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

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

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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Quotes

This is the 102nd and last post of 2014 for this blog. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it's pages during the past year. The quotes are my words, unless otherwise (and often) noted. Go to the links provided for the original context of the quotes.


From the Bottom of Duncan's Barrel
"If we were serious about education, we would never entrust our nations [sic] educational leadership to men who have no training or experience in education at all and who only listened to other men with no training or experience in education at all. If we were serious about education, we would demand leadership by people who were also serious about education, and we would demand leadership based on proven principles and techniques developed by people who truly cared about the education of America's students." -- Peter Greene


2014 Medley #5
"Your editorial sends the message that our public schools are failing. They aren't. When researchers control for the effects of poverty, American schools rank near the top of the world. Our overall scores are unspectacular because the child poverty rate in the U.S. is very high, 23%, second-highest among all economically advanced countries. Children of poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, inferior health care and lack of access to books. All of these have a powerful impact on school performance. The best teaching in the world won't help when children are hungry, ill and have little or nothing to read.

"Our focus should be on protecting children from the impact of poverty." -- Stephen Krashen


Public Education: For the Public Good
How do you respond to voucher supporters who claim that they should be allowed to take "their tax money" out of the public school system and use it to send their children to private schools? What good are public schools to people who don't have any children or whose children have grown?

  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for public libraries because they wanted to buy their own books instead?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for fire departments because they had purchased a fire suppressant system?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for roads because they didn't drive a car?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for parks because they never used them?
  • What would happen if citizens withdrew the portion of their tax money used for police departments because they hired their own, private security force?
The government -- local, state and national -- is responsible for various aspects of our lives, from safety to clean air to public parks. Public money is spent for these "public goods" because everyone benefits -- even those who never use the services.


Billionaires Win in California
Professional educators provide students with high quality education -- we know this because wealthy "reformers" make sure that schools for their children are filled with highly qualified, well-trained professionals. In high poverty schools, however, educators alone can't overcome the effects of societal neglect. Nearly one-fourth of America's children live in poverty which has the single, largest affect on student achievement, yet the billionaires' battle is against teachers...not politicians.

When will politicians and their billionaire handlers accept responsibility for their part in the education of our children?

2014 Medley #15: Reactions to Vergara

Jack Schneider, LA Times quoted in Making it easier to fire teachers won't get you better ones.
Instead of imagining a world in which teachers are easier to fire, we should work to imagine one in which firing is rarely necessary. Because you don't put an effective teacher in every classroom by holding a sword over their heads. You do it by putting tools in their hands.


The Case Against "reformers"
"Somewhere along the line we've forgotten that education is not about getting this or that score on a test, but it is about enlarging hearts, minds, and spirits. It's about fulfilling human potential and unleashing human creativity. It's about helping children understand that the world is a place full of wonder, truly wonder-full. It's about giving children the tools they will need to participate in a complex global world where we can't imagine today what the next twenty years, let alone century, will bring." -- Susan Zimmerman, in Comprehension Going Forward


2014 Medley #22
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.


Random Quotes - December 2014
"Public education is a promise we make to the children of our society, and to their children, and to their children." -- John Kuhn


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, December 29, 2014

Petrilli Makes Excuses for Charters

A few years ago charter school supporters were quick to assert that charters were public schools and that charters accepted everyone just like traditional public schools. They were so popular it was claimed, that they had to hold lotteries so that the lucky few could get in.

Things have changed, however. The waiting for superman concept of the superiority of charter schools has given way to reality. Charters don't do a better job of teaching children than do traditional public schools. Charters lay claim to public money, but aren't really public schools.

And today's topic...charters don't accept every child...they manipulate their population so that they can eliminate those who are difficult or expensive to educate. They suspend and expel students at a higher rate -- instead of figuring out ways to deal with difficult students.

Since they can no longer deny these truths, charter supporters have had to change their tactics. Michael Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, has taken the lead.

The fact that charters selectively skim students, according to Petrilli, is a "feature, not a bug."
It’s not too strong to say that disruption is classroom cancer. It depresses achievement and makes schools unpleasant, unsafe and unconducive to learning.
Because of such unpleasantness it's ok for charter schools to get rid of the "cancer" of disruptive students rather than figuring out what to do with them.

This "feature" of charter schools, according to Petrilli, allows them to send those rotten kids back to public schools where they will drag down the test scores of the kids "left behind" rather than damage the achievement of charter school students.

Rather than taking away the option to get rid of low achieving, and difficult or expensive to educate students we must allow charter schools to maintain these "tools" in order for their students to succeed.
We need to think long and hard about taking tools away from schools — especially schools of choice — that allow their students to flourish.
Why is this especially true for "schools of choice?" Apparently it's because kids who "come to school wanting to learn" should be allowed to. Petrilli is apparently unconcerned about the education of public school students who come to school wanting to learn. I wonder if he cares about the tools taken away from public schools and public school teachers in the form of lost resources and lost funding -- money taken from public school classrooms for excessive testing, for charters and for vouchers...

I'm reminded of the "no excuses" hammer which "reformers" wield against those of us who recognize that poverty is the number one cause of low achievement. We are told that poverty shouldn't be an excuse...and demographics isn't destiny. It sounds to me like Mr. Petrilli is making excuses...saying that it's ok to use the "excuse" of disruptive behavior to eject students and make life easier for the adults in the school. Instead, charter schools, like real public schools, ought to adjust the curriculum, teach the child rather than the test, and adapt, so that all children can succeed.

Mr. Petrilli, if you choose to restrict access to your school so that some students (read: undesirables) are excluded, then you shouldn't receive a dime of the taxpayers' money. Charter schools (and voucher accepting schools, this means you, too) that can't or won't deal with the problems students bring with them shouldn't be allowed to operate using public funding. Taxpayer dollars should go to a single, fully funded, public school system where all students are welcome.
"So our classes were filled with the kids Petrilli calls a "cancer." He likes to refer to rocket science. It's not rocket science to know that if we kick kids out of school, their problems will just intensify. . . and, in the end, become terrible societal problems.

"The real cancer here is to impose an inappropriate curriculum on kids, convincing them they are worthless, when there are plenty of things they can do, given the chance. The real cancer here is a social and economic system that fails to provide for its people, young and old. The real cancer is insisting on shoving square pegs into round holes, on insisting the kid must change and refusing to change the curriculum." -- Susan Ohanian


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 Medley #28

"reform," Retention in Grade, On Teaching, Evaluations, Republic Lost, Dissent


Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

Anthony Cody gives us hope that the "reformers" are losing steam. It doesn't appear that way in Indiana as Governor Pence has doubled down on privatization, however, if it's happening nationally, then that, at least, is good news.
...this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school...

...charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to “serve the strivers,” and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed.


Using High-Stakes Assessments for Grade Retention and Graduation Decisions

The International Reading Association has released a position paper on using high-stakes tests for grade retention and graduation decisions. While I haven't agreed with everything the IRA has done during the last few years of "reform" this is welcome.

It would have been nicer if the position statement took a stronger view against grade retention in general since nearly all the research over the past century has shown that it doesn't work. Still, this is better than nothing.
  1. Grade retention and graduation decisions should be based on multiple assessments, including teacher professional judgment, results of formative assessments, and student and family input, as well as results from standardized literacy assessments.
  2. Schools, school districts, and policymakers should be guided by the expertise of professional associations and literacy professionals when making decisions about how to best utilize results obtained from high-stakes literacy assessments.
  3. Professional development should be available for teachers on assessment strategies for obtaining a complete picture of a student's literacy performance.


Teacher Team Offers New Vision of Responsibility

Here's a list (the article expands on each) of recommendations for improving education by actual teachers...not billionaires, politicians, or people who think they know about education because they attended school as a child.
From the collective ideas, came six recommendations:

1) Shift Away from Blame, Toward Shared Responsibility
2) Educate the Whole Child
3) Top Down Funding Without Top Down Control
4) Teacher Autonomy and Professionalism
5) Emerge from Evaluation to Support
6) One Size Does Not Fit All


What’s wrong with using data to grade teachers?

Even the U.S. Department of Education knows that VAM is junk science. It's an invalid use of student achievement tests to evaluate teachers...and schools...and school systems...and teacher training institutions. Duncan knows this...yet he ignores it.

Prediction: Once the Obama administration leaves office in January of 2017, Duncan will find himself working for some "reformer" group...
VAM-style evaluations might work well for internal diagnostics in painting broad-brush district comparisons or in pinpointing areas for teacher training. Yet the shoddiness of specific VAM forecasts raises serious doubts about their use in determining an individual teacher’s worth. A 2010 report (PDF) commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) found that the error rate for value-added scores can be as high as 35 percent when using only one year of data. A system that could rate 1 in 3 teachers incorrectly is one that essentially plays pin the tail on the donkey with their livelihoods.


Duncan Chases Teachers Away

If Duncan and the privatizers have their way, everything will depend on student test scores, including the value of teacher training institutions. The "reformers" and privatizers have already damaged the reputation of public schools and public school teachers, it was obvious, perhaps, that the colleges which trained teachers would be next.
Duncan proposes that teacher prep programs be evaluated by looking at the test results of the students of the graduates of the college. If that seems like a twisted sentence, that's because it's a twisted program. We can make two early and easy predictions about what effects it will have.

The first is simple. It will mean the college education departments will cut spending on programs so that they can afford whatever administrative assistant has to be hired to spend all their time chasing the numbers necessary to make the report to the feds. Some bunch of adjunct professors are going to have their hours cut so that somebody else can spend his days wending through the labyrinthian process of tracking down alumni, then tracking down their scores.

The second is, well, also simple. We already know that the best predictor of good student test scores is family income. Every college education department that doesn't want to get spanked by the US Department of Education has to do one simple thing-- they must do everything in their power to keep their graduates from getting jobs in poor urban schools.


Is education a dying field?
According to statistics from Ball State University, in the past decade, enrollment has been on a steady decline. Enrollment in elementary and kindergarten teacher-preparation programs have dropped from 1,512 students to 839 over the last decade.

In addition, undergraduate enrollment in all teacher-preparation programs has dropped from 2,273 students to just over 1,900.

...Meredith said a portion of the decline can be attributed to the demands of the career.
"Teachers do so much more than teach. Teaching is an exhausting, emotionally draining field that has rewards that cannot be quantified or explained...Tests to prepare for tests, scripted curriculum, ranking and rating teachers and schools, all of that creates an environment that can be toxic to students and educators, alike. For some who recently left the profession, they will tell you they were exhausted. They couldn't believe that they were being slammed with so many things, especially being judged by things that they had little control over. Some of the best teachers say they weren't teaching anymore, they were being told what to do every minute of the day and that sucked the joy out, the joy of inspiring learning," Meredith said.


A Radical Fix for the Republic 

The "reform" movement has been pushing for privatization because of money, not based on what's best for students. Like other areas of federal and state government, the legislatures, executive offices, and state boards of education have been purchased by companies and edupreneurs hoping to make a buck off the nation's children.

Lawrence Lessig's book, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It, is a must read for everyone concerned about the growing American oligarchy.
...when Franklin walked from Independence Hall as the Constitutional Convention ended, Lessig writes, a woman asked what he had wrought. “A republic, madam,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”

...in the last two decades, Lessig writes, members of Congress have developed a fearsome dependency: campaign cash. The total amount spent on campaigns by all candidates for Congress in 2010 was $1.8 billion. Fundraising has become a way of life, and extravagant giving has been institutionalized; only the diamonds are missing.

...Lessig concludes that, measured against problems such as fascism, institutionalized racism, and sexism that “our nation tackled throughout the course of the twentieth century,” this “narrow but profound flaw at the core of our Constitution…that has allowed our government to become captured” by moneyed special interests is “tiny by comparison.” What it will take to fix things, he says, is for Americans to recognize that “the corrupting influence of money is the first problem facing this nation. That unless we solve this problem, we won’t solve anything else.” 


Dissent – The Most “Un-American” American Value

Don't blame protesters for the actions of one less than sane murderer...
America has a history of crazy people doing all kinds of crazy things for just as many crazy reasons.

When Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” killed 3 people and injured 23 with home-made bombs because of his hatred of modern technology, no one blamed Apple computers.

When John Hinckley shot President Reagan to get the attention of Jodie Foster, no one blamed the Academy Award winning actress.

When Brenda Spencer fatally shot a principal and custodian and injured eight children and a police officer from her home across the street from a school because she “didn’t like Mondays”… Well, we still have Mondays.

But suddenly when a lunatic’s motives are politically expedient, they’re justified.


You think you know what teachers do. Right? Wrong.

This was originally posted last February, but it's worth repeating. Just because someone went to school doesn't mean they know how teaching works.
All of you former students: you did not design curricula, plan lessons, attend faculty meetings, assess papers, design rubrics, create exams, prepare report cards, and monitor attendance. You did not tutor students, review rough drafts, and create study questions. You did not assign homework. You did not write daily lesson objectives on the white board. You did not write poems of the week on the white board. You did not write homework on the white board. You did not learn to write legibly on the white board while simultaneously making sure that none of your students threw a chair out a window.

You did not design lessons that succeeded. You did not design lessons that failed.

You did not learn to keep your students quiet during lock down drills.

You did not learn that your 15-year-old students were pregnant from their answers to vocabulary quizzes. You did not learn how to teach functionally illiterate high school students to appreciate Shakespeare. You did not design lessons to teach students close reading skills by starting with the lyrics to pop songs. You did not miserably fail your honors level students at least in part because you had no books to give them. You did not struggle to teach your students how to develop a thesis for their essays, and bask in the joy of having taught a successful lesson, of having gotten through to them, even for five minutes. You did not struggle with trying to make SAT-level vocabulary relevant to students who did not have a single college in their county. You did not laugh — because you so desperately wanted to cry — when you read some of the absurdities on their final exams. You did not struggle to reach students who proudly announced that they only came to school so that their mom’s food stamps didn’t get reduced.

You did not spend all of New Years’ Day crying five years after you’d left the classroom because you reviewed The New York Times’ graphic of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and learned that one of your very favorite students had been killed in Iraq two years before. And you didn’t know. Because you copped out and left. So you cried, helplessly, and the next day you returned to the practice of law.

You did not. And you don’t know. You observed. Maybe you learned. But you didn’t teach.

The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.


All who envision a more just, progressive and fair society cannot ignore the battle for our nation’s educational future. Principals fighting for better schools, teachers fighting for better classrooms, students fighting for greater opportunities, parents fighting for a future worthy of their child’s promise: their fight is our fight. We must all join in.

Stop the Testing Insanity!


Friday, December 19, 2014

Irony Alert: Get Politics Out Education

Governor Pence has doubled down on education privatization. His goal is, apparently, to strip teachers of any remaining professional decision making, continue the Daniels plan to bust the unions, starve public schools by diverting funds to charters and vouchers, and finally, oh, finally, overturn the election of 2012 in which Glenda "the National Board Certified Teacher" Ritz defeated Tony "the cheater" Bennett.


Here is the portion of the Governor's op-ed in which he itemizes his plans for the destruction of public education in our state...

Here's how we will improve [sic] education in Indiana
First, traditional public schools need more freedom to innovate and pay good teachers more. That’s why I have proposed Freedom to Teach schools. Under my plan, schools can submit plans to the State Board of Education requesting waivers from a wide range of requirements to gain the freedom they need.

Second, because public charter schools have improved choices for families and helped raise the quality of traditional public schools through competition, I have proposed that we establish “fairness in funding” in our public school system. Charter schools operate at a significant per-pupil funding deficit. We need to fix this to see more high-quality charters open their doors in Indiana.

Third, we need to lift the dollar cap on vouchers and increase the amount of the tax credit available to people who provide private scholarships to disadvantaged kids. This will create more choices for more families and raise outcomes for kids.

Fourth, we need to change how we fund career and technical education courses so that more high school students choose to specialize in a course of study leading to high-wage career options, whether they want to get a job or go to college after graduation.

Fifth, for us to fund excellence and increase choices for families, we need to fix what is broken. I have proposed that we get politics out of education in Indiana and begin fixing the overly complicated way we oversee education policy in Indiana. I have chosen to dissolve the Center for Education and Career Innovation as a first step. I have also called on the General Assembly to allow the State Board of Education to elect its own chair, a common practice among state boards in Indiana.


Here's my take on what the Governor is actually saying.

Freedom to Teach means: Take away any remaining job protections from teachers, increase merit pay which has never worked, and cause more dissension and demoralization among our state's public school teachers. I don't even want to think about the "wide range of requirements" that schools will be able to sidestep. We've already reduced entry into the professional education world through REPA III...what next?

Competition? The only way you think that competition works in public education is if you think that teachers are purposely withholding their "good teaching" for some reason. If that's true, then you might as well stop reading this because we'll never, ever agree about education in the U.S. I have spent nearly 40 years working and volunteering in three school districts and 6 elementary schools in Indiana. I have worked with hundreds of teachers. I never saw anyone do less than try their hardest to reach students. It's absolutely true that not every teacher I worked with was the "world's best educator," but every single person came to school every day with the intent of doing the very best they knew how to do. You are absolutely wrong if you think that competition will make teachers work harder. /endrant

Everything in this portion of the Governor's plan can, and likely will, be done using student test scores. At the risk of repeating myself, student achievement test scores should only be used for that which they were developed and validated...measuring student achievement. It is invalid to use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers, schools, school districts and schools of education.

Fairness in Funding: Divert more money from public schools to privately run charters despite the fact that charters don't do any better than traditional public schools and have less public oversight. I'm reminded of the charter schools in the Fort Wayne Area which, after sucking money from public schools as charters -- and failing miserably to educate their students -- became private schools and now suck money from public schools in the form of vouchers. I'm reminded of the charters in Indiana which had their loans forgiven while public schools did not. Instead of giving tax dollars to private corporations we should fully fund Indiana's public schools, spend money to increase services where needed, and reduce the effects of poverty.

Lift the Dollar Cap on Vouchers: Give churches more tax money and allow them to spend it on whatever they want, again, with lack of public oversight.re

Get Politics Out of Education in Indiana: The irony meter just blew up on this one...The Governor is still angry that Superintendent Ritz beat his buddy Bennett, and garnered more votes than he did in the process. In order to "get politics out of education" he proposes to take away her impact on the SBOE by reducing her to "member." This will have the effect of nullifying the 1.3 million votes which were so thoughtlessly cast by the Hoosier electorate.

Governor Pence is apparently interested in one thing...redistributing tax money to religious and corporate entities. There is no research basis for what he has chosen to do to public education (except for the research that indicates his friends and donors will make money), but with his minions holding a supermajority in both houses of the state legislature, he will do what he wants. Never mind what is actually good for students.


Finally, here is an excellent response to the Governor's plan from Julie Hollingsworth, a member of the school board for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

Response by Julie Hollingsworth, Member, Fort Wayne Community Schools Board

Freedom to teach exactly what Hoosier schools need

I was disheartened to hear our governor state his education agenda for the 2015 legislative session. Disheartened, but not surprised. Same agenda, research and results be damned.

More merit pay. Ignore more than 20 years of research indicating that, in a collaborative profession such as teaching, merit pay does not improve student performance.

Raise the voucher amount. Despite – as we have seen locally – some schools have increased tuition just to get up to the current amount.

More funding for charter schools. Ignore the fact that the majority of charters are failing miserably on their promise to deliver a better educational model.

Here is the height of hypocrisy: Sell the concept of charters with the myth that we are putting all this money into public education with poor results then, when charters get poor results, the solution is more money.

And then there was something called Freedom to Teach, a to-be-defined program that gives some schools freedom from some rules. I had to laugh at that one. Would Indiana teachers like freedom to teach? I think they would.

They would like freedom from the smothering effects of tests which now determine teacher evaluation, student promotion, teacher pay, school grades, student graduation – and the governor wants to add school funding to the list. Ignore the fact that these tests were never designed for those purposes.

Teachers would like freedom from teaching students how to take the tests, since they will be so different this spring.

Teachers would like freedom from testing mandates which demand every student advance at the same rate and learn to read at the same time, ignoring developmental realities.

Teachers would like freedom to engage students with more projects, more science, more arts, music and physical education, more pleasure reading, more field trips and, yes, more recess – all things that have been proven to improve student outcomes yet have eroded as tests and more tests and test prep narrow the curriculum.

By all means, governor, give Indiana teachers freedom to teach.

District 1 representative,
Fort Wayne Community Schools Board


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, December 16, 2014

Musical Interlude: Beethoven at 244

I posted this video two years ago. See that entry for credits...

Today, December 16, 2014 is Beethoven's 244th birthday. The Ninth Symphony, from which this Ode to Joy was taken, was completed and premiered in 1824. By that time Beethoven was completely deaf.

His early fame was earned as a pianist as well as a composer, but as his deafness increased he could not hear himself play and turned to composing full time. When composing the Seventh Symphony he pressed his ear against the wooden piano in order to hear. By the time he composed the Ninth Symphony, he could hear nothing. It's ironic that the composer himself never heard one of his greatest works. At the premier of the Ninth, he had to be turned around to see the crowd because he could not hear them cheer and applaud.

Would Beethoven have approved of this sort of performance? Possibly. He was very particular about his music and was known to become very angry when people weren't paying attention. However, this performance shows just how much the music draws the attention and interest of a random group of citizens. He was irritable and unpleasant as his deafness made his music more difficult for him to enjoy, but I would like to think he would soften enough to appreciate seeing people enjoy his music.

Public Education Note: Watch the children. Keep music part of public education.

If you're interested, the link below will take you to a video of an emotional performance in 1989 of the Ninth Symphony (1:33:51). The performance is conducted by Leonard Bernstein (less than a year before his death in October of 1990) in the former East Berlin, in celebration of the opening of the Berlin Wall. It includes curtain calls, dozens of flowers and 8 minutes of standing ovation.

The Berlin Celebration Concert - Beethoven, Symphony No 9 Bernstein 1989


Monday, December 15, 2014

2014 Medley #27

Educate the Public, Pence vs. Ritz,
On Being a Teacher, Privatization, Charters,
The Gates Paradox, Elections


Diane Ravitch on the Uses and Abuses of Data in Education Reform

Diane Ravitch discusses education "reform" in New York at CUNY. At the end of the video (at about 1:01:30) she tells us what we must do...educate the public.
How do you make education better by having people as teachers who have no credentials as teachers, and have no experience? How does that improve education? How do you improve education when there are governors in this country that have cut the budget by billions of dollars?

...People must be informed. The public must understand what's going on and that's the job of education. Most of us are educators. We should educate the public. [emphasis added]


When Barack Obama was elected president Mitch McConnell announced that his goal would be the failure of the Obama presidency. When Mike Pence took the governor's seat in 2012 he didn't announce that he wanted Glenda Ritz to fail, but he has done everything in his power to assure that it happened...from starting his own, personal, shadow Department of Education, to directing the members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) to block everything she wanted to do, to finally, calling on the supermajority in the legislature to undermine her authority as chair of the SBOE.

EDITORIAL: Effort to diminish Ritz nearly complete
Pence’s proposal injects a new twist. Instead of ousting Ritz, the change drains a huge amount of her remaining power. The other 10 members of the Board of Education — all appointed by Republican governors — would select their chairperson to set the agenda for education policy in Indiana. Ritz would be reduced to just another member, because the others would certainly not choose her.
Pence's education plan isn't an olive branch
Claiming this was "in the interest of restoring trust and harmony,” he then announced his intention to allow his appointed state board members to elect their own chairman, unseating Ritz. If the governor were truly concerned with trust and harmony, he would trust Ritz to represent the people of Indiana. He should remember why Indiana voters chose her.

Ritz ran on a platform of keeping public funds in public schools. Now the governor wants to bleed more of that funding into private schools through unlimited vouchers and charter schools that have no democratically elected, accountable boards.


America's educators teach America's children and at the same time are forced to defend themselves from the latest attacks on their profession. Politicians, pundits and policy makers continue to give lip service to the elimination of "bad teachers" in every school and the support of "great teachers" in every classroom, but their actions speak louder than words.

In Indiana, for example, teachers have been stripped of their professionalism by
  • loss of collective bargaining
  • lack of voice in education policy
  • loss of due process
  • evaluations based on student test scores
  • merit pay based on student test scores
  • the disparaging of teaching credentials through REPA III
The empty words praising "great teachers" is followed up by increasing class sizes, fewer resources for needy schools, more money spent on privately run charters and private schools.

The latest attack against teachers is on their schools of education. Secretary Duncan is leading the charge for judging schools of education based on the test scores of their graduates' students, and the ability of their graduates to get hired. There is no research which indicates that this is an accurate measure of the success for a school of education. There are other factors which come into play...most notably, the socio-economic status of the children teachers teach. Poverty is the number one factor in student test scores...and once again, these same policy makers ignore the fact that our nation leads all other advanced nations in childhood poverty.

During her discussion of the Uses and Abuses of Data in Education Reform at CUNY, Diane Ravitch told us that the U.S. is ranked
  • 34th out of 45 in providing high quality early childhood education
  • 131 out of 184 in providing good prenatal care
Policy makers don't want to assume their share of the responsibility for raising our children. It's easier to blame public schools, and public school teachers.

The Problem Isn't Getting Rid of Teachers, It's Keeping Them
...there is another factor that contributes towards teacher disillusion, and that is the constant denigration of the profession, including through emphasizing the need to get rid of the “bad apples”.

This incessant sniping will inevitably have an effect on teachers who already feel they are at the sharp-end. Who would want to stay in a profession that is constantly being reminded of its own shortcomings?

As one reader emailed after my article on removing poor teachers was published: “I am constantly trying to improve my practice, and the anti-bad teacher witch-hunt is not helpful. It demoralizes all teachers.”


First They Came for the Teachers, and I Didn't Speak Up
Active and retired teachers are being told about the local problems that are making it necessary to steal their wages* and raid their earned compensation (pensions**).

What we are being told are lies, distortions, untruths, spun data, etc. meant to shame teachers and distract every citizen who believes the propaganda.


Where will the next generation of teachers come from?

BSU student interest in school teaching nosedives

Fewer students are going into education...
“The story is more than just Ball State,” [dean of Ball State University's Teachers College] Jacobson said. “At Ball State and in Indiana and in the nation, there is a decline in individuals coming into teacher preparation and initial licensing.”
The reasons are fairly obvious...
The causes might include the negative portrayal of education by politicians and the media; teacher compensation; teacher evaluations; lack of respect; “the joy of teaching is gone”; morale problems; higher standards (starting in fall 2013, an overall grade point average of 3.0, instead of 2.5, was required for admission to the teaching curriculum at Ball State); and more opportunities for female undergraduates besides traditional careers like teaching and nursing, according to Jacobson.

In late October, Ray Scheele, a political science professor, told The Star Press that teachers “have really felt like they’ve been under attack for several years now, starting in the (Republican Gov. Mitch) Daniels administration.”

He said the issues included charter schools, vouchers, pensions, school funding, test scores and teacher assessments.


Giuliani erroneously claims that merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and vouchers improve education. None of those "reform" methods have been shown to improve education, yet somehow, since the teachers unions are against them, they (the unions) are somehow responsible for the death of Eric Garner by choke-hold.

What did Giuliani do to decrease poverty in NYC?

Did Rudy Giuliani just link Eric Garner’s death to teachers’ unions?
“Maybe all these left-wing politicians who want to blame police, maybe there’s some blame here that has to go to the teachers union, for refusing to have, uh, for refusing to have schools where teachers are paid for performance, for fighting charter schools, for fighting vouchers, so that we can drastically and dramatically improve education.”


Stanford CREDO Director: Free Market Doesn't Work in Education

Education is a collaborative enterprise...policy makers, community leaders, teachers, students, and parents all have to work together to help students learn. Ripping communities apart by closing schools, setting up competitive privately run schools to steal students from the public schools, and closing public schools rather than providing resources, doesn't improve education.

Here's a "free market fan" who agrees...
I’ve studied competitive markets for much of my career. That’s my academic focus for my work. And (education) is the only industry/sector where the market mechanism just doesn’t work. I think it’s not helpful to expect parents to be the agents of quality assurance throughout the state. I think there are other supports that are needed… 


Record number of traditional public schools earn an 'A'; Vastly outperform charter schools
The accountability grades clearly show that silver bullet solutions to ‘reform’ public education through the establishment of charter schools is not working. Six in 10 charter schools have earned a grade of ‘D’ or ‘F’. Also today, an ISTA member pointed out to us that traditional public schools averaged 3.3 points, while charter schools averaged only 1.9 points.

The poor performance of charter schools leads us to believe that further siphoning of resources from our community traditional public schools should be stopped. Since charter schools do not fall under the same accountability consequences as traditional public schools, a moratorium should be considered on approving additional charter schools.
Charter Schools Not Making the Grade

The chance you take at a charter school...
Charter schools are publicly funded, but operate independently. Forty-nine charter schools have shut down in South Florida in the last five years, more than 40% owing school districts millions of dollars in tax money--and leaving parents like John and Mariya Wai scrambling to find a new school.
Profitship! Cashing In On Public Schools


The Answer to the Great Question of Education Reform? The Number 42

Teachers don't get paid much, so their voices are ignored. Bill Gates and other billionaires are worth billions, so, despite their lack of credentials, their voices are heard in the halls of education policy.
I call it the Gates Paradox - the power of your voice in the "education reform" debate is proportional to the distance from the classroom (and your proximity to Silicon Valley) multiplied by the amount of money you earn. Of course, each additional media outlet owned increases the influence by a factor of ten.

...The Gates Paradox explains not only why educators have been roundly ignored in the education debate but why The Answer is now enshrined as federal law. President Obama's Department of Education has complete faith in the technocratic, market-based reforms forwarded by the Tech Titans. According to recent speeches, Obama has argued that our schools need a software update, so that students can be downloaded with the "21st century skills" they need to "win the future."


Commentary: If Voting Were Only The Answer

Those who didn't vote made a choice...and it was the wrong one.
So, what shall we conclude? That you missed an opportunity and skipped an obligation last month by not going to the polls and earning one of those “I Count, I Voted” stickers? Or that you did your duty in 2012 by handing Glenda Ritz one of the widest victory margins of any state office-holder, and the guys in the Statehouse decided your vote didn’t count after all?

Either way, the lesson is clear: Politicians are perfectly happy to claim a mandate when 85 percent of the voting public did not choose them, and politicians will do what their elite supporters dictate regardless of what the people “decide” at the polls...

...So citizens, like the coal companies and the anti-Ritz forces that wish to privatize our schools for profit, must lobby. And picket. And write letters to the editor. And raise hell. And perhaps vote.


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, December 12, 2014

Tell Duncan He's Wrong!

Arne Duncan and the Obama Department of Education have redirected their attack on public schools to post-secondary schools of education. Duncan has proposed that colleges be judged based on the test scores of their graduates' students and the ability of their graduates to get hired. There is simply no research which indicates that this is an accurate measure of the success of a school of education. Simple common sense says that there are other factors which come into play...most notably, the socio-economic status of the children teachers teach. Poverty is the number one factor in student test scores, not their teachers' SAT scores or school of education.

Of course, it's important for teachers to be competent at what they do. Good training is vital, and why Duncan is going after schools of education instead of Teach for America is a topic for another post (think $$$).

In the meantime, using VAM to measure the effectiveness of schools of education is no more appropriate as using VAM to measure the effectiveness of classroom teachers. It is simply invalid.

Student achievement test scores should be used for tracking student achievement and determining the instructional needs of students. That is what achievement tests were designed for...and that's what they should be used for. Anyone who has ever learned anything about standardized tests ought to know that tests should be used only for that which they have been designed. Period.

You have a chance to tell Secretary Duncan how wrong he is.

Anthony Cody, a blogger, public education activist, author, teacher, and founding member of the Network for Public Education, writes...
We have a short window -- just until Jan. 2, to submit public comments for consideration by the Department of Ed in response to their proposed new regulations affecting teacher education.

These regulations are aimed at wiping out "ideological resistance" to high stakes tests.

The proposal states that the new regulations will evaluate teacher education programs based on the following criteria:
  • Employment outcomes: New teacher placement and three-year retention rates in high-need schools and in all schools.
  • New teacher and employer feedback: Surveys on the effectiveness of preparation.
  • Student learning outcomes: Impact of new teachers as measured by student growth, teacher evaluation, or both.
  • Assurance of specialized accreditation or evidence that a program produces high-quality candidates.
Please let the US DOE know that VAM is inappropriate for evaluating teachers, schools, school systems, and post secondary teacher training schools. Anthony Cody has all the information in his post, Duncan Brings the Sham of VAM to Teacher Education.
There is a window of opportunity to comment on this proposal. Everyone associated with teacher education ought to comment. Professors – this is a perfect opportunity to acquaint your students with the policies that will impact their careers in the years to come. Student teachers, challenge your professors to take a stand. Comments should be sent to this address: OIRA_DOCKET@omb.eop.gov by January 2, 2015.

[UPDATE: The window for making comments on this web site is February 2, 2015, not January 2.]



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, December 7, 2014

2014 Medley #26

Good Teaching, Duncan, "Reformers," Charters, Politics, VAM, Bennett, Wal-Mart, Testing


Our Saws Are Dull, All of Them

Here is a thoughtful piece by John Kuhn about how America's public school teachers have no time to think.
There is no time to think in most of our schools. I mean, of course there’s time to think about today’s content and to think about tomorrow’s lesson plan. But beyond that, long-term thinking–thinking big, new thoughts, imagining different realities–is a luxury that busy people don’t have. Thought experiments can be joyous, and they can be terribly inefficient when they don’t pan out...

How can we hope to become truly professionalized when our industry’s philosophers haven’t time to dream? Teaching doesn’t have any Einsteins daydreaming in a patent clerk’s office; they’re all hustling to get their copies made before the bell rings...

Teachers have no voice in policy, as has been noted often. Non-practitioners may implement wrong-headed approaches, the same ones others implemented in bygone eras–and they may go all-in on them, and stick with them long after it becomes clear that they don’t really help–but yet, there’s this thing: the teachers, even if they wanted to improve their profession, are too busy to engage fully in the same way the leading minds of other professions engage. We can’t engage in policy-shaping; we can’t even sharpen our saws.


Teachers Colleges: The Federal Power Grab

Not content with destroying K-12 public education Duncan sets his sights on higher education using the fake science of VAM and invalid use of K-12 student test scores.
Arne Duncan wants to set the standards for teachers’ colleges and use the power of the federal purse to evaluate them. It seems there is nothing that Arne Duncan is not competent to judge, other than the success or failure of his own initiatives. He has used Race to the Top funding to push test-based teacher evaluations (VAM), which have worked nowhere. He has used RTTT to impose Common Core standards, which are designed to align with tests that will fail most students. He has used RTTT to encourage states to privatize more public schools. Many districts now, spurred on by Duncan’ s rhetoric, are thinking of adopting the New Orleans model of an all-charter district, even though the Recovery School District rates 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana and most of the charter schools are graded as D or F schools by the state.


Yes. It's on purpose. The three articles which follow...the first by Peter Greene (Curmudgucation), the second by Jennifer Berkshire (Edushyster), and the last, from Rethinking Schools, give both the history and rationale behind the global education reform movement (GERM). If you are new to the fight and want to know some of what's happened and why, these are must-read articles.

The Big Picture
By creating a system in which teachers are no longer the experts on what they teach or how to teach it, reformsters turn teachers from educated professionals into content delivery workers. You don't need a building full of education experts-- just one or two to direct the rest of a staff of drones. Use a boxed program like engageNY-- anybody who can read the script and the instructions can teach students.

Teachers frequently scratch their head and ask, "Are they TRYING to drive people out of the profession? " Well, probably, yes. Teach for America "teachers" are not a stop-gap measure-- they're the ideal. They don't stay long enough to get raises, and they don't saddle the district with any expensive pension costs. And they're young and healthy, so even insurance costs are low. Teachers who spend a lifetime in the profession are an expensive nuisance; what we need are a regular supply of compliant short-timers.

The Bleak Friday Interview
...when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve.

Why the Right Hates Public Education
a) Education is a multibillion dollar market, and the private sector is eager to get its hands on those dollars.
b) Conservatives are devoted to the free market and believe that private is inherently superior to public.
c) Shrinking public education furthers the Republican Party goal of drastically reducing the public sector.
d) Privatization undermines teacher unions, a key base of support for the Democratic Party.
e) Privatization rhetoric can be used to woo African American and Latino voters to the Republican Party.
f) All of the above.


The Number of Charter Schools Suspending Kids Is Totally out of Control

Charters claim to be public schools, but in truth are private schools which are run with public money. They should be required to take all students...and provide for their education. Instead, when they run up against students who are more expensive or more difficult to teach, they too often "counsel them out"...or in this case, just kick them out.
...the disproportionate suspension rates are a symptom of a much deeper problem. Charter schools, he says, are using harsh, zero-tolerance discipline to weed out problem students and boost standardized test scores.

“I think there’s strong evidence from [studies] and anecdotally” that support that theory, said Bryant, director of Education Opportunity Network, a public-school policy center. “Charter schools discriminate and select their students in many different ways,” he added, including out-of-school suspensions and expulsions, to winnow out underachievers.

That’s because of the bargain that charter schools have made with the taxpayers that fund them. In exchange for taxpayer money and the freedom to innovate, charter schools are held to a higher academic standard, particularly on student achievement and assessment tests. But because they’re still public schools, Bryant said, they have to accept any kid who wants to attend.


So, Teacher, You Don't Want to be "Political?" That's No Longer and Option

How many teachers didn't vote in the last election?
  1. If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not...
  2. Even if you don’t like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway...
  3. Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day...
  4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring. Don’t believe me? Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations...
  5. If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right? The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency...
The only way left for you to not be “political” is to stop being committed to public education. So, welcome to “the collective”, like it or not. Your critics have made sure that you are locked in. [emphasis added]


Principals' Group Latest to Criticize 'Value Added' for Teacher Evaluations

The American Statistical Association has already "advised caution" on the use of VAM for teacher evaluations...now a group of professionals does the same. When will "reformers" decide to listen to professionals?
The National Association of Secondary School Principals has entered the loud fray over teacher evaluation, giving preliminary approval to a statement that says test-score-based algorithms for measuring teacher quality aren't appropriate.


Probe links Bennett to wire fraud

Disgraced former Indiana and Florida Superintendent Tony Bennett had to pay a measly $5000 fine for his dishonesty in dealings with charter schools in Indiana. Now, it turns out that he was using state employees for campaigning...on state time. Those of us who voted for Glenda Ritz also paid, through our taxes, for Bennett to campaign against her. What a hypocrite.
INDIANAPOLIS – A monthslong investigation into former Indiana schools Superintendent Tony Bennett's use of state staff and resources during his 2012 re-election campaign found ample evidence to support federal wire fraud charges, according to a copy of the 95-page report viewed by The Associated Press.

Despite the recommendation that charges be pursued, Bennett has never faced prosecution for such charges – which could have carried up to 20 years in prison.

The investigation, which was completed by the inspector general's office in February, found more than 100 instances in which Bennett or his employees violated federal wire fraud law.

That contrasts sharply with an eight-page formal report issued in July that said the office found minimal violations, resulting in a $5,000 fine and an admonishment that Bennett could have avoided fines by rewriting rules to allow some campaign work on state time.


A Walton’s Plan to “Fix Public Education.” Uh huh.

I cringe when I hear a teacher talk about shopping at Wal-Mart. Aside from the fact that they get taxpayers to foot the bill for billions of dollars in welfare costs, they pay more billions to support charter schools and voucher programs. These people are the epitome of anti-public school privatizers.
When Carrie Walton Penner enrolls her children at a predominately-TFA-staffed charter school as their principal means of formal education, and when she publicizes their test scores as evidence that the charter model she promoted for other people’s children has served her children well, then I will consider the charters that she pays for with money that should go to paying Walmart workers a living wage as being “successful.”

Not a minute sooner.


“This Will Revolutionize Education” –A Story That Needs To Be Told Again and Again

Larry Cuban brought this great video to our attention...
As a historian of school reform, I have written more than I want to remember about those rose-colored, feverish, high-tech dreams that appear time and again promising to transform classroom practice and how students learn. This video is seven minutes long and it vividly captures the hollowness of each generation’s claim that “This Will Revolutionize Education.” But far more important the video zeroes in on the centrality of the teacher to student learning beyond conveying information which new technologies are superb in doing.


High-Stakes Handout

Here's what to do when you want to fight against high stakes tests! Send the following to your legislators...often!
1. These tests are untested...
2. These tests don’t tell us where we can improve...
3. The tests distort what and how teachers teach...
4. The tests have shown no positive results...
5. The tests are incredibly costly in both time and money...

5 Things you can do to stop the use of these tests on your child.
1. Share this message with your friends and form a group to fight for change.

2. Send this message to your state legislator demanding an end to this testing.

3. Send this message to your local school board with a letter asking them for support in ending high-stakes testing.

4. Use this information to write a letter to the editor demanding change.

5. Most importantly, refuse* to allow your child to be tested on these high-stakes standardized tests.


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!