"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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Random Quotes - April 2015


Three quotes from the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference. See the videos at www.networkforpubliceducation.org.

From Jitu Brown, one of the directors of the Network for Public Education and the national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance.
"They look at our students as instruments of profit" -- Jitu Brown
From Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education, University of Oregon, where he is also a Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership.
We are in the U.S. one of the very, very few systems that allow everyone to "play in the system" for twelve years. That's something amazing. We do not select. We do not judge, and that preserves the diversity of talents. Once we privatize...once we allow people to select...you exclude people, normally too early. You don't know who they might become...any privatized entity has the right to reject. We are not running a country club. We're running a public education system...that is for the prosperity of the nation and the community and the individuals. -- Yong Zhao
From Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President of the National Education Association.
"What is wrong with the world where testing has become so absurd and so harmful to children that parents are protecting their children from a test [by opting out]...The solution has to be changing the world so we do not have toxic testing..." -- Lily Eskelsen Garcia

The Resistance Meets on Weekends

Peter Greene covered the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference (as did many other bloggers...see here, here, here, here and here, for example) in an article about how many who support public education are busy with the actual work of education, while "reformers" are full time, anti-public education, privatizers.

At the close of the NPE conference, Diane Ravitch called on pubic education supporters to engage parents and grandparents, students (especially high school students) and retired educators...in other words, folks who can't be fired for standing up for public education.

From Peter Greene, Curmudgucation.
...the irony here is that while [educators] are amateurs in the field of shaping, twisting, and spinning policy, ["reformers"] are the amateurs in the actual field of education. They may have the tools, the money, the hired manpower, and the paths of power on their side, but we are the one who know the territory.


Demonizing Teachers, Privatizing Schools: The Big Lies and Big Plans Behind the Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

More about the Atlanta trial which sent public educators to jail.

From Bruce Dixon, Black Agenda Report
The one-percenters need us to believe public education in our communities is some new kind of sewer infested with incompetent teachers who are cheating children and the public every week they draw paychecks. The long, long crisis of public education has been designed, engineered and provoked by powerful bipartisan forces to justify their long game, which is the privatization of public education. That's the Big Plan.

Jon Stewart: Cheating teachers go to jail. Cheating Wall Streeters don’t. What’s up with that?

Jon Stewart, who is leaving The Daily Show late this summer, will be missed. Valerie Strauss analyzed his review of the Atlanta cheating scandal. The entire segment of The Daily Show follows.

From Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet
Jon Stewart on Wednesday night made the inevitable comparison between the former teachers and administrators in Atlanta who were sentenced for cheating on standardized tests — a few for as much as seven years — with Wall Street denizens who in 2008 connived in a way that nearly brought down the country’s financial system. Only one was sentenced to 12 months in jail.


Indiana superintendents rail against proposed school funding changes

Under the guise of "equalizing school funding" the Indiana legislature is threatening to reduce funding for large, high poverty urban areas and increase funding for low poverty suburban areas.

From Wendy Robinson, Superintendent of Fort Wayne Community Schools, quoted in Chalkbeat.
“The state is trying to act as if I don’t need different resources for that high school in the high-poverty area,” Robinson said. “The standards I set for the students I receive is the same. We treat our kids in poverty like it’s their fault. … That’s the fallacy of the (state funding) formula.”


The One about Bullying, Threats and Arne Duncan...

The justification for annual testing is "parents need to know how their students are doing." Most teachers could provide the same information during any week of the school year, more quickly, and with more accuracy.

The real justification for annual testing, and test prep, and every other expense accompanying annual testing, is money...plain and simple.

From Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair of Music Education at Michigan State University, quoted in Badass Teachers Association.
...no teacher needs yearly standardized tests to know if their students are "making progress or growth." Just as parents don't need these tests to know if their children are growing. The people that teach and love these children are well aware of what they are learning, what challenges and successes they are encountering, and what strategies will work best to help them continue to grow and learn. Let's not pretend that a once-per-year multiple choice test will somehow magically provide some special sauce that will reveal what kids know and are able to do.

Report: Big education firms spend millions lobbying for pro-testing policies

How much of our national treasure, some of which used to go to helping students, is now going to testing companies? Imagine how much they're making in profits if they can afford to spend in excess of $20 million in lobbying...

From Valerie Strauss, Answer Sheet
..four companies — Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill— collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014.

Computerized Testing Problems: 2013 -2015

When you give a test before students are ready they often do poorly on it. The same is true when you give a test before the test is ready. The technical failures of the "new" computer based tests has added to the failure of the tests themselves. The testing companies still get their billions, though. FairTest has a list...

From FairTest.org.
The ongoing litany of computer exam administration failures reinforces the conclusion that the technologies rushed into the marketplace by political mandates and the companies paid to implement them are not ready for prime time. It makes no sense to attach high-stakes consequences to such deeply flawed tools


At the Network for Public Education 2015 National Conference, one of the speakers commented that privatization is more than just an "education problem." It's occurring in various places in America's economy. The most recent post of Privatization Watch covers much more than just education. It includes articles about a Senate cafeteria worker, a growing movement to transfer federal land to state control in Western states, the military pension system, the privatization of the state-run charity hospital system in Louisiana, and various toll road privatizations (because toll road privatization worked so well in Indiana).

Today's Privatization Watch post includes a link to an Atlanta blog article about privatization of public education...

GA: Opinion: Why competitive model fails schools. No one should lose in education

From Maureen Downey, Atlanta-Journal Consititution (AJC.com)
The Texas Miracle used to design No Child Left Behind was a case of cooking the books; the Atlanta Miracle included systemic cheating to save jobs and schools from being closed and educators are now sentenced to serve time behind bars; the New Orleans Miracle continues to be an embarrassment with the retraction of research reports indicating success and criticisms about bad data; and in 2013 there was confirmed test cheating in 37 states and Washington D.C., but surely it is more widespread than that given the high-stakes of the very tests that have been criticized for their bias, invalidity, very high cost, and damaging effects on what schooling has become. Not everything is a competition, not everything should be designed as a competition, and education – especially – should not be treated as a competition where there are guaranteed winners and losers. No one should lose in education. [emphasis added]


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!





Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 Medley #12

Limiting Teachers' Free Speech, Hillary Clinton, Poverty, Sagan, Teacher Crisis, Reading


Politicians tell educators, "Shut up! You have no freedom of speech."

In Indiana, teachers and other government employees are prohibited from using their work emails for political messaging (See Indiana Code 3-14-1-17), but free speech for educators in Arizona and New Mexico is limited even more. The amendment referred to below effectively prohibits Arizona teachers from saying anything about any legislation...
In the 2015 legislative session, the AZ House passed an amendment to Senate Bill 1172 that places a gag order on any school employee who publicly protests legislative action. The bill "prohibits an employee of a school district or charter school, acting on the district's or charter school's behalf, from distributing electronic materials to influence the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation."
And the New Mexico Administrative Code prohibits school staff members from saying anything which disparages standardized tests! STAFF RESPONSIBILITY:
C. It shall be a prohibitive practice for anyone to:
(8) disparage or diminish the significance, importance or use of the standardized tests.


Am I Ready for Hillary?

Blogger Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) remembers how we were fooled into thinking that Democrats support public education...and how Andrew Cuomo and Barack Obama have proven that assumption completely wrong.

Is there any reason to expect Hillary Clinton to denounce the Gates/Broad plan for public education? Probably not, since the Gates Foundation is a major supporter of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Eli Broad was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008 and probably will be again.

Is there any candidate or political party who will speak out against the privatization and corporatization of public education?
I have never been a single-issue voter, but my profession has never been so attacked, besieged and crushed under policymakers' boots. So I will not, not under any circumstances, vote for any candidate who gives me the slightest inkling that she (or he) is planning to give me four more years like the last fifteen. I don't care if you're promising me a pony and your opponent is threatening to send locusts to my home town-- if you aren't going to change the destructive, educationally abusive, mandatory malpractice policies of the previous two administrations, I will not vote for you, period, full stop.
See also: Hillary Clinton Feels Common Core Pain


What Can We Agree On, After Atlanta?

Those who claim "poverty isn't destiny" and "poverty is no excuse" are often those who have failed in their responsibility to reduce societal poverty. John Merrow calls out the hypocrisy of deflecting all the responsibility to teachers and schools.
To me, the biggest hypocrites are those who preach, “Poverty can never be offered as an excuse” (for poor student performance) but then do nothing to alleviate poverty and its attendant conditions. What they are saying, bottom line, is “It’s the teachers’ fault” when kids in poverty-ridden schools do poorly on tests or fail to graduate.

These preachers disguise their mendacity with words of praise for teachers, calling them ‘heroes whose brave work changes the lives of their fortunate students blah blah blah.’ Sounds great, but when it comes from those who discount all the other factors that affect outcomes, it’s hypocrisy. They’re setting up teachers and schools to be blamed.

How satisfying and convenient to have a simple, easy-to-grasp analysis. And how hypocritical.

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

Just in case there are any doubts...poverty matters.
"Just as you would expect, there's a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children," says MIT's John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study's authors. "To me, it's a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn't come easily in their environment."



Fewer education majors, and worries about where tomorrow’s teachers will come from

The current hatred that the media, policy makers, and pundits have for professional educators is going to backfire on Americans. The real teacher crisis isn't "bad teachers." It's the deprofessionalizing of the teaching profession by "reformers."

In Indiana, for example, rather than create an incentive for high achieving students to go into education using competitive wages, professional autonomy (i.e. self-direction, which legislators nationwide seem to be actively discouraging), and self-directed, meaningful professional development, we have lowered the standards for becoming a teacher.

Why would legislators, members of state boards of education, and even the most devout "reformers" want to lower the qualifications for teaching when "bad teachers" is one of the main rallying cries of GERM, the Global Education "Reform" Movement? Why are untrained teachers such as those now allowed by Indiana, or new recruits coming from Teach for America preferred when we know that training and experience matter for student achievement?

Perhaps it's because privately run schools such as charter schools don't pay teachers as much as public schools. Since those schools are receiving more and more taxpayer dollars they find themselves in a quandary; Follow the rules for public schools or lose the money. Legislatures, state boards of education, and governors, all of whom want to support school privatization, are lowering the requirements for teachers so private corporations can lower personnel costs and maximize profits.

Rather than increasing the quality of America's educators, we're diluting it. The "reformers" demonize teachers and by doing so chase good teachers out of the profession and disincentivize prospective teachers from seeking careers in education. We're doing the exact opposite of what we should be doing.
Nor have the full effects of the enrollment slowdown been realized. The real struggle is expected to crest in several years when school districts search for new teachers from a shrinking pool of qualified educators.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” says Alisa Chapman, a UNC system vice-president for academic and university programs who is closely tracking the enrollment declines in UNC system education programs. “It’s going to be more challenging for our public schools to find teachers that they need for their classrooms.”

American teachers, more demoralized than ever, are quitting in droves
...there is little evidence to show that any of this has worked, even by the reformers' criteria for success in testing and evaluation methods such as, “valued added measures” and standardized tests scores. In fact, years of these “disruptive innovations” have resulted in a situation today of poor job satisfaction for teachers....

...the turnover rate in the teaching profession is on the rise. The report for the Alliance for Excellent Education estimated that “over 1 million teachers move in and out of schools annually, and between 40 and 50 percent quit within five years.”


Don’t read because you should

If you want students to learn that reading is a rewarding experience then you ought to let them read whatever they want to read. P.Z. Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota (Morris), writes about learning to enjoy reading by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and comic books.

If you're only interested in students learning to read because they have to pass a test, then ignore this...
...beware the attitude that you should tell people what they should read: what you’re doing isn’t ennobling their mind, it’s teaching them that reading is a chore and an obligation, and that it isn’t fun at all...

My philosophy is always to encourage a passion — if you are devoted enough to start devouring books on any topic, eventually you’ll find enjoyable and educational stuff on your own. But the key step is to foster pleasure in reading anything.


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!





Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Enemy is Us


Yesterday, April 14, 2015, the Indiana House of Representatives passed SB1, a bill designed to change the makeup of the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE). [UPDATE: The bill now goes to conference committee to iron out the differences between the House and the Senate version.]
SB1: State board of education governance. Makes changes to the composition of the state board of education (state board). Provides that the state board may hire staff and administrative support. Provides that the state board shall elect a chairperson and vice chairperson annually from the members of the state board. Provides that at least six of the members of the state board appointed by the governor must be actively employed in the schools in Indiana and hold a valid teaching license. Provides that a state board member serves a four year term.
This effectively changes the job of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), the only elected official on the SBOE. Unless the SBOE elects the SPI as the chair of the SBOE the job the superintendent was elected to do has been changed midstream by the legislature.

When she defeated Tony Bennett and won election as SPI in 2012, Glenda Ritz was, as were all previous SPI's for the last hundred years, the designated chairperson of the SBOE. Unfortunately the Republican leadership in the state -- the governor and the members of the General Assembly -- were not happy that a Democrat defeated their "reformer" hero, Bennett. Since then, the 10 Republican appointed members of the SBOE (some claiming to be Democrats), have blocked Superintendent Ritz at every turn.

An excellent example of this is the behavior of Board Member Hendry (a self-proclaimed Democrat). At a recent SBOE meeting, Superintendent Ritz wanted to introduce a proposal to postpone the accountability requirements because of problems with the implementation of the state standardized test, ISTEP. When the meeting was called to order Hendry instantly demanded that the proposal be taken off of the agenda. He didn't want to hear any discussion. He didn't want to listen to any rationale behind the proposal. The other Republican appointed members of the board went along with him and the proposal was removed from the agenda. Hendry did, of course, have the right to do what he did, but the fact that he, and all the other members of the board wouldn't even consider discussing the proposal is an indication of the petty bickering coming from the 10 Republican appointed board members. (See the video of the meeting HERE)


The Governor and his friends on the SBOE have been blaming Superintendent Ritz for the dysfunction on the board since the election. For her part, Superintendent Ritz has put up with rudeness, eye rolling, petty comments, and outright antagonism from members of the SBOE...and remember that, even as chairperson, the Superintendent does not have the ability to overrule the votes of other members. So, while working with a fairly consistent 10-1 majority against her, the Superintendent has been blamed for the dysfunction by the other members who have been able to change policy at will.

The Republicans in the state deny that SB1 is a politically motivated bill. They claim that the SBOE ought to elect its own chair, just like local school boards. The problem with this argument is that local school boards are elected rather than appointed. It would be a different situation if all members of the SBOE were elected rather than being appointed by the Governor.

Consider, on the other hand, that Glenda Ritz is the only state-wide elected Democrat in Indiana...and that the Republicans are not going to wait until her term is over, but change her job description immediately upon passage of SB1 (see below).

Note also that other state-wide office holders have automatic chairmanships which are not being challenged by legislation. The State Treasurer is the chair of the Public Deposit Insurance Fund. The Lieutenant Governor is the chair of the state's agriculture commission. These chairmanships are part of the job, just like the chairmanship of the SBOE is the job of the SPI. The positions of State Treasurer and Lieutenant Governor are currently held by Republicans.


During the second reading of SB1 Rep. V. Smith (D-14) presented an amendment (among others) which also indicates that the intent of the bill is political.

Amendment #8 changed only one item on the bill -- it moved the effective date to the beginning of the next election cycle. That would mean that in order to remain SPI, Ritz would have to run again, and even if she lost, her opponent would also be guided by the same rules.

By rejecting the amendment, the Republican super-majority plainly stated that the bill was aimed at Superintendent Ritz...and they wanted the SBOE to have the ability to remove her from her position of SBOE chair immediately.

In one of my several attempts to engage my local state representative in a discussion of this bill, I wrote,
...giving the members of the SBOE the right to choose their own chairperson is tantamount to giving them the right to overturn the 2012 election for SPI. The voters of Indiana elected Glenda Ritz to the job of SPI which, at election time, included the position of chair of the SBOE.
Why should ten appointed members of the SBOE have the authority to strip an elected official of her duties?
...the "something needs to be done to relieve the problems on the SBOE" argument doesn't mean that the wishes of Hoosier voters should be ignored.


Unfortunately, Indiana voters also elected Governor Pence and the members of the Republican super-majority who have pursued the plan to strip Glenda Ritz of her role as SBOE chair. The conflicts surrounding the SBOE, Glenda Ritz, and public education in general are the direct result of Indiana voters telling the state government two different things.
  • We elected Glenda Ritz because we were unhappy with the direction that Mitch Daniels and Tony Bennett were taking Indiana's public education system.
  • Yet we re-elected the legislators who were instrumental in putting the Daniels/Bennett school "reform" platform into place.
  • And we elected Governor Pence who, during his campaign, promised to provide more support for the Daniels/Bennett "reforms."
We, the voters, built this dysfunction. We voted for Glenda Ritz and the "Ritz plan" to end the Daniels/Bennett "reforms." And we also voted for the "Pence/Legislature plan" to continue the Daniels/Bennett "reforms." The conflict will continue unless we change our voting pattern in the next election.

In the meantime, for the most vulnerable citizens of our state, it's unfortunate that the "Pence/Legislature plan" supporters currently hold the power to make the greatest impact on public education in Indiana.


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, April 12, 2015

Revisiting '06

I spent a week in the hospital during Spring Vacation. Now that I'm home I'm trying to catch up on what's happening in GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), as well as the annual damage to Indiana's public education by Governor Pence, the State Board of Education, and the Indiana General Assembly.

In the meantime here are some comments of mine from 2006, the year I started this blog. Notice how little has changed since then; Privatization of public education, obsessive focus on standards and testing, and blaming public education for the economic ills of society has been a constant...


State standardized test time

One size fits all. The test is all that matters...consistently for decades.

September 16, 2006
Is it possible that you might have a student who works hard, does all of his or her assignments, completes homework, passes classroom assessments, yet fails the standardized test for whatever reason? It doesn't matter. Everyone has to pass the test...and if they don't, no amount of make up work, or daily achievement will matter. Everyone has to be the same.

The new slogan in American education...One size fits all. Everyone is - or has to be - identical. There's no room for an Edison, an Einstein, or a Mozart. Pass the test...pass the test...don't worry about anything else...


A Must Read - Jonathan Kozol

Shame of the Nation is not Jonathan Kozol's most recent book, but it's one of his most important contributions. The extended title, The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, correctly identifies what the nation's high child poverty levels, the expanding economic gap, and the re-segregation of schools caused by the charter school movement, are doing to public education.

October 9, 2006
When you read [Jonathan Kozol's book, Shame of the Nation] he'll show you how the Civil Rights movement of the 60's led to integrated schools in various places around the country. He'll also show you how those schools were successful in closing the black/white achievement gap. Finally, he'll show you how we have lost nearly all of that to re-segregated school systems...worse than before in many places.


Sick of NCLB

We can freely interchange the names of the Presidents...Clinton, Bush, Obama...as well as the name of the name of the federal program...NCLB or RttT.

October 22, 2006
No child left behind is the logical outgrowth of the now discredited report "A Nation at Risk." It is no mistake that the errors in that report were quashed by the Reagan administration.* Yet the myths of that era were embraced by the nation by Democrats as well. Bill Clinton was just as eager to develop a "national curruculum" as the Republicans. His administration was just as quick to call for the grade retention of students who didn't pass "the test" as the Republicans. He was just as willing to use standardized testing as the benchmark from which all school results are gathered and compared as are the Republicans.

We don't have the luxury of being sick of complaining about NCLB. The students who are under our care are being damaged right now. If we sit back and wait for things to change who will be the voice of the students who are being pushed to drop out so their low test scores won't effect AYP? Who will be the voice of the 5 year olds who are being drilled and killed so they can improve their DIBELS scores?

* See Gerald Bracey's "The 10th Bracey Report on the Condition of Public Education" (PDK membership required for access)


The Zen of Public Schools

The last sentence is the most important one in this passage and it's one I've repeated over and over again. No one in the nation is taking responsibility for our economic gap and high child poverty. The public schools are being blamed for the failure of our nation to solve its social and economic problems...

October 31, 2006
...the state wants public schools to be, as Bill Moyers put it, "the permanent emergency rooms of our country's dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do."

Social scientists, politicians, parents, the media, even many educators believe there's a "crisis" in education - especially in the public schools. I don't think that's true. I think the crisis is in society and since no one wants to take responsibility for the enormous inequities in our society, it is blamed on the public schools.


Time to Teach

Education researcher Richard Allington reminded us that one size does not fit all because children are different people and learn in different ways. The obsessive focus on a single test or set of standards defining what a "child ought to know" shortchanges the education of all children.

November 17, 2006
“Our current ‘scientific’ method focuses almost exclusively on identifying what works best generally, [but] children differ. Therein lies what worries me about ‘evidence-based’ policy making in education. Good teaching, effective teaching, is not just about using whatever science says ‘usually’ works best. It is all about finding out what works best for the individual child and the group of children in front of you.” -- Richard Allington

Edison, Einstein, and Everyone else

Edison and Einstein were highly intelligent, yet were branded as failures at school. They were, however, able to persevere and eventually their lives were marked by great achievement. The damage done to students by our current test-crazed culture is that low achievers who have high ability are labeled failures and not all of them will be able to overcome the emotional and social impact of that label.

If we don't recognize students of ability no matter what their achievement, then the Einsteins and Edisons in our classrooms today may be silent in the future.


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!





Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015 Medley #11

Atlanta Cheating Scandal, Tomorrow's Teachers, Opt-Out, Priorities for America's Future


Jail for Black Educators, Millions for Bankers

The Biggest Outrage in Atlanta’s Crazy Teacher Cheating Case

No one should condone the cheating done by teachers and educators in Atlanta (or Las Vegas, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Chicago, NYC, Texas, Los Angeles, and elsewhere), but what punishment is appropriate to fit the crime?

The first thing I always think about when I hear about cheating on standardized tests is that there is an assumption that standardized tests measure student achievement, teacher competency, school effectiveness, and real learning. They don't. Standardized tests most accurately measure student/family economic status and neighborhood income. Tests are being overused and misused and therein lies the real crime.

That being said, it's still unethical for educators to manipulate tests in order to protect their jobs, increase their bonuses, or any other reason. Teachers who do so should be removed from the classroom immediately with a loss of their credentials.

Yet it's important to remember that many teachers around the nation now find themselves in no-win situations. They are required to raise test scores (most often made impossible by legislatures) or risk losing their jobs. Backed into a corner it's not a surprise that many otherwise honest, hardworking teachers cheat in order to keep feeding their families. It's easy for outsiders to say they shouldn't do it, but when faced with loss of job in a difficult market, people often make poor choices. Definitely they should be punished for those poor choices.

What would the appropriate punishment be? 20 years and a racketeering charge like drug dealers and mobsters? A slap on the wrist like the bankers who brought the world economy crashing down? 10 years like the average for first time armed robbery? The threats of harsh sentences for the Atlanta teachers is just another point of proof that American Justice, while she may be wearing a blindfold, can see money very clearly.
You don’t have to consider the Atlanta teachers innocent to know something has gone terribly awry in the country when filling in bubbles on Scan-Tron sheets can get you 20 years, but stealing people’s homes and defrauding pension funds can’t get you indicted. The only way you could see what the justice system has granted bankers as in any way commensurate with what it does to ordinary people is if you grade on a curve.

Atlanta Cheating Scandals and Eva Moskowitz Success Academies 2 Sides of the same Coin
You decide which is worse- Cheating or Child Abuse.

That we have come to this is telling testimony of the absurdity of annointing raising test scores as the nation's primary anti-poverty strategy and its path to restoring Global Economic Competitiveness

The Atlanta Cheaters

Peter Greene understands that the educators who cheated in Atlanta are just a few more in a long line of cheaters starting with the main cheat which is No Child Left Behind. The law was based on the so-called "Texas Miracle" -- which never actually happened. Greene doesn't discuss it here, but we can also include the cheat of "Renaissance 2010" from Chicago which gave rise to Race to the Top.

When you nationalize something that only worked because of cheating and tell educators to duplicate it (or else!), you'll get more cheating.
The fate of the Atlanta cheaters stands in stark contrast to the fate of teachers and administrators cheating across the US. Can I pull up a list and name them? No, nor would I. But I don't doubt for a fraction of a second that hundreds upon hundreds of schools in this country survived the insanely unattainable politically-set requirements of federal reform by cheating in ways big and small. This can't be a surprise-- school reform's first big exemplar was the Texas Miracle, which turned out to be nothing more than creative accounting and magic tracking. The federal government literally paraded a big fat lie in front of schools as if it were a model and then said, "Okay, now YOU do that, too!"


The Rewards of Teaching

"Reformers" don't get it. They don't understand the motivation to teach. If they did they wouldn't be foisting a "business model" on public education. Teachers don't walk into a classroom like a salesclerk walks into a retail store, or an hourly assembly line worker walks into a factory. Those folks may love their jobs, but being an educator is more like a novelist struggling with the development of a character...more like an artist mixing colors on a canvas...more like a doctor trying to diagnose a particularly puzzling illness.

Increased pay for educators is great...but so is administrative support, materials, and the opportunity to teach and analyze one's work.

When "reformers" think they can motivate teachers with more money, or threats...when "reformers" remove all the subtle, personal rewards of teaching and replace them with an obsessive focus on test scores, the incentive to teach is lost...and no amount of money or so-called merit pay will make up for it.
A great school to work in is one where there are the fewest possible obstacles between the teachers and the intrinsic rewards of teaching. And the intrinsic rewards of teaching are, most simply stated, using your skills, knowledge, judgment and efforts to help your students learn and grow, and getting to see the real life results of that growth.

The more obstacles stand between a teacher and the use of those personal skills, knowledge, judgment and effort, the less rewarding it is to work there.

Does Anyone in Education Reform Care if Teaching Is a Profession?
I find it hard to believe that today's education "reformers" really believe that teaching is a profession at all. If they did, the pressure to make certain only top students enter university-based teacher preparation and then to make sure those students have rigorous preparation would be coupled with similar efforts to raise the attractiveness of teaching as a lifelong career. Instead, reformers act as if they believe that teaching is something you do in your twenties when you are idealistic and want to "give something back" -- and then you move on to a "real career" in some other sector. If your charter school bosses like you, perhaps they will make you a school principal before you are 30, or they will set you on a path to become Commission of Education for the state of New York when you are only 36 years old. But mostly, they will thank you for a few years of service and see you off to your grown up life outside of education. After all, reformers' favorite schools -- "no excuses" charters -- manage to train their students into "little test taking machines" without very many career teachers, so why should reformers really value teachers who dedicate their entire adult lives to teaching? That people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are dedicated and developing professionals who wish to remain in the classroom must seem like an amusing and quaint anachronism to them.


Here is the New York State Teacher Evaluation Bill

Here's a perfect example...politics hurts children. The teachers union in New York didn't support the re-election of Governor Cuomo, so his response is to do as much damage to teachers' careers as he can. Does he understand that teachers' working conditions have an impact on students?
This is a bill that is written to oust teachers. It reeks of disrespect. It shows Governor Cuomo’s rage against the people who work with children in public schools every day. This bill is his payback to the teachers’ unions for not endorsing his re-election after he declared himself the lobbyist for charter students (3% of the state’s enrollment)...Enrollments in teacher education programs are collapsing, in New York and across the nation. Those who enter teaching today are either woefully uninformed of the politicians’ hostility towards them or are prepared to fight a long battle for their children and their profession. What kind of society makes war on its teachers?


Principal: ‘There comes a time when rules must be broken…. That time is now.’

Republicans on the right and Democrats on the left have all bought into the privatization of public education. It's up to parents and educators to protect, support and rebuild America's public schools.
It has become increasingly clear that Congress does not have the will to move away from annual high-stakes testing. The bizarre notion that subjecting 9-year-olds to hours of high-stakes tests is a “civil right,” is embedded in the thinking of both parties. Conservatives no longer believe in the local, democratic control of our schools. Progressives refuse to address the effects of poverty, segregation and the destruction of the middle class on student learning. The unimaginative strategy to improve achievement is to make standardized tests longer and harder.


What If Education Reform Got It All Wrong in the First Place?

We are a selfish, short-sighted, nation. Our priority is "mine, mine, mine" and our plan for the future is non-existent. Politicians talk about not leaving future generations in debt, and use that as an excuse to justify cutting programs which squander the hopes of those very future citizens. If we actually cared about the future of our nation, about the children who will be leading us in a few short years, we would change our priorities.
"...if money doesn’t matter, then why is it that people who have money send their kids to schools that have many, many more resources?” Gandara adds. “I think fundamentally the problem is that other developed nations have social systems that support families and children in a variety of ways: with childcare, with good health care, with recreational opportunities—with lots of things that support healthy development. We have dumped it all on the schools and said, ‘We’re really not going to provide any of these services. You deal with it, schools.’”

Times aren’t tough; why the hit to schools? by Connie Boesen, a member of the Des Moines, Iowa School Board

Fewer opportunities, larger classes, fewer teachers, ever larger student debt, higher child poverty...is this our plan for the future? Is this how we plan to compete in a global economy?
If Iowa continues down this path of low funding for our schools, this is what we know: We will have fewer teachers, coaches and other adults that can connect with students. We will have fewer course offerings. We will have larger class sizes with less personal attention for each student. We will have fewer opportunities for students to connect with extracurricular activities and the fine arts that excite them to succeed in school.

We are elected to the school board just as the Legislature is elected with responsibilities, rules and timelines to follow. It is disappointing that we are now over a year late in establishing the school funding for the upcoming school year of 2015-2016. Education should not be a political issue but a moral issue of providing all children with great educational opportunities.

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!