"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

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 Medley #10

Defies Measurement, Teacher Shortages, Substitute Shortages, Sharing Responsibility, Spellings, PARCC, Common Core 


See "Defies Measurement"

Peter Greene at Curmudgucation dominates today's medley. First he reviews a movie which you should watch. It's online...it's free...and it's excellent. You can download it and share it with colleagues and friends.
Let me cut to the chase-- I cannot recommend enough that you watch Defies Measurement, a new film by Shannon Puckett...

...Alan Stoskopf, Alfie Kohn, Anthony Cody, David Berliner, David Kirp, Diane Ravitch, Fred Abrams, Howard Gardner, Jason France, Joan Duvall-Flynn, Jordyn Schwartz, Julian Vasquez-Heilig, Karen Klein, Karran Harper-Royal, Ken Wesson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Mark Naison, Martin Malstron, Mercedes Scneider, Robert Crease, Susan Kovalik, and Tony Wagner.


With Fewer New Teachers, Why Do Some Stick Around?

NPR did an article about the looming teacher shortage. Then they did a follow up with quotes from teachers who were not at all surprised. I think they may have been surprised actually...

Finally, they posted a third installment -- a piece about how there are still teachers who love to teach...
In 2012, The Gates Foundation (which supports NPR's coverage of education) surveyed more than 10,000 public school teachers—to find out what factors were important in retaining good teachers. 68 percent said that supportive leadership was "absolutely essential." Only 34 percent said the same about higher salaries.
Complete with quotes from teachers who love their jobs...
I stay because I love the kids. When I close the classroom door, and it's just the kids and me, I see in them so much potential. They need people who believe in them, people who help them become the best person they can be.


Schools Nationwide Struggle with Substitute Teacher Shortage

Fewer and fewer college students are going into education. In addition, the shortage of substitutes will complicate the problem even more.

Not every "reformer" is out to kill the teaching profession, but the "reform" movement is playing into the hands of those who are. Fewer teachers means states will lower the qualifications to be a teacher in order to fill teaching positions.

In Indiana, for example, you can become a high school teacher if you have a degree, a B average and work experience in a field. You can start teaching with no "instructional expertise" and no training in "effective classroom assessment practices, analysis of student data, recognition of exceptional learners and modification of curriculum and instruction."

This is a way to deprofessionalize the teaching profession...no more career teachers spending their lives at one school where they teach generations of students. No more messy worries about a teachers union as teacher-temps shuffle in and out every few years.
A frequent source of substitutes has been education majors looking for experience. But officials say fewer college students are choosing teaching as a career path, in part because of recent layoffs and concerns about new education standards, including efforts in some states to link teacher evaluations with student test scores.

"There have been so many stories about the quality of public education that many of us have conjectured that really impacted both students and their parents to say, `Why would I go into education and face all of that?'" said Jill Shedd, assistant dean for teacher education at Indiana University.


The Big Error of School Accountability

When will policy makers accept their share of responsibility for public education?
The authors have shifted totally from an inconvenient conversation about fair and equitable investment in children and communities—investment that is adequate and comparable regardless of a student’s zip code or skin color—to one about holding children and communities responsible for their own outcomes. Accountability is constructed on the principle of blame and consequences as leverage to move schools and kids forward (blame and consequences, it should be noted, entirely directed at the teachers and students, with no consequence whatsoever reserved for citizens outside the schoolhouse who may or may not provide adequate fiscal supports for schools and children). At the urging of testing advocates like the authors of this essay, educational improvement via punitive test-based policies has eclipsed humane concepts of shared assistance and support for hurting American children (particularly anything resembling the investment of tax receipts) as the “civil rights issue of our time.” Educational accountability is designed as a low-cost replacement for social responsibility.


Don't Dilute the Progress That's Been Made

Margaret Spellings, who was the George W. Bush's second Secretary of Education (after Rod Paige), doubles down on No Child Left Behind. Her bio, when she was in office, suggested that she was qualified to lead the nation's education system because she was "a mom." Parents, of course, must have a voice in America's education policy, but policy ought to be developed by those who understand the field. You wouldn't hire a baker to run a legal firm simply because the baker had used legal services in the past. Education professionals ought to be in the front lines of determining education policy, but educators are rarely consulted or involved in state and federal policies.

Had Spellings ever been a K-12 public school teacher she would understand that standardized testing isn't the be-all and end-all of keeping parents informed about their students' progress.
As someone who was on the front lines of the deliberations on No Child Left Behind when it became law in 2002, I know that annual assessment data, required under the law, is critical to informing parents, teachers and the public about how all students are performing.
Spellings Remains Steadfastly Wrong

Peter Greene has a nice comeback. Just because you want something to be true doesn't make it so.
...the standardized test does not become an accurate measure of a student's entire life prospects just because you say so...


Pearson Proves PARCC Stinks

One last link to Peter Greene...

Testing has lost all meaning. We don't use tests for informing instruction or helping parents understand how their children are progressing. They are simply a tool to label children, teachers, schools, and states. Once the label is secure, jockeying for profit can begin through legislation, "increased rigor," and the buying and selling of schools. Test security protects investment. The true purpose of assessment has been lost.
The fact that product security trumps use of the product just raises this all to a super-kafka-esque level. It is more important that test security be maintained than it is that teachers and parents get any detailed and useful information from it.


Common Core does not work because it was never designed to work.
Simply shifting demands down by 1-2 years, with no regard for age/grade appropriateness, is producing the exact failure rates those in charge predicted. Of course in cases where the results do not meet predictions, cut scores are adjusted to guarantee the predicted rate of failure...

We are being told Common Core works from those outside the classroom walls. When do we start to listen to those that actually have to work with the lackluster standards and flawed state tests?


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Friday, March 20, 2015

Random Quotes - March 2015


Vouchers - The Defunding of a Public Trust

Why should you pay taxes to support public schools when you have no students who attend the public schools?

Our founders understood that an educated populace was a benefit to everyone. Thomas Jefferson called for federal support of public education in his 1806 State of the Union message. John Adams declared that the public should support public education at the public expense. James Madison called for the federal government to "take into their own hands the education of children, establishing in like manner schools throughout the union..."

We all benefit when our fellow citizens are educated. Just as we all support police departments, public parks, roads, libraries, and fire departments, for the public good, we must all support public education for everyone. Part of the responsibilities of a government is to provide essential services to the people. It is the people's responsibility to support that effort through their taxes.

If you choose to send your children to private school you should not expect to be relieved of the responsibility to support the public schools which benefit everyone.

...from Lead Your School
There are parents in our community that are also school tax paying homeowners that elect to not send their children to the local public school. This is their choice, and there is no negative consequence for exercising it. They simply pay tuition to a private provider to educate their children. If at anytime they change their mind, the local public school will accept their children.

From a taxpayer perspective, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE between the private schooling parent and myself. We both pay into a public trust that neither of us uses.

Except, there are now people who advocate the breaking of this public trust. They argue that if a parent chooses to send their child to a non-public school, they should be allowed to remove money from the public trust and spend it to subsidize their choice. If my private schooling neighbor were allowed to take his tax dollars and use them as he chooses, this would mean that he IS NOW DIFFERENT than me. Effectively, his tax bill has been reduced.

Crisp: Ideology must not trump education

Here's a not so subtle comment about the selfishness, and the lack of foresight we Americans have. We're not against stepping all over our fellow citizens if it means more for us. Give me mine...I don't care what you get...just get your hands off mine.

We have lost the concept of working together for the common good (if we ever actually had it) and sacrificing for the good of the community or nation as a whole. If we did, then we would understand that a fully supported, free, universal, public education system benefits us all, and that a 25% child poverty rate is unacceptable, unsustainable...and threatens our future as a people.

...from John M. Crisp
..the first and most obvious beneficiaries of a school voucher program would be the parents of children who are already enrolled in private schools and the schools, themselves, which would have an incentive to raise their prices. These are the people who want voucher programs most of all.

We already know how to produce excellent public schools. I went to one, and if you’re reading this paper, you probably did, too. The problem is that we’ve never been willing to produce them for everyone, regardless of race or economic status.


Arne's Dumb Expectations

Blogger Peter Greene has some advice for Arne Duncan, who, like other test-and-punish privatization advocates, is all about accountability -- for everyone else.

...from Peter Greene
Imagine how different education would reform would play out if we just changed half of the following sentence. Instead of
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold teachers and school districts responsible for their failure to properly teach those students 
we could instead say
Where we find failing schools and students, we must hold politicians responsible for their failure to properly support those schools with needed resources.


Why Do So Few College Students Want to Be Teachers?

The kindergartners who entered school in the first years of No Child Left Behind, in 2002, are graduating high school now. Is it any wonder that those children, whose academic lives have been focused on gaming the system and testing, testing, testing, should reject the idea of becoming a test-and-punish practitioner? The privatizers and testepreneurs have soured the taste of learning for an entire generation of children. Our nation will live under the deleterious effects of NCLB for many years.

...from Jan Resseger
...why would we be surprised when fewer young people seek careers as school teachers? They are getting the message. Our society now conceptualizes teaching merely as adding value by pouring into each child’s head the big publishers’ canned curriculum that is coordinated with the standardized tests they also publish. Our law makers adopt policies that ignore what teachers do and describe teachers’ work in business-school terms. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invests $45 million to develop teacher evaluation systems based on econometric formulas that are blind to the human part of teachers’ work with children. We pay teachers less, and state governments seek to destroy their unions and thereby undermine due process and career protections. Our lexicon seems even to be losing the words that would value the time and energy and expertise school teachers expend day after day to help our children realize their promise.

Losing Good Teachers? Hooray!

We've invested in the "education sector" and have seen a proliferation of privatization schemes -- charter schools, vouchers, test-and-punish practices. The money flows from board room to political campaign accounts...and law-makers then return the money to the board room via tax payments supporting privatization. The "education economy" is booming, but the most important investment opportunity, the investment in our children, is being squandered.

...from Richard Sindall
I doubt that the money saved by destroying the teaching profession will, in the main, go back to taxpayers. It will go to the investors in “the education sector.” It will go to the test makers and test-related curriculum peddlers. It will go to those who invest in charter schools and for-profit universities. It will go to the software and hardware developers who will deliver the standardized lessons and standardized tests coordinated to give the illusion of successful learning. And then it will go to the re-election campaigns of politicians who enable corporate reform for the investors in the education sector.


DIBELS Raises Common Core Cut Scores to Show More Students Below Grade Level

If enough students aren't failing simply raise the "cut scores" and the crisis will continue.

...from Lace to the Top
There is no money to be made in labeling children as successful, but labeling them failures has continued to fuel the perceived crisis in education and increases profits.


To Stop the Opt-Out Movement, Start the Opt-In Movement

...from John Kuhn
Parents aren’t just opting out of tests. They are opting out of an entire fouled ecosystem of which tests are an integral part. They’re opting out of a punitive game of Mousetrap with their kids’ scores as the snap-off pieces, wherein political shakers (who may have something to gain or who may sincerely believe in the “failing schools” gospel) have set a trap not just for some bad teachers, not just for this or that neighborhood school, but for the entire constitutional vision of a publicly-funded, publicly-accountable, democratically-operated, free and open-to-all-students system of schools.


The failure of Renaissance 2010 in Chicago has been replicated throughout the nation with a similar lack-of success, unless you consider profits for Pearson, K-12, Charter USA, etc. as success.

...from Bob Herbert, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America
"In 2004, Gates was one of the prime movers and the lead funder of a citywide initiative called Renaissance 2010, a program that was supposed to transform Chicago's public schools in just six years. Lousy teachers would be fired, failing schools would be closed, and charter schools would blossom. . . . And the school system's CEO, Arne Duncan was responsible for designing and implementing the initiative, which was popularly known as Ren 10.

The enthusiasm was misplaced. Like Gates's 'transformative' small high schools initiative, Ren 10 was a flop. . .The architect of Renaissance 2010, former schools CEO Arne Duncan, is now the US Secretary of Education--and he's taking the Daley-Duncan model national as part of his Race to the Top reform plan.

Renaissance 2010 never delivered the promised goods, but Duncan was not hurt by its failure, and neither was Gates."


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Linda Darling-Hammond: On Testing

I was thinking about the recent upheaval with PARCC testing, Pearson spying on students and reporting it to school districts, and the general misplaced confidence (or is it just economic investment) that American policy makers have with testing in this country. The renewed focus on testing reminded me of Linda Darling-Hammond's words during an interview in the film, Rise Above the Mark.

Darling-Hammond is an educator and researcher. She's not a politician like Andrew Cuomo who must to satisfy donors by throwing public money their way. She's not a pundit like Michael Petrilli who is ideologically focused on privatization. She's not an untrained mouthpiece like Arne Duncan who shills for testing companies and privatizers. She's an academic who has spent her career learning and teaching about students, schools,  teachers, and learning.


What does this education professional say about what we are doing compared to countries in the world whose students are high achieving?
Compare that [what high achieving countries are doing for education] to reforms that are going on in the United States which largely are reinforcing inequality, deepening poverty, homelessness...and pretending to fix that with more standardized tests.

We have been testing without investing.

We have been testing way too much and with low quality multiple choice instruments that drive the curriculum in very narrow directions.

We've been deprofessionalizing teaching...allowing people to come in without adequate preparation, not supporting them in their learning and then trying to manage that with both systems of high stakes accountability and privatization, trying to put more and more funds into sectors that essentially increasingly are reducing the support for public education.

We cannot become internationally competitive from here, doing what we're currently doing...
We're making things worse by ignoring the effects of poverty, denying that it has an impact on education so that policy makers are relieved of their responsibility in the education of our children. Instead we blame children and teachers. Then, after making those mistakes, we are trying to fix the problem by calling for more testing under the mistaken belief that if only teachers and students would try harder, things will get better.


And what about that testing? Has the test and punish plan worked? Are the tests even valid? Has the amount that we have invested in testing been helpful?
The problem we have with testing in this country today is that, number 1, we're using the wrong kinds of tests, and number 2, we're using the tests in the wrong kinds of ways. We are the only country that tests every child, every year with these kinds of measures and then attaches all of these stakes to them -- whether a kid gets promoted to the next grade, whether they graduate, whether a teacher gets a merit pay bonus, whether they even keep their job, whether schools get rewarded or sanctioned or even closed down. The tests were never designed to support these kinds of decisions. They don't even measure the things you would need to measure to be valid for those purposes, in ways that would inform you.

...having those kinds of stakes attached to the wrong kinds of tests produces three very unfortunate outcomes.

The first of them is that we are narrowing the curriculum and dumbing down the curriculum to the subjects that are tested. We're narrowing and reducing the capacity of our teachers to teach what's important and our kids to learn what's important.

The second problem with high stakes testing is that it creates incentives to prevent high need students who struggle in school from coming into your school district or your school. And in a marketplace of schools, those who have the ability to fend those students off keep them out and it creates incentives to push them out...we've created a situation in which it doesn't benefit any school to keep the kids who struggle to learn because it will negatively impact their test scores...that doesn't serve the society well.

The third thing that happens with high stakes accountability is that all of the blame is now being put on individual teachers and educators particularly in high need schools where kids are coming from more poverty, homelessness, dysfunctional community settings, getting less resources in school. If the scores don't go up we blame the teachers or the principals and say, well, let's fire them, and it is deflecting attention from solving those other problems which are becoming more and more acute in American Society.
We're making things worse by 1) narrowing our curriculum, ignoring things like social studies, science, physical education and the arts, by 2) pushing out the very students who need the most help staying in school and are thereby taking away the opportunity to benefit from their contributions to our society and by 3) punishing poverty and the schools which deal with poverty.

Darling-Hammond understands the damage that our education policy is doing to our future. Policy makers, politicians, and pundits would do well to listen to her.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Sunday, March 15, 2015

2015 Medley #9

Testing, Pearson, Privatization,
The Public Good, Research

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

California Monitors Students’ Social Media to Protect Test Security

Here's an important post regarding the Pearson spy-scandal. Diane Ravitch reminds us that what we put on the internet and social media is public...and subject to monitoring/spying by people like Pearson, as well as, in the case of Bob Braun's blog, DoS attacks by hackers known, suspected and unknown. Use caution when posting on social media and blogs.

An important additional point to remember is that, apparently, Pearson has done nothing illegal.
What’s the lesson? I think we must teach our children (and remember ourselves) that anything online is public information. There is no privacy on the Internet. If you have a secret, whisper it in someone’s ear. Don’t write it in an email or on social media; don’t say it on the telephone. Save it for personal conversations. Or consider it public.

TESTING: Pearson, Monitoring/Spying on Social Media

By now everyone should be aware of the student-social-media-monitoring-spying mess that Pearson is trying to weasel its way out of...Here are a few places to go for good information.

Mercedes Schneider explains what happens and has a link to a copy of the original post by Bob Braun.

Hey, Kids: If You Tweet About Your PARCC Testing Experience, Pearson Will Call You Out
Pearson officials have even had the gall to contact the New Jersey department of education three times and push for corrective action for the students’ actions on social media.
Save our Schools NZ has links to information about the situation.

Just how shady can this Pearson story get? Very, apparently.
Pearson put out a press release saying they behaved perfectly responsibly….
Here's a link to the original story by Bob Braun. It is apparently up again, though running very slowly.

BREAKING: Pearson, NJ, spying on social media of students taking PARCC tests
”Pearson, the multinational testing and publishing company, is spying on the social media posts of students–including those from New Jersey–while the children are taking their PARCC, statewide tests, this site has learned exclusively. The state education department is cooperating with this spying and has asked at least one school district to discipline students who may have said something inappropriate about the tests.
If Braun's site is still down or unavailable, here's a pdf of his blog post.

TESTING: Hiding the Inadequate

Stealth over ISTEP comes at a steep cost

With privatization comes lack of public oversight. Not only are privatized charters running schools without public accountability, the legislature, school board, and policy makers in general have turned the test-and-punish hen house over to the foxes. Testing companies cry "security" as a way to hide the fact that their products are inadequate, invalid, and unreliable.

Caveat emptor. Indiana has dumped CTB/McGraw-Hill and is now going to go with Pearson.

It doesn't matter which company we use...it's a waste of money either way. Our assumption that so-called accountability testing is the answer to the problems of social and economic inequity is wrong.
In their attempt at imposing “rigor” on sixth-grade students, the Indiana legislature has imposed science standards too deep for the test-makers at CTB/McGraw-Hill to comprehend. There were two practice questions, and the test-makers got both wrong.

How many questions will the test-makers have incorrect answers for in this year’s ISTEP exam? We will never know. Both the questions and the answers are kept secret. So even as students’ futures are made dependent on their performance on standardized tests, even as the Indiana legislature aims to tie teachers’ salaries to how well their students perform on ISTEP, the CTB/McGraw-Hill test-makers remain free to botch and bungle as many test questions and answers as they like, knowing the public will never know.

They will remain free as ever to feed at the public trough on Indiana taxpayer money, and as far as CTB/McGraw-Hill executives and shareholders are concerned, that’s the only thing that matters.


Library supporters concerned about privatization talk

The privatizers are at work in all areas of the public good. Here we learn about a move to privatize libraries. Socialists, like Ben Franklin, don't understand that everything private is better.

Keep track of the push for privatization at Privatization Watch.
"It has come to my attention that there is a forthcoming proposal to place the Kern County library system under private nonprofit management," Ann Wiederrecht wrote in an email to supervisors. "Such an idea is outrageous. The Kern County Library is truly a public service open to people of all ages and backgrounds."

"In order for a for-profit group to make a profit, it will be necessary to cut services even more than they have been and/or in some way start charging for services," wrote Bakersfield College luminary Jerry Ludeke in another email. "Free public libraries are an American treasure and a 'hand-up' for many in the culture."


Walmart lobbyists push bill privatizing Arkansas’ public schools

Billionaires try to take away public control of public education.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will back legislation from lobbyists connected to Walmart that would open the door for private contractors to take over management of local school districts, the Arkansas Times reported.

The bill, HB 1733, was introduced by state Rep. Bruce Cozart (R), and was written by Walton Family Foundation lobbyists. Cozart is also chair of the state House Education Committee. The bill was sent to the committee for review on Friday, and needs 11 votes to advance to a vote on the floor.

According to the Times, the bill would establish an “achievement school district” that could include any school district found to be under “academic distress.”

The state education commissioner would then have the ability to “directly operate or contract with one or more not-for-profit entities” to run the district for a 3-5 year period. Individual schools would also be eligible for transitioning to a privatized system, with the rest of that school’s former district potentially responsible for paying for busing and food costs.

The Times also reported that the bill would turn teachers in any “achievement district” into “at-will” workers. Districts run under this model would not be required to have a school board or field licensed teachers.
Why are you still shopping at Walmart?


Charter schools struggling to meet academic growth

How is the privatization of public education working out? Charter operators are learning that, unless they screen out low performing students (aka students with learning challenges or students living in poverty), their test scores will not be any better than true public schools.

The political preference for privatization from both Democrats and Republicans is just a cover to suck up the billions of dollars of tax money which should be going to help students learn.
We hear, as we should, about the highfliers and the schools that are beating the odds, but I think we need to pay even more attention to the schools that are persistently failing to meet expectations,” said Charlene Briner, the Minnesota Department of Education’s chief of staff. Charter school advocates strongly defend their performance. They say the vast majority of schools that aren’t showing enough improvement serve at-risk populations, students who are poor, homeless, with limited English proficiency, or are in danger of dropping out.


Sustainable community schools: An alternative to privatization

School boards elected by the public, while not perfect, are at least required to be transparent. Too much is being hidden by charter and private school operators who are using public funds.
The reality of understaffed, poorly resourced public schools destabilized by punitive and largely ineffective school transformation policies has driven many families to seek refuge in charters, few of which perform better than the schools they left. The charter lobby ignores the fact that charter school expansion, given the present charter school law and the absence of additional funding in the form of a charter school reimbursement line in the state budget, can only come at the expense of children in traditional public schools.

They ignore the well-documented evidence of pervasive corruption and the lack of regulation that makes it possible. They ignore the existence of policies that allow many charters to cherry-pick when it comes to admission and retention, thus creating an uneven field with traditional public schools. They ignore the lack of due process for employees, the high rates of teacher turnover, and the efforts at some charters to deny workers their right to organize.

They ignore the lack of transparency and real voice for parents at many charters. And, perhaps most important, they ignore the evidence that a large sector of charter schools has not moved the needle in terms of the overall performance of the School District, particularly in communities of color characterized by deep poverty.

The most fundamental question is not charter schools vs. traditional public schools. The debate should be about equity – should children in Philadelphia and other poor communities in the state be entitled to a quality education with the elements that affluent communities take for granted? Indeed, children in the poorest neighborhoods disproportionately need lower class size and services like health care and counseling that can address the deficits created by poverty.


Fountas and Pinnell Create More Rigorous Common Core Guided Reading Guidelines

Money corrupts pedagogy. The drive for higher test scores and "more rigor" has driven non-tested subjects out of public education. Here, Fountas and Pinnell, who taught me much of what I know about reading instruction and learning, have caved to the power of Pearson, the Common Core, and "rigor."
...take the Fountas and Pinnell research based guiding reading levels that have stood the test of time. They spent years creating a system that matched students with just right books. They even warned, “…through detailed coding of thousands of readings, showed that when a text is too difficult for the child the process breaks down and the child does not develop inner control of effective actions for processing texts.”

When Common Core was introduced, Fountas and Pinnell decided it was time to put research aside and go against their own advice in order create more rigorous thresholds for their guided reading levels.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Friday, March 13, 2015

Policy Makers Need to Share Responsibility


I understand that sound bites are often all that there is time for in a politician's busy day. But when sound bites translate into poorly thought out policy, then that's a problem.

NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (Full Disclosure: I'm a member of this group, and run their blog), promoted a "twitter storm" (#PauseAccountability) this past week to bring attention to the fact that Indiana's statewide test for grades 3 through 8, the ISTEP+, has had so many problems this year (for example, here, here, and here) that using it for high stakes decisions which will have an impact on schools, teachers, and students, is inappropriate and outside the realm of good testing practice. [Just to be clear using the ISTEP for high stakes decisions is always inappropriate and outside the realm of good testing practice. It's just more obviously wrong to do it this year.]

WISH-TV out of Indianapolis reported on the twitter storm and included comments from a variety of folks...including State Representative Vernon Jordan (D-Gary) and Governor Mike Pence (R). Rep. Jordan took the traditional Democratic focus on Labor and commented about how it would affect the jobs of teachers.
“Definitely our scores are gonna go down,” said Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary,) “and since we have a flawed A through F system and we’re gonna tie these lower scores to that, what happens to the employment of teachers in this state?”
Governor Pence signed on as well with this comment...
“We grade our kids everyday in the classroom,” said Mike Pence, “we can grade our schools every year. I think that accountability is important.”
Jordan's sound bite only barely touches on the issues...but Governor Pence's comment says even less than that, and his leadership, after all, is the basis for the policy which is currently in place.


Those of us who have been trained in the appropriate uses of standardized tests know that they are developed with specific uses in mind. Standardized tests, like the ISTEP+, are designed to evaluate student achievement. This does not necessarily correlate directly to school and teacher quality because of the effect of variables outside of the testing environment. That is, there are things that happen outside of school which have an impact on a student's test score. A score is not entirely the result of a student's interaction with and relationship to, his or her school and teachers. The economic status of the student has the greatest out-of-school impact as does the student's physical home environment, educational attainment level of parents, physical, mental, and dental health and numerous other factors.

A test is developed to give an answer to the "what" of achievement, not the "why." A student might have achieved at level X, but the test itself usually doesn't explain "why" the student achieved at level X instead of level Y. In other words, the student might have gotten a score in the 98th percentile on the math portion of his state-wide achievement test, but we don't know why he did. It could be because he has a mathematician parent who has been playing math games with him since his birth. It could be because he has an outside tutor in math, or that he is somehow predisposed to have a high aptitude for math. On another day the same student might have scored in the 12th percentile in math because he came to school sick, or his father and mother split up the night before, or he has a toothache. The test doesn't explain "why" a student scores at the level he does, only "what" the level is. It is therefore inappropriate to assign a "why" to the results of a test such as, "The student had a good (or bad) teacher and therefore did great (or terrible) on the test," or "The student's school has a good (or bad) math program." To be sure, trends can be identified and established. Schools and teachers can identify areas of weakness and work to improve them, but to attach high stakes consequences to the results of a test based on the "why" is inappropriate.

Analysis of tests is a big deal. Trying to determine the "why" is the stuff of good teaching. "Why did my student score as he did and what can we do to help him to improve" is the question that good teachers ask every day, after every assessment, formal or informal. Teachers do this all the time...

This is why policy makers, when deciding how to proceed with a plan, ought to listen to practitioners who understand 1) how data ought to be used and 2) the consequences of misusing that data.


Now let's look at what Governor Pence said in his sound bite...
We grade our kids everyday in the classroom...
Absolutely! Good teachers evaluate their students all the time. That's one of the most important things about teaching...evaluating and analyzing students' work over an extended period of time. It is much more effective, accurate, and valid than using one test, on one day, to decide a student's achievement level or to judge the success or failure of his or her teachers and school.
...we can grade our schools every year.
We can, but the way we do it ought to be accurate. The accuracy of a single test given once a year as a means to effectively grade schools, teachers, and students, is debatable...and the accuracy of this year's ISTEP+, given its problems in development and application, is even more suspect. Waiting until a tool is established and proven to be effective before using it is simple common sense.
I think that accountability is important.
Fine. Then let's also have accountability for the quality of the test and the quality of the resources within every school in the state. The governor wants students, teachers, and schools to be accountable for their work? Then the governor and other policy makers must accept their share of the responsibility for providing a social, economic, and academic climate in which students can learn.

Communities, states, and the nation ought to share the responsibility of educating our next generation of citizens.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Tuesday, March 10, 2015

2015 Medley #8

Privatization, the Common Good,
Double Standards


Charter Schools: Fragmenting our Communities

Even those few good charter schools that exist are draining resources from public school systems, pitting neighbor against neighbor, and introducing unhealthy competition into public education. It's a Friedmanesque belief that competition will cure all the ills of society, but competition in public education is damaging, not helpful. In her speech to the Rally for Ritz, Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, who also wrote the article below, said,
"These are not businesses, these are schools. Our children should not be in a competition for a quality education because no six year-old should be on the losing end for equal educational opportunity."
There must not be "winners" and "losers" in public education, but, by definition, that's what competition creates. It assumes that public schools and public school teachers only need to "try harder" to improve, and that's ridiculous as well as insulting. Public school teachers and public schools are not holding back; If anything, they are being held back. They're not hiding the best lessons because they are too lazy to use them. The vast majority of public schools and public educators are working their hardest to reach the students they have. To claim that public schools are failing because they aren't teaching students how to pass what are often inappropriate and inadequate assessments is disingenuous at best, and a flat-out lie at worst.

Grading schools and teachers using student test scores, which is what "reformsters" and privatizers do to justify competition, is an inappropriate use of testing, and political manipulation of public ignorance about testing. Higher test scores do not mean better schools. In most cases, higher test scores simply mean higher funding and higher neighborhood income. The true problem with public education in America is the same problem that permeates our entire social structure: poverty. The U.S. has the highest child poverty rate in the advanced world, yet we're too selfish, ignorant, or unmotivated to do anything about it.

Instead of creating competition between schools, we need to encourage collaboration (see Teacher Collaboration Gives Schools Better Results and Why collaboration is vital to creating effective schools). We need to fully fund local, public schools so that every child, even those whose parents don't know how to "game the choice system," are provided a free, appropriate, high quality public education just like our state constitution requires.
Our schools (as with our society) are what we make them. Accountability in a democracy is found in the voting booth. How many parents helped and voted on the school board races last fall? (A school board that has no bearing on the Project School as it is a separate entity). How many parents concerned about testing voted for legislators who reject the drive for data over the education of the whole child? How many voted for Hoosiers for Quality Education-funded candidates who are now supporting the expansion of vouchers, the redirecting of public school funding to charters, and the rewriting of the school funding formula to take funds from poor districts and give them to the wealthy ones?

The competition for resources in our own communities will continue as long as we are unwilling to embrace the idea that all children deserve adequately funded schools and equal educational opportunity. [emphasis added]

Are Charter Schools Todays Version of Sub Prime Mortgages?

From the YouTube description...
Mark Naison debunks Charter School mythology in this episode of Education News. Comparing the Charter School explosion to the subprime mortgage collapse, Naison reveals the startling failures and false promises of the Charter mystique.

The Charter School Accountability Agenda

Charter schools aren't going to go away just because I want them to, but given that charters are here to stay we ought to at least hold them to the same standards as true public schools. At the top of that list of standards are things like, full academic and fiscal accountability and the requirement that they provide appropriate services for and accept all children who choose to attend.
Require companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public, similar to public school board meetings.

Charter schools are cheating your kids: New report reveals massive fraud, mismanagement, abuse

This article is from 10 months ago...but that doesn't mean it's outdated. There are still many charters with very little public oversight even though they are using public funds.
While there are plenty of other troubling issues surrounding charter schools — from high rates of racial segregation, to their lackluster overall performance records, to questionable admission and expulsion practices — this report sets all those admittedly important issues aside to focus squarely on activity that appears it could be criminal, and arguably totally out of control. It does not even mention questions raised by sky-high salaries paid to some charter CEOs, such as 16 New York City charter school CEOs who earned more than the head of the city’s public school system in 2011-12. Crime, not greed, is the focus here.


Is Indiana Really Good for Business? What about the Common Good?

There's a new corollary (which I just came up with) to the old saying, "What's good for business is good for America." It's, "What supports the common good, is good for business." If we used public funds to make our cities and towns welcoming and comfortable places to live, our economy would grow. One way to do that would be to provide equitable, safe, and fully supported public schools for everyone.
How in the world have we become a place where veiled cruelty and lack of compassion are rewarded and where genuine disagreement is dismissed as dysfunction which needs to be punished? When did kindness and concern become replaced by mean spiritedness, condescension, and moronic talking points?


Lilly Endowment: Link Between Education Dysfunction and Poor Wellness

In America, instead of using our great wealth to help ourselves and grow our nation, we blame the victims and fight against one another. Our greatest enemies aren't religious extremists or socialists. The greatest enemies our nation faces are our selfishness, our immaturity, and our inability to come together to build the nation for the common good.
Just to clarify where we are so far:

High infant mortality rates – we blame the individual.
Low student achievement test scores – we blame the system.


Hoosiers for Quality Education pushes corporate ed 'reform' agenda with Bennett's help

There's a double standard at work here. A corporate funder for privatization of public education uses students to publicize their products.
H4QE recently held a corporate sponsored school choice “rally” at the Indiana Statehouse. Just as the group has done previously, hundreds of charter and private school students were bussed in to attend. Approximately 200 were in attendance and the vast majority were students.

There is no doubt that ISTA, Indiana PTA, NAACP and other coalition partners would be severely criticized had there been a concerted effort to bus in public school students to attend the public education rally a week prior. Just another example of the double-standard setting that occurs.

Wright teacher opens up about student letters

Here, those same corporate funders of privatization -- and the recipients of the campaign donations -- criticize a teacher whose students wrote letters to legislators. The criticism came without knowledge of the situation. They assumed that the class was manipulated into writing what they did and that children couldn't possibly have an opinion about their education. The teacher responds...
Dye stated, “My students didn’t slander anybody, they merely expressed their opinions based on what they know, what they feel, and what they found in their research.”
Dye continued, “While I may have been naive to think that my students’ letters and own words would be read in the spirit they were sent, I still believe this was a meaningful lesson for my students as they took ownership and were more fully engaged in their learning.”


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!





Saturday, March 7, 2015

2015 Medley #7: Teachers

Shortages, Accountability, Overtime, Funding


Where Have All The Teachers Gone?

Once again we see evidence of the growing problem of finding teachers to fill the ranks of those retiring and quitting. It's still true that nearly 50% of all teachers leave the profession within the first five years. It's also true that many more teachers are quitting and retiring early because of the difficulties associated with being a teacher in America in 2015: lack of respect, lack of support, blame for low achievement caused by out-of-school factors, micromanagement from non-teachers (U.S. ED, state DOEs, and administrations), poor job security, and stagnant or falling pay/benefits.
While few dispute the shortage itself, Benjamin Riley, head of the group Deans for Impact, a new consortium of 18 reform-minded deans of colleges of education, thinks it's not yet clear why potential teachers are turning away.

"The honest answer is: We don't know. There is nothing that has been done rigorously, in a way that's empirically defensible saying, 'We know this is why the number has dropped,' " Riley says.
It's perhaps true that there is no "empirically defensible" way of knowing why there's a growing shortage of teacher candidates and why more teachers are leaving the profession. However, it doesn't take a genius to understand that it has something to do with morale, public perceptions, and the "reformist" attack on public education. The Metlife Survey of the American Teacher tells us that
...teacher job satisfaction has continued to drop significantly. Teacher satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points since 2008, from 62 percent to 39 percent very satisfied, including a drop of 5 percentage points in the last 12 months-the lowest level reported since 1987.
If the Deans for Impact don't understand this then they aren't paying attention. Their web site is lacking in information about what they hope to do...but they do say that
Member deans are committed to using common metrics and assessments that tightly align the activities of their programs with demonstrable impact on student achievement and other common outcomes measures.
This sounds to me like they agree with President Obama, Arne Duncan and the U.S. ED, that teacher training institutions should be "graded" using the same VAM methods that are so popular and unreliable for teacher evaluations. NPR does refer to them as "reform-minded," after all.

NPR continues...
Isabel Gray is a senior art history major at Millsaps College in Mississippi. She is passionate about exploring a career in K-12 teaching. But, as graduation nears, she's also having second thoughts about a profession that, she feels, is obsessed with testing and standards.
That's anecdotal evidence, and Ms. Gray is not necessarily representative of all the education students at her college...let alone the nation, but she does make an important point. Modern education in America is obsessed with testing and standards to an irrational degree. It's likely that many educators or would-be educators are fed up with that particular national fixation.
The teacher employment picture is, of course, local and regional. One part of a state may have too many elementary teachers, while another may have too few. And the gaps vary by specialty — with many places facing serious shortages in areas including science, math and special education.
Because so many schools and school systems use unreliable VAM methods of evaluating teachers it's not surprising that there is a shortage of special education teachers. There has been a shortage of special education teachers for as long as I can remember...most likely because it's a difficult field of education in which to work. Added to the extreme difficulty of the job is the knowledge that you will be graded on how your students do on standardized tests. How many people would choose to teach a group of students who might be lower achievers by definition? In the current atmosphere of public education one would have to be aware that taking on that sort of teaching career would be more than just difficult.
Riley says his group, Deans for Impact, is all for giving teachers a raise — if it's tied to better training that leads to higher graduation rates and other improved student outcomes.

"If we could really take control of the profession and increase the rigor such that teachers are effective from Day 1, I think that will prove to the public at large that this is an investment worth making, and one worth increasing."
Words and phrases like "rigor," "teachers are effective," "improved student outcomes," are buzzwords which imply test-based accountability. "Reform-minded," indeed.

When we can grow beyond the insane focus on student test scores as the basis for "accountability" for  everyone except policy makers, then we'll be able to regrow the teaching profession. As long as schools and educators are going to be held accountable for the inappropriate and useless requirements thrust upon them by policy makers, most of whom have no education experience, there will be problems recruiting and retaining good teachers.
Test-based accountability produced no gains from 2000-2012 on PISA. Time for a new approach? -- Linda Darling Hammond

David Greene, a blogger at Schools Matter responded to the NPR article.

I wonder. Where is the in depth analysis of the causes briefly referred to in the beginning of the article? Why does it then go off to mention solutions like larger class size? What? Or merit pay? Why wasn't there a deeper look at the anti teacher privatizes? The bashers? The increasingly difficult conditions facing new teachers? The actual movement to create this loss of quality and perhaps questioning teachers to be replaced with follow the fold instructors of testing technique? Where is the discussion of so many districts attempts to lower labor costs both short term and long by reducing not only average salaries as people leave the profession, and leave it sooner... But also the number of teachers vested in a pension? Where is the "enough is enough" statement?


Opinion: Let’s show a bit more respect for teachers, please

Why are teachers the only ones held "accountable" for student achievement? Are doctors held solely accountable for the health of their patients? Are firefighters held accountable for the number of fires in their communities?

We know that out of school factors account for the heaviest impact on student achievement (see here, here, and here). We need to hold local, state, and federal policy makers, parents, and communities accountable for student achievement as well as educators.

Has No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top improved student achievement? Have the laws focusing on teachers in Indiana improved student achievement? Have voucher schools or charter schools improved student achievement?
If governors, CEOs and commercial testing companies want to create assessments that are going to significantly help both teachers and our weakest academic children, here are some that they can develop:

* An assessment of children's nutrition before they come to school.

* An assessment of how many times children have been read aloud to before they entered kindergarten.

* An assessment on student attendance and student homework.

* An assessment on children's financial stability at home.

* An assessment of children's abilities to sleep each night in a loving home.

* An assessment to gather data on the damage that is done to schools by politicians, CEOs and companies that lobby and manipulate schools into spending millions of dollars on products that are unnecessary, redundant and embarrassing.

Teachers are not the problem


Teachers work more overtime than any other professionals, analysis finds

Most teachers understand that their jobs don't only begin when students arrive and end when they leave. There is always paperwork, evaluating student assignments, staff and parent meetings or phone calls, and planning lessons. One rarely "catches up"...until the end of the grading period or school year. When one task is completed another appears.

No matter what job I had in public education...from teaching a class of first or fourth graders, to teaching Reading Recovery, to doing diagnostic, achievement, and aptitude testing...I always, always, always had paperwork, student evaluation, staff and parent meetings or phone calls, and lesson planning waiting for me at the end of the day.
A study of official figures from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 61.4 per cent of primary school teachers worked unpaid overtime in 2014, equating to 12.9 additional hours a week.

Among secondary teachers, 57.5 per cent worked unpaid overtime, with an average of 12.5 extra hours.

Across all education staff, including teachers, teaching assistants, playground staff, cleaners and caretakers, 37.6 per cent worked unpaid overtime – a figure higher than that for any other sector.


Bill offers help to teachers paying for classroom supplies

Most teachers spend their own money for their students. Some who work in high poverty areas spend money on necessities like clothes, food, and school supplies for the students. Others spend money on decorations, posters, teaching materials and equipment, books, and manipulatives for the classroom. The fact that teachers have to do this highlights the underfunding and/or misuse of funds in most schools and school systems.

Instead of giving teachers a reimbursement for all that they spend of their own money for their classrooms, it would be nice if schools were funded at a level which allowed them to have everything teachers needed. Schools in moderate and high income areas often have PTAs or PTOs which provide some extra funding, but well supplied schools in low income areas are rare.

Absent sufficient funding from the state legislature, a small, token reimbursement to teachers for the money they spend out of their own pockets is welcome.
Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teacher’s Association, says it’s nice lawmakers are acknowledging the fact teachers often pay from their own pocketbooks. She adds, they wish it would be more, explaining Indiana teachers spend, on average, $1,000 a year for their students.

“It used to be that we bought things like backpacks, or we would buy paper or pencils. Nowadays, in some schools, they [teachers] are actually buying things like toilet paper, tissues, and hand sanitizers and soap, because school budgets have been so impacted, negatively, by some of the changes,” said Meredith.

“We need to reward them financially. This $200 is a great start,” said Smaltz.


The narrow pursuit of test results has sidelined education issues of enduring importance such as poverty, equity in school funding, school segregation, health and physical education, science, the arts, access to early childhood education, class size, and curriculum development. We have witnessed the erosion of teachers’ professional autonomy, a narrowing of curriculum, and classrooms saturated with “test score-raising” instructional practices that betray our understandings of child development and our commitment to educating for artistry and critical thinking. And so now we are faced with “a crisis of pedagogy”–teaching in a system that no longer resembles the democratic ideals or tolerates the critical thinking and critical decision-making that we hope to impart on the students we teach.

Stop the Testing Insanity!