"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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Latest in Teacher Bashing


The big news of the week is the Time Magazine cover which states the falsehood that it's (nearly) impossible to fire teachers who have "tenure" and the saviors of America's children, rich tech entrepreneurs, have solved the problem.

I haven't read the article...I don't subscribe to Time and haven't for decades. I remember an argument my father and I had over Time. I said that Time was a tool of the dreaded Military Industrial Complex (this was the 60s, after all). His response was that they were an opinion magazine and if I didn't agree with them, I should express my own opinion. Unfortunately, even back then Time had a lot more readers that I did.

Time itself classifies itself as a "news" magazine and in that way disputes my father's description of it as an opinion magazine. Dad was right, of course, and I would maintain that nearly all "news" sources are "opinion" sources, after all (see Fox News), but the fact remains that the magazine is ubiquitous for any American who sits in a dentist's or doctor's waiting room.

Some of those who have read the recent Time article claim that the cover doesn't accurately reflect the content of the article. In America, however, the soundbite, or in this case,  the imagebite, rules. For most people, Time's cover is all the content that will be seen.


Time publishes different editions for different parts of the world. In the other editions for November 4 the lead story is "Stopping Ebola." For some reason the editors thought that, in the U.S. at least, hating on teachers is a stronger sell than concern about the health threat of ebola (See other editions of Time -- Europe, Asia and South Pacific).


Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, is pushing her apology-or-boycott of Time (they apologize or we boycott). This is an effective way to rally the masses, but I doubt that it will effect the editors of Time. Chances are that they are wetting themselves with joy over the additional publicity, which, of course, was their goal to begin with.

I did sign on to the apology-or-boycott, but Time Inc includes quite a few other magazines...People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and Money, to name just a few. Do we boycott them all?


My hunch is that, hidden among the print and electronic media corporations of Time Inc are some vested interests in school privatization. At the very least though, Time Inc has shown itself to be a consistent source of public school teacher bashing. They've been promoters of the myth of failing schools, and dealers in "reform" -- starting as far back as 1980.

The June 16, 1980 issue had a cover which shouted, Help! Teacher Can't Teach. The article began by quoting Milton Friedman, the guru of privatization and vouchers. "Parents know their kids are getting a bad education" he said. Time's cover placed the blame on teachers. Even in 1980, Time Magazine was playing the "bad teachers" card.

Fast forward nearly 30 years to Feb 25, 2008 and not much has changed. The cover read, How to Make Better Teachers. Their answer? Performance pay...the idea that Diane Ravitch says, "never works and never dies."

Less than a year later we were treated to the December 8, 2008 issue with Michelle Rhee on the cover and a gushing article inside. [Note to self: Find the issue where they wrote about how the D.C. schools are still low achieving despite Rhee and her cheating scandal cover up.]

We learned What Makes a School Great from the September 20, 2010 issue. Again, it's "good teachers." The lead article is a four page advertisement for Waiting for Superman.

Where are the magazine covers and articles about the increase in the economic achievement gap, the increase in segregation, and the failure of the almighty charters to do any better than neighborhood public schools? Where are the covers and articles about charters skimming students from regular public schools and vouchers transferring public money into church coffers? Where are the covers and articles about the test and punish plans of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which have cost us billions of tax dollars while failing to improve student achievement?

Time Magazine is, quite simply, a voice for corporate reform...the November 4, 2014 issue is not an outlier. Teachers and supporters of public education should have been speaking out against this rag all along. Now is as good a time as any to start.

[An earlier version of this blog entry incorrectly connected Time Inc to Time Warner Inc, to Time Warner Cable, and, by association, to ALEC. Those corporations are all independent from one another. Time Warner Cable is a member of ALEC. The others are not. I apologize for the error.]


Enjoy the following "Davids" fighting the innuendo, misrepresentation, and outright lies from the "Goliath" -- Time Magazine...

TIME Magazine Criticized for 'Malicious' Anti-Teacher Cover
A Reality Check for Time Magazine- And A Wake Up Call for America's Teachers
A Time magazine cover enrages teachers — again
Time Magazine Attacks Teachers
Time's Tenure Story
Teacher Hate
Letter to the Editor of TIME Magazine: Teacher Tenure
The Big Problem With Time's Teacher-Bashing Cover Story

And one final article about ALEC and public education...
ALEC and Battle Over Public vs. Private Education


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, October 23, 2014

2014 Medley #23

Charters, High Achieving Nations,
Early Childhood Education, A-F Grading, Pensions, Poverty, Recess, Teaching


Steep Drops Seen in Teacher-Prep Enrollment Numbers

I've written about why teachers quit, and about the looming teacher shortage -- how schools in Indianapolis and elsewhere in Indiana started school this year without enough teachers.

The teacher shortage is a nationwide problem, and it's only going to get worse. Colleges and universities have seen a serious drop in enrollment in teacher preparation programs. Hardest hit are the nation's largest states -- California, Texas and New York.

Is this what the "reformers" want? Fewer professionals in the classroom...more room for "education temps" like TFA...fewer career teachers? It's hard not to feel paranoid when more and more state legislatures and governors' offices are doing whatever they can to make teaching less and less attractive. Will your children and grandchildren be taught by professional educators, or by young, inexperienced, poorly trained college grads who use public classrooms as a stepping stone to a different, "real" career?
Massive changes to the profession, coupled with budget woes, appear to be shaking the image of teaching as a stable, engaging career. Nationwide, enrollments in university teacher-preparation programs have fallen by about 10 percent from 2004 to 2012, according to federal estimates from the U.S. Department of Education's postsecondary data collection.

Some large states, like heavyweight California, appear to have been particularly hard hit. The Golden State lost some 22,000 teacher-prep enrollments, or 53 percent, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, according to a report its credentialing body issued earlier this month.
There's more at these links...

Five Year Trend in Teacher Preparation Programs

Interest in teaching continues to drop in California

Bay Area schools scramble for qualified teachers amid shortage


Editorial: Why A-to-F for schools fails

Imagine this scenario...

You're a teacher and your favorite student does poorly on an exam and, if you average that grade into his yearly total he would only get a C or a D. Do you revise your "curve" to raise his grade? Do you change the grading scale so that he'll get an A? What would your supervisor do? How would the parents of other students in your class react?

A majority of members of the Indiana State Board of Education apparently think that changing grades like that is fine as they follow in the footsteps of scandalized former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and manipulate the state's A-F grading system so that their "favorite" charter school gets a higher grade. Heaven forbid that voucher and charter schools, including the Republican favorite Christel House, get low grades.
In 2012 and 2014, the A-F supporters were wringing their hands over the low grades calculated for Christel House and similar schools they champion. Why? They are unequivocally convinced that the academy is exemplary, a model. Obviously, they reached that conclusion for reasons other than a state-issued letter grade. In their minds, it is an A school, regardless, and when too low a grade is assessed, they cite the ways it is “different” and round up valid reasons to dispute the C, D or F.

The 2,100 other Indiana schools could do the same thing. Year after year. Each is “different.” Parents who pick schools based on the Indiana A-to-F system are fooling themselves; those folks are better off talking with families in the district. Despite strident efforts by “The Board” to make it somehow work, its A-to-F program needs to be canceled.


Mark Russell: The Indiana Way hurts the poor

The Indiana Way, according to Mark Russell, is to cut more and more money from public schools -- especially those with high numbers of students living in poverty. You get what you pay for in Indiana, and those who can't pay get less...
The Indiana Way is to suggest that a major focus of the budget-writing 2015 General Assembly will be to “fix” the state school-funding formula so that suburban and rural districts receive more funding. This “fix” comes even while school districts, particularly urban districts, and local governments reel under constitutionally imposed property tax caps that have contributed to millions of dollars in revenue loss.

The Indiana Way allows for the potential of Gary Community Schools losing its transportation funding for its overwhelmingly poor students even while under state budget control.

The Indiana Way is being one of two states that charge textbook rental fees, disproportionately impacting poor and low-wage households, many of which are headed by income-limited single parents and custodial grandparents.


Charter School Power Broker Turns Public Education Into Private Profits
Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell's chain of four nonprofit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell's charter schools there's no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools' administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the nonprofit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell's management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.


The Plot Against Pensions

Are public sector pensions the cause of the nation's economic woes?
Finding: Conservative activists are manufacturing the perception of a public pension crisis in order to both slash modest retiree benefits and preserve expensive corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

Finding: The amount states and cities spend on corporate subsidies and so-called tax expenditures is far more than the pension shortfalls they face. Yet, conservative activists and lawmakers are citing the pension shortfalls and not the subsidies as the cause of budget squeezes. They are then claiming that cutting retiree benefits is the solution rather than simply rolling back the more expensive tax breaks and subsidies.

Finding: The pension “reforms” being pushed by conservative activists would slash retirement income for many pensioners who are not part of the Social Security system. Additionally, the specific reforms they are pushing are often more expensive and risky for taxpayers than existing pension plans.

Finding: The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation are working together in states across the country to focus the debate over pensions primarily on slashing retiree benefits rather than on raising public revenues.

Finding: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation is run by conservative political operatives and funded by an Enron billionaire.

Finding: The techniques used by conservative activists to gain public support to privatize the public pensions that public workers have instead of Social Security are, if successful, likely to be used in efforts to privatize Social Security in the future.


The biggest scam of all time

Stephen Krashen shouts this from every podium he can find. The problem with education in the U.S.A is not poor schools or "bad teachers," it's high poverty. Can we improve our schools and work to recruit better teachers? Of course, but we need to do what we can to reduce the impact of poverty at the same time or our efforts will be wasted.
The major problem in American education is not teaching quality, not a lack of standards or tests, but poverty: The US now ranks 34th in the world out of 35 economically developed countries in child poverty: when researchers control for the effect of poverty, US international test scores are at the top of the world, a clear demonstration that there is nothing seriously wrong with our teachers or our standards. Children of poverty do poorly in school because of the impact of poverty: Poor nutrition, poor health care, and lack of access to books, among other things.

The obvious first step is to improve nutrition through school food programs, improve health care through investing more in school nurses, and improving access to books through investing in school libraries.


Linda Darling-Hammond: Time for the U.S. to Learn the Right Lessons from High-Performing Nations

Linda Darling-Hammond knows that Stephen Krashen is correct. She knows that other advanced nations of the world have solved their problems of poverty (while ours is getting worse) and as such, have put themselves on the road to higher achievement.

Take time to listen to her presentation beginning at 59:30 in the video at the above link.
“The theory of reform behind NCLB – to test and apply sanctions to the failure to meet expected targets – has not made a major difference in student achievement in every one of the areas measured by PISA,”‘ she explained.

Darling-Hammond also pointed out that if you factor in only those schools where less than 10 percent of the students live in poverty, the U.S, actually ranks number one in the world on PISA. In schools where 25 percent live in poverty, the U.S ranks third. Even when you raise that number to 50 percent, our students rank way above the international average. The takeaway is clear, Darling-Hammond said.

“Those countries spend their money in highly equitable ways. If you spend more in schools on the education of children who have fewer socioeconomic advantages, you do better as a country. Other countries invested more money and that is what shot them up in the rankings.”


Early intervention could boost education levels

The children of Indiana are worse off since Governor Pence refused to apply for $80 million in federal funds for early childhood education.
Taking steps from an early age to improve childhood education skills could raise overall population levels of academic achievement by as much as 5%, and reduce socioeconomic inequality in education by 15%, according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.

In a study now published in the journal Child Development, researchers from the University of Adelaide's School of Population Health and colleagues at the University of Bristol in the UK have modelled the likely outcomes of interventions to improve academic skills in children up to school age. They considered what effect these interventions would have on education by age 16.
See also Actually, we do know if high-quality preschool benefits kids. What the research really says.


Mental rest and reflection boost learning, study suggests

The Finns give their children a 15 minute break every hour. We should learn from their example...recess matters.
Scientists have already established that resting the mind, as in daydreaming, helps strengthen memories of events and retention of information. In a new twist, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have shown that the right kind of mental rest, which strengthens and consolidates memories from recent learning tasks, helps boost future learning.

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, October 16, 2014

A Chance to Fix Our Mistake


Two years ago the voters of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Her opponent, incumbent Tony Bennett, ran on a platform of continuing reform...more vouchers, continued increase in charters, more testing, evaluating teachers using tests, weakening teachers unions, lowered standards for education professionals...and the usual "reformy"-type attacks on public schools and teachers.

Glenda Ritz ran on a platform of more control by local school boards, fewer tests (including getting rid of IREAD-3), higher standards for educators, eliminating the A-F ratings for public schools, and more support for public schools/less support for privatization.


We elected Glenda Ritz, but we got Tony Bennett's platform. In the last 2 years, the 1.3 million Hoosier voters who supported Glenda Ritz got...
  • More public money spent on vouchers
  • More public money given to privately run charters
  • More testing
  • Evaluation of teachers using test scores,
  • Less control by local school boards
  • Lowered standards for entry into the teaching profession
  • Continued grading schools A-F based on a flawed metric

In the last 2 years, the teachers of Indiana got...
  • Loss of due process
  • Loss of collective bargaining rights
  • Loss of credit for expertise and experience
  • Evaluations based on the test scores of their students
  • Testing, testing and more testing

In the last 2 years, Glenda Ritz got...
  • Constant disrespect and attacks by members of the State Board of Education
  • Blatant disrespect by the governor (who received fewer votes than she did)
  • A wasteful new bureaucracy created by the governor (CECI) to undermine her role as Indiana's education leader and to usurp the authority of the Indiana DOE


The voters of Indiana have a chance to finish the job they started when they voted for Glenda Ritz in 2012. Elect friends of public education to the state legislature and help Glenda Ritz do the job we elected her to do.

There are 1.3 million of us who voted for Glenda Ritz because we wanted changes in the state's public education policies. We then turned around and voted for other state officeholders who have prevented her from doing what we asked her to do. It's time to fix that mistake and elect legislators and officeholders who will
  1. return control of local schools to local school boards
  2. reduce the overuse and misuse of standardized testing
  3. restore professionalism to teachers and treat them with the respect they are due
  4. restore economic and community support for Indiana's public schools
  5. earmark public tax dollars to public schools, not private corporations
Choose to support your local 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!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Medley #22

Teaching, Homelessness,
Privatization and Reform, Charters


Educating kids isn’t rocket science. It’s harder.

Arne Duncan never taught in a public school. He never attended public schools. He doesn't know what it is like to be a teacher in a public school...and he knows nothing about teaching. How is it that this man is dictating to all the state departments of education how the public schools in their states should be run?
After all, what could be so hard? We’ve all been to school—most of us for at least 13 years—and we’ve watched teachers and administrators do their work. It just doesn’t seem that hard. Make sure the bells ring on time. Keep the kids quiet. Get some teachers who know the material...

...most leaders in the reform movement have never taught a five-period day, felt the joy of an unquantifiable classroom victory, lost instructional time to a standardized test, or been evaluated by a computer. And unlike the vulnerable students targeted by so much reform, most policy elites have not gone to school hungry, struggled to understand standard English, battled low expectations, or feared for their personal safety on the walk home.

Stephen Krashen's article, The teacher shortage and how we treat teachers, hits the nail on the head when he gives explains why there's a teacher shortage.
The Economic Policy Institute reports that there is a shortage of teachers because of "public education jobs lost" and an increase in school enrollment. At the same time, schools seem to be doing everything possible to get teachers to quit: removal of due-process, lack of seniority pay, the conversion of schools into test-prep centers, developmentally inappropriate and rigid standards, and the ongoing war on teachers in the media, including constant (and unjustified) proclamations about how bad American schools are because of mediocre teaching.

The Teacher Gap

...from the article Krashen refers to...
...the number of teachers and related education staffers fell dramatically in the recession and has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with the expanding student population.

24 Hours With A Kindergarten Teacher

How many "reformers" actually know what it's like being a teacher? How many "reformers" have any idea of the reality of a classroom from a teacher's perspective?
Chiang herself only earns $36,000 a year. And if it weren’t for her husband, who earns a lot more as an engineer, she doesn’t know how she would make ends meet.

But her students help put things in perspective. Throughout her years teaching, she has helped students deal with homelessness or having a parent incarcerated. She has spent hundreds of dollars of her own money on school supplies and clothing for kids in need and has spent dozens of hours translating documents and letters into Spanish for students' families who know little English.


Number of homeless students reaches new record, 1.26 million

Homeless children comprise one of the fastest growing demographics in America's public schools. We know that poverty has a negative effect on student achievement, and homeless students, like other students who live in poverty, have lower achievement levels and a higher dropout rate than children from middle class families.

Politicians and policy makers can't solve the problem of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. They dump it on the public schools, and then blame teachers, schools, and students, when the problems don't go away.

American schools are not failing...American policies towards unemployment, poverty, and homelessness are failing.
According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Education, 1,258,182 students enrolled in public schools across the country were homeless in 2012-13. Of those, 75,940 were unaccompanied youths living on their own; 200,950 had disabilities. The total number of homeless students rose 8 percent from the previous school year and by nearly 500,000 since the 2007-08 school year, when there were 795,054 homeless students.


America's Crusade Against Its Public School Children

What's should a school be? What is the purpose of school?

How do you define your life? Is it by your career alone, or is that just one aspect of who you are? Aren't you also a friend, a consumer, a voter, and a family member? Is there more to education than just learning a trade or getting ready for a career?
A specter is haunting America - the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools...

Schools should not be about the making of profit or segregating poor and marginalized children. Schools should be about only one thing - teaching children, all children, no matter how poor they are or how poorly they test...

Charter schools' discriminatory admissions policy is an affront to this moral vision of what a school should be about. A public school which would welcome only children who test well and turn away everyone else, would never be tolerated by the public, yet charter schools do this routinely, and the public is silent...

How to Destroy a Public-School System

In Philadelphia, education reformers got everything they wanted. Look where the city’s schools are now.

Is this what "reformers" want? Is 'the marketplace' better than government run public schools? Apparently not...
...the basic structure of school financing in Philadelphia is rigged to benefit these privately managed companies. Public-school money follows students when they move to charter schools, but the public schools’ costs do not fall by the same amount. For example, if 100 students leave a district-run school at a cost of $8,596 per head (the district’s per-pupil expenditure minus certain administrative costs), that school’s cost for paying teachers, staff and building expenses doesn’t actually decline by that amount. It has been estimated that partly because of these costs, each student who enrolls in a charter school costs the district as much as $7,000.

There are outright subsidies too, including a loophole that provides charters with an extra “double-dip” pension payment. Charters also appear to game the state’s special-education payment system to secure a larger share of district funds. In 2013, according to the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, city charters obtained nearly $100 million more than they spent on special education.

The Plot Against Public Education

An excellent survey of corporate reform...excerpted from Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America by Bob Herbert.
...if there is one broad approach (in addition to the importance of testing) that the corporate-style reformers and privatization advocates have united around, it’s the efficacy of charter schools. Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish, no matter how poor they were or how chaotic their home environments.

Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools.

None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype.

Chicago Public Schools Under Fire Over Dirty Conditions, Rotten Food

This would never happen if the children attending these schools were white and middle class. This is racism, and economic bigotry.

I think that the school board's offices -- and maybe that of the mayor as well, ought to be housed in the lowest performing public school in their district. Things would clean up fairly quickly if Rahm and his rubber stamps on the CPS Board had to make it through the day wading through cockroaches and without any toilet paper. Shame.
The Chicago Public School system has faced notorious budget cuts in recent years, and closed 49 schools in 2013. Recent money-saving moves to privatize management of custodial and cafeteria services have drawn the ire of parents and faculty, who have alleged schools are dirtier -- and school lunches are worse -- than ever.

A teacher at a high school on the city's Southwest Side, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal from the district, described where he's taught for the past eight years as "gross and disgusting."

"We're running out of toilet paper," he said. "I'm seeing more bugs than ever before. There's overflowing trash that sits for days and weeks in some cases."

The teacher said his classroom has had a leaky ceiling that's gone unfixed for two years, and roaches were recently spotted in a student locker room, causing students to avoid using the showers after phys ed class.

"It's gross and disgusting and my health is being affected," he said. "I want to be outside the minute I'm in here. It smells. Everything smells and I can't focus. If I can't focus to teach, how can kids focus to learn?"


Chicago's charter-schools experiment flops: report

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board closed more than 50 schools because they were "underutilized." In the process, thousands of children were displaced and hundreds of public school employees were "let go." Then he turned around and opened new charter schools to deal with "overcrowding."
...after controlling for the mix of students and challenges faced by individual schools, Chicago's charter schools actually underperform their traditional counterparts in most measurable ways...

Online, For-Profit Charter Schools Hit Another Snag

More charter fraud and corruption...
...negative accounts of K12 student outcomes led to the filing of at least one investor lawsuit against the company claiming that K12 intentionally misled investors about its academic quality when then-CEO Packard claimed, during an investor call, that test results at Agora were “significantly higher than a typical school on state administered tests for growth.” In fact, the most recent data on Agora students at that time showed them testing unfavorably compared to students statewide.

Was the ‘original bargain’ with charter schools a raw deal?

Charter school owners don't want oversight...they want public tax money, but none of the public responsibility that accompanies it.
Charter school advocates didn’t like it recently when Brown University’s Annenberg Institute for School Reform issued a report calling for the strengthening of charter oversight and authorization. While noting that many charters work hard to “meet the needs of their students,” the report said that “the lack of effective oversight means too many cases of fraud and abuse, too little attention to equity, and no guarantee of academic innovation or excellence.” It provided some common-sense recommendations, including an innocuous call for the establishment of minimum qualifications for charter school treasurers. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, not surprisingly, bashed the report.


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, October 8, 2014

Creating a Teacher Shortage and Making it Worse


Severe teacher shortages are cropping up around the nation -- in Oklahoma, ArizonaNevada (and Nevada), California and elsewhere. There isn't just one reason for the growing teacher shortages...but at least one reason is present in most locations -- so-called education "Reform" is making it harder to be a career teacher.


Indiana is one of those states following a path which seems guaranteed to increase teacher shortages, especially in hard to teach subjects (like special education) and areas (like urban schools). The state has hit teachers, schools and districts with the overuse and misuse of student test scores, the removal of due process, reduction of collective bargaining, loss of revenue which has been transferred to charter schools and voucher accepting private and parochial schools, and pension changes. The goals seem to be, to weaken teachers unions in the state, deprofessionalize the field of education, and privatize public education.

On the other hand, if you read what is posted on the Education Round Table web site (within the State of Indiana site) you'll get a different picture. The Roundtable is charged with improving "educational opportunity and achievement for all Hoosier students." Here's what they say about the quality of Indiana teachers.

Teaching and Learning
Although the state produces a steady stream of new teachers, Indiana schools continue to experience a shortage of qualified teachers in specific content areas and specific schools. Special education constitutes over 80 percent of the shortage, followed by shortages in mathematics and science. Consistent with national trends, the percentage of teachers without full certification is highest in high-poverty districts in the state.

Indiana has made progress in improving teacher licensure. Rules for teacher licensure and renewal are aligned with the state’s academic standards and school improvement plans. Indiana ranks among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed and not teaching on waivers and has been nationally recognized for the high percentage of core academic classes taught by teachers who are fully licensed in the areas in which they are teaching. [emphasis added]
Note that Indiana is "among the top states whose teachers are fully licensed."

How does that stack up against what has actually happened due to the activities of the state legislature and state policy makers? It doesn't. The words of the Education Round Table and the actions of the legislature and policy makers are at odds.

In fact, the legislature and policy makers have apparently gone out of their way to make things more difficult for teachers. They have (and yes, I know I'm repeating myself)...
  • eliminated due process for teachers
  • reduced collective bargaining rights
  • demanded that schools evaluate teachers based on student test scores
  • cut funding for public education while transferring money to privately run charter schools
  • expanded the largest-in-the-nation voucher program providing state funds to private and parochial schools
  • reduced funding professional development for teachers
  • allowed salaries to stagnate
So, while the Round Table touts the high quality of teachers in the state, the policy makers are making things more difficult for those teachers to do their jobs.

The Education Round Table continues with a list of items to improve student achievement...
Next Steps to Improve Student Achievement:
  • Strengthen teacher preparation and licensure through greater integration of subject matter knowledge and instructional expertise. [emphasis added]
  • Ensure that all new teachers have training in effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student performance data, recognition of exceptional learners, and modification of curriculum and instruction to meet differentiated student needs. [emphasis added]
In order to improve student achievement we need to make sure that all new teachers are well trained in pedagogy as well as content areas.


The teacher shortage will only get worse as the state makes it more and more difficult and unpleasant to be a teacher. Fewer students will choose to be teachers and the already high rate of turnover (nearly 50% of all teachers leave within their first five years) will continue. As if on cue, policy makers on the State Board of Education have come up with a way to get more bodies into the classroom...

REPA III, adopted by the State Board of Education, over the objections of the Superinendent of Public Instruction, allows anyone with a degree, a B average, and experience in a field to teach that subject in any public high school in Indiana. These novices can start teaching with no "instructional expertise" and no training in "effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student data, recognition of exceptional learners and modification of curriculum and instruction." Is this what the Education Round Table calls "progress in improving teacher licensure?"

The lip-service given to "fully licensed" teachers is just so much bull.

Connect the dots. When we make teaching a less attractive career we lose high quality teachers and teacher candidates. Then, in order to fill classroom teaching positions, we lower the requirements for those entering the teaching profession. How does this improve student achievement?

We're doing it wrong...and we're making it worse.


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, October 1, 2014

Random quotes - October, 2014


Eliminate poverty to improve education by Stephen Krashen
Grit and determination, and the best teaching in the world has little effect when students are hungry, ill because of lack of health care, and have low levels of literacy because of lack of access to books.

How to Destroy a Public-School System by Daniel Denvir for The Nation

Pennsylvania is a perfect example of where privatization is taking us...high quality, well funded schools for the wealthy and underfunded schools for those with greater needs.
It’s what scholars have bluntly called an apartheid system: wealthy districts spend more on wealthy students, and poor districts struggle to spend less on the poor students who need the most. According to state data from 2012–13, Philadelphia spent $13,077 per pupil, while Abington spent $15,148—on students in much less need of intensive services and support. Wealthy Lower Merion spent $22,962 per pupil.

Blaming The Teachers

Kaarin Leuck, who wrote a letter titled Kids need in-school advocates for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, blames schools for kids' failures.
Over the last few years, school districts have established “alternative schools,” which in the law is called a “school flex program” (I.C. 20-30-2-2.2). These school flex programs often offer only three hours of class instruction per day (as allowed by I.C. 20-30-2-2(b))...

Many districts have also encouraged the most challenging kids to enroll in online courses as home schoolers so they can stop coming to school...
At the end of her letter she blames teachers for not teaching all children.
If you are going to choose to be a public school teacher, you should teach all of the children assigned to your classroom. Step up to the plate, learn creative solutions, and help us get these kids through.
She doesn't think to blame the legislature for
  • not providing adequate funding which would provide small enough class sizes in which teachers could help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for additional and supplemental staff trained to help students with unique and special needs
  • not providing adequate funding for programs designed to meet the needs of hard to educate students.
Instead she, like so many others, blames the people who spend their days with children trying to deal with the serious problems they bring into the classroom while simultaneously being required by the state to do the impossible, with inadequate resources, for too many children.

Can schools improve? Certainly, but they need the tools to operate. Those tools and the trained professionals who use them, cost money. The Indiana General Assembly with direction and support from the governor have chosen to fund more and more charter schools and the nation's most expansive voucher program to the detriment of traditional public school funding.

Do we want good schools in Indiana and across the nation? Then we'll have to decide that education is a priority and redirect the money from corporate pockets back into the classroom.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia on the Stephanie Miller Show

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, NEA's new president, bluntly reminds us that politicians and policy makers are the ones who have neglected the nation's poverty issue, not educators.
If you see all the needs of public schools -- high class sizes, books, technology -- all of the things we need, and you have no intention of funding those, wouldn't it be nice to distract people by going, "Look over here, bad teacher, bad teacher, bad teacher, look over here!" Because if you can say "if we just had better teachers the roof wouldn't leak, if we just had better teachers those kids wouldn't come to school hungry," it gives you an excuse to not do anything for that community, or for what that school needs.


Testing Kindergartners and a Rise in Disabilities: Is There A Connection? by Nancy Bailey

In Indiana, not only do we call children failures if they aren't reading fluently by the end of third grade, but we refuse to let them move to the next grade. We punish 8 and 9 year olds because they...grew up in a literacy poor environment, are learning disabled, are living with the influences of poverty interfering with their learning, are uninterested in reading, have experienced trauma, or are the survivor of some other problem which prevents them from learning to read according to the state's timetable.
In Finland, the land school reformers love to praise but never emulate, they introduce children to formal reading when they are in 3rd grade. In 3rd grade our country calls children failures if they are not reading fluently.

Try out new 2015 ISTEP practice questions

The conversation is about prepping students to take a test instead of student learning...
Children across Indiana will take a new, and very different, ISTEP in less than six months but teachers have only recently gotten to look at sample questions to guide them in preparing their students.


Washington State: An Example of NCLB Absurdity by Diane Ravitch
NCLB is a pathetic hoax that was intended to label almost every school in the nation a failing school.


Local school officials oppose non-degree teachers by Rocky Killion

The Indiana State Board of Education, over the objections of Glenda Ritz and two other members, passed REPA III, the rules which define who can and cannot teach in the state. The new rules have a provision allowing anyone with a degree to teach in high school without any pedagogical training.
“This whole idea that someone can just walk in and start teaching is ridiculous,” said Rocky Killion, superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corp. “It’s as ridiculous as me passing an exam and becoming a brain surgeon.”

Why Good Teachers Quit by Kay Bisaillon

In Indiana we lower standards for entrance into the teaching profession and we make it hard for good teachers to do what they have been trained to do by stripping them of due process, underfunding traditional public schools, inundating the classroom with testing, and incentivizing teaching to the test. The verbiage about wanting a great teacher in every classroom is just so much disingenuous bunk!
She leans on co-workers for support. I know this burnout is a common issue among very good teachers. This is what worries me. There are amazing teachers, young and old, veterans and rookies, who are starting to eye the exit door. These teachers feel overworked, underpaid, undervalued, deflated, and emotionally and physically exhausted.


F For Effort: ‘School Choice’ Group Grades States Based On How Easy It Is To Get A Voucher by Simon Brown for Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The Center For Education Reform, funded by the pro-voucher Walton Family, gives Indiana's voucher program an -A- because it transfers a huge amount of public funding from public schools to private and parochial schools. There is one things wrong with it, though...the state requires that the private schools be accountable for their money...just like public schools.
The As went to Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country, so that is no surprise. CER heaped praise on the Hoosier State, giddily stating that it “leads the country, with a universal voucher program open to all students across the state and no limit on the number of vouchers that can be awarded.”

However, CER’s remarks were not all positive for Indiana: “The state is the second-worst in the country on infringing on private school autonomy, mandating such things as course content and insisting on allowing government observation of classes,” the report says.

As far as CER is concerned, lawmakers apparently should hand over money to private schools without ever checking in to make sure they get a return on their investment and to ensure that students get a quality education. [emphasis added]


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!