachers in the state. We can all improve, no matter what we do.

So maybe some of the bad teachers are the ones who only had 5 weeks of training before they were dumped in a classroom. Maybe some of the bad teachers have alternative licenses and entered their classrooms with content knowledge, but no knowledge of how children learn. Maybe some of the bad teachers received good evaluations because of administrative incompetence.

Maybe we need to quit misusing standardized tests for teacher evaluation and evaluate teachers using something more appropriate.


Maybe there's something else at work here. Glenda Ritz, the Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a National Board Certified Teacher, found an interesting correlation.

7 of 8 Indiana educators effective, state finds
Ritz did raise one alarm – noting when comparing the data by A-F school performance grades, there is an increase in the percentage of educators who fall within the improvement necessary and ineffective categories.

“There is a marked decrease in the percentage of highly effective educators between schools that receive an A and those that receive an F. Thirty-two percent of teachers in A schools are rated as highly effective, in comparison to just 11 percent in schools that received an F,” she said. “Highly effective educators are vital to school turnaround and my Department will be working to address this gap moving forward.”

Locally, in Southwest Allen County Schools only one educator was found ineffective out of 456 staff members. About 92 percent were found to be effective or highly effective.

Fort Wayne Community Schools reported 83 percent effective or highly effective, with 2.6 percent needing improvement and less than 1 percent ineffective.

And Northwest Allen County Schools had about 95 percent effective or highly effective.
So, there are more bad teachers in F schools than in A schools. How did that happen? Are F schools failing because of the bad teachers or because of something else?

What makes a school an A or an F school, anyway? Steve Hinnefeld in his blog, School Matters: K-12 education in Indiana, has some answers.

Indiana school grades align with poverty
Indiana’s A-to-F school grades may say a little about whether schools are effective, but they appear to say a lot more about how many poor children attend the schools.

The 2013 grades, approved recently by the Indiana State Board of Education, track pretty closely with the percentage of children who qualify for free and reduced-price school lunches. The fewer poor kids, the higher the grades, and vice versa.
Not just schools, but school systems, too.

Indiana school corporation grades align with poverty too
The Indiana State Board of Education approved A-to-F grades for public school corporations this week and – no surprise – the grades reflect poverty, just like the grades for individual schools do.

Among the state’s 289 school corporations, most low-poverty corporations got As and Bs. But nearly three-quarters of high-poverty corporations got a grade of C or worse.
We have known for years that the effects of poverty have a huge impact on a child's achievement...much more than their teacher or school. We also know that there are things we can do to offset the effects of poverty.

Instead of trying to blame low test scores on unidentified bad teachers maybe Mr. Hendry, Ms. Whitaker and Mr. Ohlemiller will be willing to help us lobby the governor and state legislature to
  1. reduce class sizes, especially in high poverty areas and in early childhood classrooms
  2. ensure that schools have a full curricula including fine arts and physical education, a full school library staffed by professional, and time for recess.
  3. provide wraparound services for students who need them, such as counselors, nurses, school psychologists, and social workers.
  4. provide age-appropriate preschool and early childhood education without hours and hours of inappropriate tests
  5. require professional preparation for public school teachers including training in pedagogy and child development
  6. fully fund public education
(h/t to CTU)

Teachers get the blame for the failure of politicians, pundits and policy makers to solve the problems associated with America's poverty epidemic. How are we going to fill our classrooms with great teachers if the teaching profession is blamed for all the ills of society? Who will want to teach with no job protections and no professional autonomy? Are teachers the problem, or is it the fact that America leads the developed world in child poverty? Who is accountable for the condition of our schools, the resources they receive, and the neighborhoods the children live in? Diane Ravitch, in Reign of Error, wrote,
...public schools are rooted in their communities. They exist to serve the children of the communities. If they are doing a poor job, the leadership of the school system must do whatever is necessary to improve the schools -- supply more staff, more specialists, more resources -- not close them and replace them with new schools and new names. Accountability must begin at the top, with the leadership of the school system. It is the leadership that has the power to allocate resources and personnel to needy schools, and it is their responsibility to do so.
Accountability begins at the top...I like that. Let's start there. What are the governor, our legislators, and the members of the state school board doing to make learning easier for struggling students...I mean, besides blaming teachers?


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!