"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

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!


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