"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

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Educational Delusional Scheme: Guest Post

A guest post by Dr. Denise Gordon
I write this short essay to disclose what is happening within my own science classroom, I write to expose the demeaning work environment that I and my fellow colleagues must endure, and I write to give purpose to my years of acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge in teaching science for the secondary student. I am not a failure; however, by the Texas STAAR standard assessment test, I am since this past year I had a 32% failure rate from my 8th grade students in April, 2014. The year before, my students had an 82% passing rate.

What happened in one school year? It does not matter that 2/3 of the student population speaks Spanish in their home. It does not matter their reading capability could be on a 4th grade level. It does not matter homework never gets turned in and parent phone calls bring little results. What does matter was that my students were required to develop a yearlong research project by stating a problem, thinking of a solution, designing the experimental set up, collecting the required data, and formulating a conclusion. Some of the projects were good enough to enter into the regional science fair. From a selection of thirty-five projects, twenty-four were sent to the regional science fair. Some of these projects won ribbons and a chance to go to the state science fair competition. Five of my students were invited to participate in the elite Broadcom Master Science Competition. No other 8th grader in my school district achieved this accomplishment. Other yearlong projects involved entering the Future City Competition sponsored by the IEEE. My eighth graders had seven teams to compete and three came back with special awards. Another science competition for secondary students is eCybermission sponsored by the NSTA and the U.S. Army. My only team of girls who competed in this program won first place for the entire southern region of the eCybermission Competition. Did any of my students get a thank you or congratulations from our school principal or the district about their science achievements? Sadly, the answer is a no. All I got was a call into the principal’s office at the end of the school year for the purpose of being pulled from teaching the 8th grade for the next school year due to my high failure rate on the state test. My students and I did receive two thank you letters from two community partnerships. The Potters Water Action Group, represented by Richard Wukich and Steve Carpenter were thankful for our educational brochure that my students helped design for their water filtration project. Krista Dunham, Project Director of Special Olympics in Fort Worth, sent a thank you to my students for donating the soap box derby race money that my students organized and who built three scrap box cars for this worthy affair.

I am now being monitored on a weekly basis within my 6th grade classes and their posted grades. I am required to have [no higher than] a 15% failure rate. All assignments must be pulled from the district’s online teaching schedule; therefore, no soap box races or water brochures this year. I am not allowed to take any of my students off campus for data collecting. Student project development does not flow well in the district school calendar, so I am being questioned by the principal about my scientific teaching philosophy. Action science with real world data is not on the district’s curriculum website. It does not matter that I have a Ph.D. in curriculum development. I must teach to the test since every three weeks all students will be taking a mandated district test. This means all teachers must review for the test, students take the test, and then we go over the test. That is three days out of fifteen teaching days dedicated to a test every three weeks.

Testing and retesting with documented lesson plans from the scheduled curriculum is what the district wants, but is it what the students need really to enjoy science? Our test scores are posted online and evaluated by the administration. Our performance on these tests weighs heavily into our yearly professional evaluation. I have been placed on a “growth plan” due to the fact that I teach what my students should know rather than what the district has posted. I am somewhat a rebel or just set in my ways; however, this growth plan gives the new principal her leverage to remove me from this school. If I do not meet her standards on the growth plan at the end of the year, then I must be relocated to another school. I teach my students math skills, writing skills, and research skills. I document this growth instead of monitoring their district test scores. I have been ordered to submit weekly announcements to the parent newsletter, but my submissions are deleted by the principal. I have been ordered to attend professional development at the level three tier within our district, but there is no level three offered because level three does not exist. I have been documented that 100% of my students do not understand my lessons when I teach because I use “big” words. The 100% came from asking two or three students in the classroom by the principal when she did her bimonthly walk throughs. I have been pulled out of teaching class to be reprimanded on my poor teaching practices rather than wait for my planning time. I must lower my standards and give less work if I am to maintain a 15% failure rate [or lower]. Is this what the parents want? Will this prepare the students for high school?

I can no longer incorporate the arts within my assignments since my activities do not come from the district’s website. The current push for STEM should be the banner to wave inside my classroom since I have been a secondary science teacher for the past thirty years; however, I could not and we should not trade the arts and music for pure technical science and math course work. Creative problem solving with visual displays or performing arts can be demonstrated instead of just technology and engineering skills. Language arts would implement the importance of writing and research instead of just writing a basic lab report. When a student is allowed to decide on what he/she would like to study for their research project so many necessary skills are required. The student must speak and “sell” their project by presenting to outside judges at the regional science fair, designing skills are needed for the backboard, mathematical and technological skills are used for the data collection. The actual meaning of “science” comes from the Latin verb, scire, “to know” via knowledge gained by a study or a particular branch of study (Ayto, 1990). To know encompasses all topics of interest and that is why I teach science bringing in all areas of skills and interests for the student to develop. This is not found on the district curriculum website. I want the student to be creative, to write, to sing, to explore, to draw, to decipher, and to act in order to gain “knowledge” through the sciences.

I firmly believe students should have a choice in their own curriculum of study, final assessment should come from a variety of skills displaying the student’s individual growth, and what is taught inside the classroom should be applied to help the local community and school partnerships. My principal has cut my fifteen year commitment with community partnerships for the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, and the Fort Worth Science & History Museum by not approving any of my bus requests. Action science does not exist. Science education lies only in the classroom and on the district’s website. This is the educational delusion I must work in; a science classroom that is data driven to the point of paralysis and where students no longer experience real world problem solving projects. Retirement is my ticket out of this madness, but what will be the student’s ticket out?


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, November 28, 2014

High Expectations are Magical

Arne Duncan, the nation's most ignorant education policy maker who's not Bill Gates, has outdone himself. The stupidity pouring out of Duncan's office shows why "reformers," and Duncan in particular, have no business making education policy. For example...


According to the U.S. DOE, if we would only have high expectations then even children with learning disabilities can learn to read or cypher at "grade level."

Michael "I'm-an-attorney-not-a-teacher" Yudin wrote the blog post describing the U.S. DOE's position on the achievement of students with disabilities. In it he claims that
...fewer than 10 percent of eighth graders with disabilities are proficient in reading and math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Too often, students’ educational opportunities are limited by low expectations.
Just think about Yudin's statement for a moment.

Fewer than ten percent of students with learning disabilities can't overcome those disabilities and become proficient in reading or math. Pardon me for stating the obvious, but doesn't the first part of that statement encompass the definition of "disability?" High expectations are important...and most educators working with students with disabilities have high expectations for their students...but high expectations alone aren't enough.

Peter Greene explains the DOE's thinking...
This certainly fits in with the philosophy that the way to get all students to read at grade level is to just, you know, make them do it. Insist real hard. If we believe that we can get a student with a second grade reading skill read at the fifth grade level by just somehow making him do it, why can't we make a dyslexic student or student with other processing difficulties read at level by just expecting her to? "Stop pretending you're blind, Jimmy, and read this book right now!"


To be fair, the U.S. Department of Education seems to give lip-service to the belief that "high expectations" aren't enough to bring students up to "grade level." They need "support," too.

Yudin continued...
We must do everything we can to support states, school districts, and educators to improve results for students with disabilities.
Problem solved. With sufficient support and high expectations children with disabilities can become "undisabled."

But what defines "doing everything we can to support?" Does the DOE know how to magically eliminate dyslexia, for example? If so, why haven't they shared that with the rest us?

Does "doing everything we can to support" mean providing extra funds just to states which promise to evaluate teachers on test scores and build more charter schools...or does it mean providing funds where it is needed most?

If the U.S. DOE doesn't fund "support" and states keep cutting back on public education (in favor of privately run charter schools and vouchers for private and parochial schools), then who is responsible for "support?"


In the end, is "support" limited to blasting away at teachers until they have "high expectations" and if students with disabilities can't "pass the test" do we continue to just blame teachers?

Arne Duncan doesn't think so. He wants the blame to be shared by teachers and the colleges and universities that prepare them (more on that at a later date).

In the meantime, teachers, it's up to you to make sure all your students are at "grade level" through the magic of "high expectations."


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, November 26, 2014

2014 Medley #25

Testing, Public Schools, Privatization,
Charters, Vouchers, Special Education, Democrats, Elections


I apologize for not having the link for the following quote. Someone named oakspar77777 left this comment at the end of an article. In it, the commenter discusses detrimental changes to America's public education system. 1) the loss of community schools and 2) the misuse of standardized tests to evaluate teachers and schools. This is an excellent description of the damage that obsessive testing has done to our nation's schools. (If anyone knows where this is from, please leave the link in the comments)
The tests and the resulting testing industry, however, are only the symptom of the problem.

The problem is two fold. First, it is the movement from community schools to state schools and now (with things like NCLB/RTTT and Common Core) to national schools.

The bigger the "system" the less personal it becomes. Like a business, at the family level it is personable and about relationships but at the corporate level it is about margins. Testing is a means for identifying margins and produce "profit/loss reports" for the CEOs to spin to the stockholders (the citizens of the US).

Second, it is the movement from testing being used to measure student ability and mastery to testing being used to measure teachers and schools.

Test scores used to tell us which kids needed advanced classes and which needed remedial. Now they are used by parents to know which school to put their kids in.

Test scores also used to tell us which kids mastered the material or not, holding those who did not accountable to try again until they did master it. Now they are used to measure teachers, so that teachers are the ones actually being graded.

So, this lack of trust in the teaching profession, lack of willingness to realize that students are not identical and do have variance in both aptitude and motivation, and desire to make the family/community relationship of teaching a national political concern ALL have led to standardized testing being worthless as anything other than a political football.


Investors Ready to Liquidate Public Schools

Here is how investors plan on cashing in on public schools...schools purchased and supported for years by public funds.
It goes like this:
  1. Compliant legislatures reduce funding for public education.
  2. Weakened by fewer funds, the schools who serve the poor and have more social problems to address begin to struggle the most, first.
  3. Use compliant, big corporate media to convince the public that the underfunded schools that serve the poor are wild, dangerous places. Editors love “teacher knocked out by student” stories.
  4. Once the public is convinced that those scary urban “jungle” schools are hopeless, pass legislation that allows corporate charters to take over and convert public property to their profitable use.
  5. Pass laws that allow charters to be black boxes where the public has no idea how their tax money is being used.
  6. Charters regiment children of the poor in ways that prepare them to be compliant service workers who don’t expect to have a voice.
  7. Use big corporate media to convince the public that charters are doing better even though they are not.
How can we stop it?
The big “if” in all of this is the question of whether or not educators, concerned parents, and concerned community members can rally to maintain local, democratic control of public schools. Any degree of standardization that comes from beyond the state only serves large, nation-wide investor interests.

IF educators can successfully counter the investor propaganda that parents are the only true stakeholders in a child’s education, then raiders can be opposed successfully. The oldest to the youngest and richest to poorest members of every community are the true stakeholders in public schools and public education.

IF local, democratically elected school boards can stay empowered to make decisions for the local public schools, then this raider process can be resisted.

IF all stakeholders can successfully press legislators to listen to them instead of paid, professional lobbyists hired by large, investor-owned charter corporations, then we can resist the raider attempts.


Charters' grades fall, spurring concerns

Research shows that when the demographics of students are comparable, privately run schools do no better than public schools.

Charters are not public schools. They are private schools which get public money. When push comes to shove and charters are forced to provide complete transparency of operation they claim that they are private businesses. They shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways.
The main idea behind charter schools was that giving them greater freedom to innovate while also making it possible to close them for poor performance would lead to better education for students.

But, at least by one measure, that doesn’t appear to be happening.

The percentage of Marion County charter schools receiving a D or an F from state regulators has spiked from 30 percent two years ago to 54 percent this year.

The percentage is slightly lower statewide, but has also increased the past two years.


28 private schools go ungraded by state

Indiana grades its schools using a simplistic A-F rating, with a complicated formula. Tony Bennett lost his job over the fact that he changed the grade of one of the favored charter schools -- owned by someone who just happened to donate thousands to Republican campaigns.

Now, some private schools have escaped the grading. What do you think would happen if a public school escaped its grade designation? The privatizers would scream "accountability" so loud the state's borders would rattle. Meanwhile, a leader of a pro-voucher group, the Institute for Quality Education, is just so pleased that the selectivity of their schools allowed them to choose students whose test scores yielded A's and B's for the ones which were graded.
Twenty-eight private schools that have educated hundreds of Hoosier students and received at least $10.6 million in taxpayer dollars did not receive a grade this year.

That means about 10 percent of the schools accepting state-paid vouchers skated through without public accountability because of a statistical anomaly.

“I don’t think that’s good practice for taxpayers or parents. If we look at the whole landscape of letter grades and accountability every school that receives those dollars should have to be held accountable,” said Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis. “No one should be exempt. We need to be truthful and forthright about schools.”


Washington: Disabilities Aren't Real

Peter Greene called it "quite possibly the stupidest thing to come out of the US DOE" which is saying quite a bit, considering all the stupid things coming from that Federal department. Arne Duncan's office has announced that the test scores of students with disabilities are too low. Students with disabilities, the secretary's spokesperson says, "do not have significant cognitive impairments that prohibit them from learning rigorous academic content."

The posting for the US DOE was written by Michael Yudin, the Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. He is not, and never has been, an educator.

Peter Greene discusses the State of Washington's decision to follow the U.S. DOE...
Following in the footsteps of one of the dumbest initiatives to come out of the US Department of Education, Washington state has arrived at some destructive fact-free findings regarding the education of students with special needs.

The Governor's Office of the Education Ombuds has created and released a report that...well, I will let the conclusion speak for itself:
The evidence is clear that disabilities do not cause disparate outcomes, but that the system itself perpetuates limitations in expectations and false belief systems about who children with disabilities can be and how much they can achieve in their lifetime.
So there you have it-- as previously suggested by the federal Department of Education, the disabilities that students claim to possess do not actually exist in any meaningful way. Any limitations that they appear to have are simply the result of the system's (i.e. teachers) low expectations:
But the vast majority of children in special education do not have disabilities that prevent them from tackling the same rigorous academic subjects as general education students if they get the proper support, so those low numbers reflect shortcomings in the system, not the students.
The State of Washington agrees with Arne Duncan that students' disabilities aren't real. According to the report, it comes from low teacher expectations and students not receiving "proper" support.


Commentary: Texas textbooks need to get the facts straight

The myth of America's "failing schools" persists. The truth is that the bold-faced sentence in the below quote is incorrect in its implication. Our overall scores on international tests are lowered because of the high rate of child poverty in the U.S. American students, when poverty is taken into account, score at the top in international tests.

The following is a quote from an editorial which denounces the anti-science members of the Texas State Board of Education.
Scientific know-how has been responsible for half of all U.S. economic progress since World War II. Texas — as the wellspring of many great advances in agricultural science, electronics, aeronautics and much more — knows this well. Sadly, children in other parts of the world now outperform U.S. students in mathematics and science. [emphasis added]


The next two links should be taken together. The President talks a good game...promoting teachers, and support for schools, but the appointments to the U.S. Department of Education tell a different story. This president, like his Republican predecessor, is a privatizer, plain and simple.

Presidential Proclamation -- American Education Week, 2014
Great educators and administrators deserve all the tools and resources they need to do their job, including chances for professional development and pay that reflects the contributions they make to our country. They are the most critical ingredients in any school, and my Administration is working hard to support them as they empower our Nation's youth.
Obama’s USDOE: Appointed to Privatize. Period.
President Barack Obama pretends to be a friend of public education, but it just is not so. Sure, the White House offers a decorative promotional on K12 education; however, if one reads it closely, one sees that the Obama administration believes education (and, by extension, those educated) should serve the economy; that “higher standards and better assessments” and “turning around our lowest achieving schools” is No Child Left Behind (NCLB) leftover casserole, and that “keeping teachers in the classroom” can only elicit prolonged stares from those of us who know better.

All of these anti-public-education truths noted, the deeper story in what the Obama administration values regarding American education lay in its selection of US Department of Education (USDOE) appointees. Their backgrounds tell the story, and it isn’t a good one for the public school student, the community school and the career K12 teacher.


A dishonorable distinction for Hoosiers

Election day registration would help increase the voter turnout, but, as Bernie Sanders suggested, making election day a national holiday would do a better job of it.
“It’s impossible to say for certain, but it’s likely that the single biggest change ... to increase turnout would be to adopt election-day registration,” he wrote in an email. “Research has generally demonstrated that one of the biggest obstacles to turnout is a requirement that registration occur about 30 days prior to the election.”

While he noted that same-day registration might present slightly higher potential for fraud, Pitts said there are ways to reduce it, including requiring a photo ID. “Again, like all election laws, there are typically upsides as well as downsides, and one’s views of each tends to correspond with underlying philosophies about how easy and convenient it should be to vote,” he wrote.


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, November 22, 2014

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Experts

Democrats and Republicans are both well entrenched in education "reform" (Note, however, the recent formation of Democrats for Public Education...perhaps a counter to DFER?). Democrats like Obama (through Duncan), Emanuel , Booker and Polis (among others) rival Republicans G. W. Bush (through Spellings), J. Bush, and Christie (among others) in their attack on public schools and public school teachers. Both political parties seem to agree that public education needs to be privatized and public educators need to be de-unionized and silenced.

This bipartisan effort to privatize public education and silence public educators is supported by major cable media outlets (this is not to say that other major media outlets are much different). Media Matters looked at the number of educators who were included in discussions about American education on cable news shows from January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2014.
On segments in which there was a substantial discussion of domestic education policy between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2014, there were 185 guests total on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, only 16 of whom were educators, or 9 percent...
Rather than rely on classroom experts when discussing education policy, the media spotlights people who have no experience in the classroom, no training in child development or the art and practice of teaching, and no clue what it means to spend a career helping children learn. Perhaps one of the comments on the Media Matters page is true...
Well, most of us teachers are too swamped with grading, planning, paperwork, parent-teacher conferences, observations, and way too understaffed to take time off to appear on some show just to get tongue lashed by some pundit who thinks they know how to do the job.

More likely is the fact that teachers, as a group, are politically disrespected (the main exceptions being themselves and their students' parents) in the U.S.


Fifty years ago, Richard Hofstadter won the pulitzer prize for his exploration of America's anti-intellectualism in Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Hofstadter said that the U.S. was unique among Western nations in that its citizens' resented and mistrusted those who follow "the life of the mind" - i.e. academia and education. The 50's were, according to Hofstadter, a peak in the cyclical anti-intellectual trend in the U.S. McCarthy's attacks were in large part directed against intellectuals and universities. Words like, "Ivory Tower" and "Egghead" were part of the campaign to defeat Adlai Stevenson and the "work of the mind" was held in a lower esteem than was business, industry and physical labor.

Anti-intellectualism is not unique to the 50's, though. The trend runs through American history sometimes boldly, sometimes hidden below the surface. Hofstadter discussed the cyclical nature of the trend and claimed that peaks in the cycle were due to the rise in importance of the very intellectuals who were resented...
...the resentment from which the intellectual has suffered in our time is a manifestation not of the decline in his position but of his increasing prominence.
In other words, as intellectuals become more noticeable and visible in our society, resentment and anti-intellectualism will grow.

This is one of the reasons why educators in general, and public school teachers in particular, have never had high status in the U.S. (as opposed to other western nations). Furthermore, the fact that, in the U.S., education is, by some, considered "women's work," adds to the low status. Women have yet to be fully respected in our society. While individuals may vary in their opinion of "women's work" it's clear that there is a large segment of the population who believe that women don't deserve the respect, status, and/or wages, that men do.

Low status is self-perpetuating. O. Alan Weltzien, a professor at the University of Montana, reviewed Hofstadter's book in 2008. He wrote...
The low status of schoolteachers and low opinion of teacher education programs [which Hofstadter] describes needs no additional comment. He unflinchingly states the consequences for his overall subject: "In so far as the teacher stands before his pupils as a surrogate of the intellectual life and its rewards, he unwittingly makes this life appear altogether unattractive."


An indication of this distrust of "experts" is the anti-science attitude of many Americans and their political representatives...in this case, most specifically, on the Republican side. A quarter of all Americans refuse to accept the science of climate change...and more than 40% of Americans believe the creationist view of human origins. [Evolution is just a "theory" after all, they say. One wonders, then, whether they deny the Germ Theory of disease or the Theory of Gravity!].

Most recently, House Republicans passed a bill (which, even if it passes the Senate, is likely to be vetoed) which forbids scientists from "influencing" the EPA with their research. Instead, "industry experts" will be allowed to advise the EPA...the proverbial fox guarding the chicken house.
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., summed up what was going on: “I get it, you don’t like science,” he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don’t like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science to protect public health and the environment.” [emphasis added]
It's true that some of the motivation behind the bill isn't anti-science, but rather pro corporate profits. The point is, however, that it passed because the house is filled with a new crop of science deniers. [For an entertaining look at how John Stewart responds to science deniers in the house see HERE. This was done before the midterm elections in 2014, however, the congressmen he targets for his humor are still there.]

The dislike of public education by the political and religious right wing has never been a secret. There was a time, though, when Republicans used "improved education" and "saving tax dollars" as arguments for "choice," charters, and vouchers. Now, however, with charters and voucher accepting private schools showing no tax savings and no academic improvement over traditional public schools, the argument has become "choice for the sake of choice."

The American tendency towards anti-intellectualism is, unsurprisingly, being exploited for corporate and political advantage. Like the recent political attack on scientists within the EPA, the corporate attack on public school teachers is intended to rally anti-intellectual feelings of resentment and jealousy against teachers and the institution they represent. The pervasiveness of public school teachers in America...more than 3 million nationwide spread over every political district...means that the corporate privatizers are up against a possible huge backlash of activism and political clout. Weakening educators is necessary if privatizers want to get their hands on the billions of dollars in tax money going to public 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!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - November, 2014

...with some added words. Click on any image to see the full sized version.


It's the teacher's fault.

...from Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.

Teachers in the U.S. are overworked with little time for professional collaboration and professional development, yet this is one of the most important aspects of professional life needed to improve the teaching profession.


What else isn't being taught because of "the test?"


Trying to fix the nation's educational system without paying attention to the economic problems facing the U.S. is doomed to failure.

There is a direct relationship between family income and test scores. Causality? Poverty has an impact.
Many studies confirm that poverty has a devastating effect on school performance: The dream team, "the world’s most inspiring, transformational teachers" will have little effect when students are poorly fed, ill because of lack of health care, and read poorly because of lack of access to books.

The Democrats of today won't save public education. People like Barack Obama (through his mouthpiece, Arne Duncan), Andrew Cuomo, Cory Booker, and Rahm Emanuel have sold out to the Gates-Broad-Walton Megabillionaire's Club whose goal is the privatization of American education.

Republicans aren't much better. Remember the 2012 Presidential campaign and Mitt Romney's disgusting comment about getting "as much education as they can afford". The only education issue discussed was how people were going to pay for college. And we know how that turned out...students now finish college buried in life-long debt.

The danger to public education is greatest at the state level. Legislatures around the country are gutting public education funding and transferring money to private run charters and, in Indiana, Louisiana, and other places with destructive voucher plans, private schools.

America's child poverty problem is an indication of the disdain we have for our children...and our future.


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, November 13, 2014

2014 Medley #24

On Teaching, Testing, Vouchers,
Privatization, The Daily Show


The process of deprofessionalizing public education continues. The number of teacher candidates at colleges and universities continues to decline. Secretary Arne Duncan is now getting ready to blame colleges of education for students' low test scores.

Why are college students choosing not to enter teacher training programs? Could it have anything to do with how teachers are portrayed in the media? Could it have anything to do with how Duncan and those like him blame teachers and their unions for everything?

Even the privatizers and "reformers" are going to need teachers for their children and grandchildren. "Reformers" constantly call for more "great teachers" in the classroom. Where will they come from?

School reform pushing potential teachers away from profession
Over the last decade, teacher salaries in constant dollars in Indiana have decreased by more than 10 percent. Outpaced only by North Carolina, which experienced teacher salary decreases of 14 percent, Indiana had the second largest decrease in the country.

...The only clear winners so far are the test companies making billions of dollars in profit from the standardized test accountability craze in an experiment never before tried anywhere in the world, especially not in countries that have attained the highest levels of achievement in international comparisons of student performance.

...In Indiana, enrollment in teacher education programs has decreased by more than 30 percent over the last decade, and the rate of decrease recently has accelerated. Indiana is not unique in experiencing a drop in teacher education enrollment fueled by disinvestment in public education and contentious public policies that discourage talented students from going into teaching as well as encourage experienced teachers to leave the field. It is happening nationwide.

...If Indiana continues down the "education reform" path, Hoosiers will soon face the same problems bigger states are already experiencing. The research is incontrovertible that regardless of the type of institution a student attends, the single most important school-based factor for improving student achievement is the quality of the classroom teachers and school leaders.

[Ball State University] Teachers College enrollment declines
“I think kids in schools nowadays they say, ‘Why would I be a teacher? This is not an exciting thing,’” Jacobson said. “There’s a lot of challenges to classroom management, to authority, so the respect is not there. And of course young people want to choose a profession that they feel is respected.”

He said the respect for teachers has diminished over time.

Across all races, teacher education losing students
Illinois teaching institutions aren’t the only ones losing students. According to a national survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the number of full-time undergraduates enrolled in education degree programs fell by 6 percent between 2006 and 2011 – even though overall enrollment at the 581 institutions surveyed grew by more than 7 percent during that time period.

... “Amongst people of color, becoming a teacher has zoomed down to [no] more than 8th place in their interest level,” says Dominic Belmonte, president and CEO of Golden Apple, a non-profit organization dedicated to recruiting and developing good teachers in Illinois. “There is a sense out there that teaching is a difficult task that has a limited payoff as far as salary, as far as prestige, as far as challenge. Trying to make teaching cool again with all of these obstacles is a tad difficult.”

Fewer NC college students aspire to teach
...since 2010, fewer young people seem to be interested in the teaching profession in North Carolina. Even as overall enrollment at UNC schools has grown, enrollment in teacher education programs has declined, according to figures provided by the UNC system.

..."I think people are saying I don't want that job because it has a reputation of being a job that doesn't pay well and doesn't pay well enough to be able to support you for just an average living," said Dawn Rookey, an Owen High School teacher. "I think also there's been a lot of low teacher morale over the past three years with a lot of the legislative changes that have impacted the profession."

Young people may not see enough incentives to go into education, she said.


NEA Survey: Nearly Half Of Teachers Consider Leaving Profession Due to Standardized Testing

Arne Duncan finally admits that there's too much testing. Since 2001 and the passage of No Child Left Behind, the U.S. public education system has been wasting billions of dollars on excessive testing. Everyone has known it. Candidate Barack Obama knew it when he spoke to teachers in 2007. President Obama knew it when he talked to HS students in 2011 and when he spoke to the Congress in 2014. But the money flowing into, around, and through the test creation industry is too much for a politician to ignore.

Teachers and their students are the "innocent bystanders" in this corporate feeding frenzy. The misuse and overuse of testing is excessive, inappropriate, and educational malpractice, but the voices crying out against it don't have the billions of dollars that the Gates, Broad or Walton Family Foundations have. Teachers don't have anything to match the economic volume of Pearson's corporate voice.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently conceded that too much standardized testing was “sucking the oxygen out of the room” and causing “undue stress.” Although the nation’s educators may have been encouraged by Duncan’s words, they have been calling for an end to the high stakes testing culture for more than a decade. “As experts in educational practice, we know that the current system of standardized tests does not provide educators or students with the feedback or accountability any of us need to promote the success and learning of students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcĂ­a.


True cost of school vouchers 

Dumping millions of dollars of state tax money into parochial education is just wrong. Public tax money should go to public schools. American's United for Separation of Church and State says, "Ninety percent of American children attend public schools. Our focus should be on fully funding and improving this system, not siphoning money into private systems."
With voucher numbers escalating, an accounting of their effectiveness and their effect on public schools should be required.

Figures released recently by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, show the number of voucher students this fall increased more than 47 percent, from 19,809 to 29,146.

“If we continue to see this kind of explosive growth in vouchers over the next few years, how is that going to help make our public schools whole again?” asked Porter, ranking minority member on the House Ways and Means Committee. “If more funding is provided for education, how much will have to be siphoned off to pay for vouchers?”

...Parents of public school students know the increased funding claims are bogus. With new attention to public school funding, taxpayers statewide might finally have a say in where their dollars are directed. Those discussions should begin with a detailed report on voucher funding and accountability. What is the real cost to students and Indiana schools?


There's a Big Problem With Time's Teacher-Bashing Cover Story

I don't miss Michelle Rhee's pontifications about public education, her complaints about how terrible unions are, or how "bad teachers" are destroying the country. On the other hand, others have stepped up in her absence and have focused their educationally-inexperienced attention on teachers. It seems every legislator, retired news caster, frustrated basketball player, and corporate billionaire knows how to evaluate teachers. You do it by looking at their students' test scores. If students don't have test scores in the teacher's subject (music for example) you make something up.

Time magazine has glorified California's Vergara case through it's November 4 cover. It seems that the editors of Time, whose covers have bashed teachers for decades, also know all about evaluating teachers...

Except that they don't.
So the whole foundation of this approach to "fixing" American public schools could very well be bogus? If that's the argument–which, it should be stressed, is not new (Extra!, 4/11)–then why is this at the end of the piece? And why doesn't the cover advertise the fact that the millionaires "saving" public education could very well be relying on a highly flawed method of sorting out the "bad apples"?

When you're profiling millionaires who prefer "concrete facts" to "taking sides" in their drive to "repair" public schools, it seems like you might want to do more to emphasize what the facts are.


Pence at Lighthouse Christian Academy on Veterans Day (behind pay wall)

Indiana Governor Mike Pence doesn't even try to hide his preference for private education over public education.
“I find it very telling that Gov. Pence would come to our area and only choose to stop at the private religious school. It is in keeping with his policies that benefit private schools over public schools,” said Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, chairwoman of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education of Monroe County and South Central Indiana.

“Gov. Pence should have come to our MCCSC public schools and seen the magic that goes on in each of the buildings, regardless of his stigmatizing letter grade labels,” she said.

From her point of view, Pence’s choice emphasized his support of schools like Lighthouse Christian that accept students with school-of-choice scholarships or vouchers.

“Voucher schools get to choose which kids come through their doors or stay,” she said. “Public education is dedicated to all children.”


This is from a while ago, but still worth watching...


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, November 11, 2014

For Sagan Day: The Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan's birthday was Sunday. Last year, for Sagan Day, I posted the following. If anything, humankind needs to heed his words more than ever...


Carl Sagan's timeless ode to Earth: Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

"…to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we've ever known -- the pale blue dot."

Quote from Cosmos (1980)
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.
Carl Sagan Day


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, November 6, 2014

The Electorate Speaks

Democrats and Democratic leaders everywhere are trying to downplay the nation-wide Republican win on Tuesday. "It's not as bad as it seems," "They can't really cause any damage," "It's not really a mandate for anything because they didn't run on a nation-wide agenda."

I'm neither a Democrat nor a Republican -- and its a toss up over who I like less right now. Yet I think, for public education, last Tuesday's election results are awful.

My pro-Democratic friends know that I don't particularly like Democrats, but I understand that many the Democrats who were running in our local elections were "friends of public education." Perhaps if a half dozen (or even a dozen) or so of them had gone to Indianapolis to challenge the Daniels-Bennett-Pence-Behning-Elsener education plan they would have made some noise and disrupted the easy flow of tax money to the "reformers." But they wouldn't have been able to stop it. So now someone else is going to have to make the noise and try to disrupt the easy flow of tax money to privatization efforts. That someone is us.


I think that it's always good if the majority party -- no matter who they are -- gets its nose at least slightly bloodied in an election, and in Indiana, the majority party is the Republicans (now with more than 70% of representatives in the House and 80% of the Senators). The Democrats in Indiana are saying everything we public school advocates want to hear and I have no doubt that most of them believe what they are saying especially because many of them are current or former educators.

But Indiana Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma wasn't completely wrong in his analysis of the election. His point was essentially that "the people" re-elected them (and elected more of them) because they like what the Republicans stood for and what the Republicans told them. It is unfortunate for our public schools, students and teachers, but it is absolutely true.

Bosma's belief isn't negated by the fact that only around 28% of eligible voters went to the polls. Those who didn't vote made that decision, and in that respect, they voted with the majority. If they didn't care enough (or didn't know enough) to go to the polls then that was their choice. Call it foolish, irresponsible, or whatever. In a Democracy "the people" sometimes make poor choices. The electorate speaks -- even those who don't vote. (NOTE: I'm not talking about voters whose votes were suppressed in any of a variety of ways...just those who could, with a minimal amount of effort, vote, but chose not to)

It doesn't matter if billions of dollars from outside forces -- reformy billionaires and such -- came in to buy advertising and votes. An uninformed electorate is no better than a bribed electorate is no better than an apathetic electorate. The Democrats say that the Republicans lie and the people who vote for them are dupes and are voting against their own interests. The Republicans say the same thing. And both sides say, "well, yeah, but we're right."

What needs to change? Citizens United? Absolutely. Make it easier for people to vote instead of harder? Definitely! Gerrymandering? That's done by both major parties and the Democrats are only against it now because the power rests with the Republicans. Corruption and greed? That's also embedded in both major parties. Frankly, this is what American politics is. One party complains bitterly about something until they get into power and then they do the same thing as the other party did.

The bottom line is that Indiana public schools have been hurting under the Daniels-Bennett-Pence-Behning-Elsener plan of privatization. Money has been sucked out of the public school system and given away to charlatans, titans of industry and preachers. The "two-tiered" system of education is well under way to becoming a reality in Indiana. Glenda Ritz, the only public school advocate among high ranking state officials, is fighting a lonely battle to save public schools. We asked the voters to send her help, but they refused.

"The people" will now get what they want...what they voted for. The attacks on public schools, their students and teachers, will continue and will likely be more damaging than ever. The weakest members of our society, the 22% of Hoosier children living in poverty, will undoubtedly be hurt the most.


That doesn't mean we give up. It doesn't mean that we let privatizers continue to destroy America's public education system without doing everything we can to stop them. What it does mean is that we don't just assume that we'll get any help.

We need to change the minds of the electorate...reach out to those who are willing to listen and explain how vouchers hurt public education, how charters aren't doing what they promised to do, and how underfunding and over testing is damaging the learning experiences of our children. We need to learn and understand the issues and then teach others.

Some of us have been told to make sure our "bubble-kids" get more attention so that they'll pass "the test" and raise our schools' passing rates. While that is an ethically questionable tactic, it's not an ethical problem for us to target the "bubble-voters." Focus on those whose minds you can change -- public school parents and grandparents, neighbors, relatives, friends and yes, even some of our colleagues working in public schools.

Let's start now. Our children are depending on us.


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!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Minneapolis Blames Teachers


Today's news...Minneapolis has followed the lead of Los Angeles and New York, and has released the evaluation data of their public school teachers (did they release the same data for charter and private school teachers? Just asking...).

And, like LA and NY, it turns out that -- surprise!! -- the "worst" teachers are in the schools with the highest poverty.

Minneapolis' worst teachers are in the poorest schools, data show
New teacher evaluation data show that Minneapolis schools with the largest number of low-income students have the highest concentration of poor-performing instructors.
When New York released their data, the news media went crazy listing the "worst teachers in New York." Guess who the students taught by the city's "worst teachers" were? Answer: Poor children and English language learners. The "worst teacher" in the city turned out to be a teacher of English language learners whose students, once they reached a certain level, left her class.

The same was true in Los Angeles. It turns out that the "worst" teachers are in schools with high numbers of poor students and English language learners.

White students get better teachers in L.A., researcher testifies
Black and Latino students are more likely to get ineffective teachers in Los Angeles schools than white and Asian students, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher.
We blame teachers nationally, too...

Obama administration wants better teachers for nation’s poor schools
The Obama administration is ordering states to devise strategies to get better teachers into high-poverty classrooms, correcting a national imbalance in which students who need the most help are often taught by the weakest educators.


So, why does this happen and is there anything we can do about it?

First, it's important to know that poor students and English language learners (ELL) do not have the "worst" teachers. Teacher ratings in these cities, and most places these days, are based on the test scores of their students. Poor students and students learning English have lower test scores than students from higher incomes. That's a fact based on NAEP scores, SAT scores and virtually all the state achievement test scores in the nation.

The reason poor and ELL students score lower is due to a variety of reasons, most of which are non-school related.

Researcher Stephen Krashen lists Food insecurity, lack of health care, higher exposure to environmental toxins, and lack of access to books, as reasons poor students achieve at a lower level. David C. Berliner includes those and adds, low birth weight, higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse, higher rates of family violence, lack of mental health care, poor housing conditions, mobility, and lack of affordable preschools and summer activities for students.

Students in poverty and ELL students come to school already behind their higher income peers. This makes it harder for them to catch up to their peers and achieve at the same level and harder for their teachers to receive high marks when their evaluations are based on student test scores.

Second, the federal government, states, and school systems incentivize the flight of teachers from high poverty schools as do social issues and student behavior. Federal and state methods for teacher evaluation punish teachers whose students are low performers on standardized tests. Students in poverty come to school with unmet social needs which often results in more difficult behavior issues in the classroom. High achieving and more experienced teachers are encouraged by these factors to move to schools serving students of higher income. In many cases, teachers of high poverty students are less experienced and are evaluated at lower levels. Economic and racial segregation at all levels of our society only exacerbates the differences between the schools.

Tenure Is Not the Problem
...a California court struck down state teacher tenure and seniority protections as a violation of the rights of poor and minority students to an equal education. The decision, which will make it easier to fire bad teachers, who are disproportionately found in high-poverty schools, is being hailed as a great triumph for civil rights...

So why do high-poverty schools have a hard time attracting strong teachers? Because they often provide poor working conditions. When you pack poor kids into environments separate from more affluent students, the schools generally have high rates of discipline problems. Low-income students, who often don’t see much first-hand evidence of the payoff of education, act out more often on average than middle-class students. Low-income parents, who are stressed and may work several jobs, are not in a position to help teachers out by volunteering in class, as middle-class parents often do. And in high poverty schools, students often have inadequate health care and nutrition, which hinders their performance on academic tests. [emphasis added]
Finally, the federal government and the states don't necessarily support schools with high needs students. When budgets are cut and resources are lost, higher income neighborhoods can often provide replacements from local sources. This is not so in high poverty areas. The economic structure of school funding shortchanges schools with high poverty students.

Race to the Top, unlike previous federal education programs, has not focused funding on areas of high need. Instead, money was provided to states and districts who followed certain expectations including using test scores for evaluating teachers and increasing charter school enrollments.


It's not surprising then, that teachers of lower achieving students would be rated as lower achieving themselves. (We could also discuss why the tests used to rate students, teachers, schools and school systems are inadequate, inappropriate, invalid and/or inaccurate, but that's been done before. See Ohanian, Kohn, Darling-Hammond and Ravitch, among others).

What is surprising is that the superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools doesn't seem to be aware of all this. She said,
“It’s alarming that it took this to understand where teachers are,” Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson said Friday. “We probably knew that, but now have the hard evidence. It made me think about how we need to change our staffing and retention.”
The fact that the test scores identify teachers of high poverty students shouldn't be either new information or alarming. Anyone who understands the current test and punish system our schools now function under should be aware of this.

Why do New York’s poor schools have lower-rated teachers?
“While [the test score calculations] claim to be able to measure the quality of teachers, regardless of the students that they have, in fact, in study after study, it’s shown that that’s not true," he said. "When you’re teaching students that are struggling themselves, your ... score is going to be lower.”
Peter Greene has an excellent post about the lack of understanding present in Minneapolis, and specifically, the Minneapolis Public Schools administration.

So Sorry, Minneapolis Teachers
It is absolutely mind-boggling that a group of presumably educated allegedly intelligent adults can look at data and get the interpretation of it exactly completely backwards. Minneapolis school leaders are looking at data that tells them exactly where they need to focus resources, support, funding, and build a roof. Instead, they are going to blame the whole complex of information on teachers.


It is mind boggling. I checked the resume of the Minneapolis Public Schools Superintendent, Bernadeia H. Johnson. She has an education degree, B.S. Communication Disorders. She has a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and an Ed.D. in Administration and Educational Policy. She actually taught elementary school for 8 years...and then worked her way up through the ranks of the administration to her current position.

How is it possible that someone with as much experience and education as she has could be surprised by lower test scores from schools filled with poor students?

How is it possible that she doesn't seem to understand that evaluations based on those test scores wouldn't yield lower levels of success? Yet she said it was "alarming" and implied that she didn't realize this before.

Did she not know how her schools were performing before the results were published? Or is she feigning surprise in order to divert the "blame" away from her administration and on to the teachers?

I don't know what the public school administration is like in Minneapolis. I don't know what state laws might be interfering with public education. But I do know that a superintendent who doesn't know that teachers in high poverty schools will have students who score lower than teachers in low poverty schools isn't paying attention.

A superintendent shouldn't allow her teachers to take the blame. She shouldn't allow the implication that the teachers of students with lower test scores are somehow not as good as other teachers (based on that alone).

Instead she could have said, "Yes, we know that our teachers who spend their careers working in the schools with students who live in poverty will not bring their students' test scores up to those of their more privileged peers. However, we understand that it is not only the responsibility of the schools to help our children learn and achieve. They need more resources, more support from their parents, the city, the state legislature and the federal government. They need wraparound services to help them overcome the effects of poverty. They need less testing and more education."

She could have quoted from The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve: Research-based Proposals To Strengthen Elementary And Secondary Education In The Chicago Public Schools
Our students deserve smaller class sizes, a robust, well-rounded curriculum, and in-school services that address their social, emotional, intellectual and health needs. All students deserve culturally-sensitive, non-biased, and equitable education, especially students with IEPs, emergent bilingual students, and early childhood students. They deserve professional teachers who are treated as such, fully resourced school buildings, and a school system that partners with parents.


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!