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

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

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

2015 Medley #31

Privatization, Charters, Choice,
Testing, Teachers


CMD Publishes Full List of 2,500 Closed Charter Schools (with Interactive Map)

Privatizers have long praised "the marketplace" as the best means to determine which schools are good and which are bad. Let the customer choose. Let the market decide.

Between 2000 and 2013 "the marketplace" saw 2500 charter schools close, disrupting the education of nearly 300,000 students.

In a desperate search for the magic bullet which will help all students learn, charter operators have diverted billions of taxpayer dollars from public schools and failed to deliver.

Why not consider the stability of local, neighborhood schools? Fix our neighborhood schools. Don't close them.
As CMD has calculated, the federal government has spent more than $3.3 billion in the past two-plus decades fueling the charter school industry that has taken money away from traditional public schools. And, as the Center for Popular Democracy has demonstrated, more than $200 million of that money resulted in fraud and waste over the past decade.

Destroying Public Schools To "Save" Them

The first paragraph says it all...
As Peter Greene recently explained, parents don't want "choice" nearly as much as they want great schools. So when you underfund schools, then demoralize staff and students with an incessant focus on standardized tests (that were designed so that low-income schools will fail), then refuse to listen to the communities you serve, then create chaos through a "reform" plan of constant upheaval and disruption...

You shouldn't be surprised when families "choose" to send their children to schools that have resource advantages, even if they lack transparency and accountability to the communities they supposedly serve.


One grade insufficient to mark school's impact

After decades of relying on inadequate tests we are still trying to put a grade on everything.

"We have an 'A' school system...we have an 'A' school."

What does that mean? For the most part it means that we have children whose parents are well-educated and have a good income.

What about the 'F' schools? We close them (unless, of course, they're charter schools) and label their students failures.

Winners and losers...it's all about winners and losers.
The letter grade is based on one data point alone – the “all-knowing, all-seeing” standardized test. Standardized tests were never developed to measure the ability of a teacher, the efforts of support staff or the success of a school.

The governor repeats, “We grade our students every day; we can grade our schools once a year.”

My position, as a teacher, is that I would never simply give my students one grade a year and expect them and their parents to figure out how I got to that grade.

My position, as a taxpayer, is that I want to know more about my neighborhood school than just its performance on one test.

California: As Expected, Most Students “Fail” Common Core Tests Across the State

What is commonly called "grade level" by testocrats would be better labeled as "arbitrary expectations."

No one has asked me, but my definition of "grade level" is the average score that a child of a particular grade receives on a test. My definition of "grade level" is the average reading level that a child of a particular grade is able to read. My definition of "grade level" is that it should be based on what children can do, not what the testing industry says they should do.

Therefore, "grade level" should not be stagnant for all time, since achievement levels of students are higher today than they were in the past.

The "common core" is developmentally inappropriate for many students. Basing a test on what the "common core" says is appropriate for a particular "grade level" is illogical. The "common core" standards have never been shown to be appropriate for actual students. They are simply what a group of privatizers decided students ought to learn. They have no basis in reality since they have never been tested.

Calling students failures because they failed a test which was apparently developed in order to fail them, is, quite simply, educational malpractice.
...I don’t know who decided to describe the passing mark as “grade level,” but that is erroneous.

In one chart, the rules in all 50 states about opting kids out of standardized tests

Last spring thousands of parents across the country opted their children out of their state's standardized tests. The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has compiled information from all 50 states stating exactly what the state's opt-out policy is. Most states, while their leaders shout "choice" for the purposes of privatization, do not allow "choice" when it comes to allowing parents to "choose" whether or not their children are subject to annual (or more frequent, in some cases) testing.

Governor Pence in Indiana, along with his supporters in the state legislature, are all for "choice" when it lends itself to the privatization of public schools. Parents can get vouchers to send their children to private, or religious schools. Charter schools are popping up all over the place (and closing as well. See CMD Publishes Full List of 2,500 Closed Charter Schools (with Interactive Map), above) and spending tax dollars to advertise and entice parents to choose their school. But in Indiana, parents do not have the "choice" of opting their child out of the ISTEP. In fact, those who do can be prosecuted for violating school attendance laws and in certain circumstances their children will be punished by not being allowed to progress to the next grade or graduate. Additionally schools will be punished for having too many students absent on test day.

You can see the whole chart if you click here. The entry for Indiana is below.
Opt outs are not permitted under state law. In the state’s 2014-15 assessment program manual, the state education agency clarifies that although state and federal law do not ban parents from refusing to let their students take standardized tests, opt outs are not permitted, and parents who do not send their children to school on testing days with the intent of excluding them from tests are violating state school attendance laws. Students must take state tests to graduate or be promoted from the third grade, and schools with lower than 95 percent student participation may see their performance and improvement grades suffer.
The following graphic shows state by state policies.

States labeled in dark green (California and Colorado) give parents the choice to opt-out their children. States in dark blue (34 states plus D.C.) do not allow parents the "choice" of opting out of the state test.


Scrapping teacher pay schedules a step toward scrapping public schools

Are privatizers still trying to improve education by making teaching a less attractive career? It appears so (though perhaps the goal is not really improving education so much as damaging the teaching profession and destroying public sector unions).
In virtually the same words used to sell No Child Left Behind in the early years of Bush II, the attacks on teachers are phrased in terms of “closing the achievement gap.”

No. If closing the achievement gap were the goal, we would see demands for adequate, equitable resources and funding for every student in every school — demands, for example, for quality early childhood education programs, full-time librarians, robust arts and physical education programs, mandated caps on class size, and enough time for teachers to prepare and collaborate.

We would also see a renewed commitment to affirmative action in university admissions; a drive to recruit and nurture teachers of color; a commitment to ensure that students come to school ready to learn because their families have housing, food, medical care, and jobs; and an end to zero tolerance discipline policies that criminalize youth.

The idea of “pay for performance,” which involves supplementing teacher pay or providing bonuses based on student test scores, is one of the latest educational fads to sweep the country. The fact is, research indicates that performance pay will not improve teaching or learning.

I asked if Obama, Duncan know the impact of their teacher evaluation policies. This is their answer.

Read the answer from the US. Education Department, if you are able to understand it.

The truth is that federal (supported by both Republicans and Democrats) education policy is invalid, and, it seems, deliberately intended to misrepresent the effectiveness of teachers.
Your Education Department has promoted policies that link teacher evaluation to student standardized test scores. Because tests are only given in math and English Language Arts, many teachers around the country are evaluated by the test scores of students they don’t have or by the test scores in subjects they don’t teach. For example, in New York City middle schools, it’s been estimated that over 60 percent of New York City teacher evaluations are out-of-subject. An art teacher would be evaluated in part on student math scores. Are you aware of this state-level consequence of federal policy and do you think it is fair to teachers?

Teacher Shortages Spur a Nationwide Hiring Scramble (Credentials Optional)

Privatizers and pundits are now in the midst of a campaign to tell us that "we don't know" why there's a teacher shortage. Media, in their continuing disingenuous quest for balance in their reporting, are parroting the privatizers' excuses that the teacher shortage was caused by the recession.

The real story, however is that privatizers directed states and municipalities to feed the teacher shortage and help it along. In Indiana this took the form of
  • taking money away from public schools and underfunding those schools which needed the highest levels of support
  • diverting that money to private and parochial school vouchers, and political donors' charter school startups (including millions in forgiven loans to charters)
  • demoralizing teachers by stripping them of collective bargaining rights and the right to due process
  • demoralizing students with an incessant focus on standardized tests apparently designed so that low-income schools and students would fail
...and generally creating chaos through a 'reform' plan of constant upheaval and disruption.

[emphasized text from Jersey Jazzman]

Wasn't it lucky then, that Indiana had the foresight to arrange it so you didn't really have to be a teacher in order to take over a classroom! And this happened entirely without anyone knowing that there would be a teacher shortage in the not-to-distant future.

The coach, David Kimari, 26, who has worked as a home health aide and is studying kinesiology, will continue to teach P.E. this school year at two elementary schools in the district. He will begin taking teacher credential courses next January.

When Mr. Kimari started teaching, administrators gave him binders full of lesson plans left by his predecessors, and he asked a teaching friend in Oakland for advice. “I went into it like ‘Oh, man, I don’t know what I am getting myself into,’” said Mr. Kimari, sporting a tie-dyed bandanna and socks on a recent, scorching afternoon when he had assembled girls from the cross-country team for a summer conditioning session in a state park.

But he said that he realized that, “as long as you are passionate and as long as you can communicate with other people and you don’t give off hostile vibes, you can pick it up along the way.”

Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and head of the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said the United States should plan more for teacher shortages. “Other nations create incentives and supports in order to be able to fill the needs in a much more deliberate and conscious way,” she said.

Seattle teachers bargain for students; Indiana teachers can’t

I was a member of my teachers association's (aka union) negotiations team for several years before I retired. I noticed that during negotiations the news media would only report on the amount of money teachers wanted for a raise. There was rarely, if ever any comment about how we wanted to reduce class sizes or increase teacher preparation, both of which would help students.

Politicians often claim that teachers unions are only interested in keeping "bad" teachers in their "jobs for life," just getting more money, and not caring about the students.

It was the Indiana legislature which took away the ability of teachers to negotiate for items which could actually benefit students. Not just teachers...school boards no longer have the right to negotiate items which could benefit students either. In 2011 the legislature decided that only salary and insurance could be negotiated into a teachers contract. Nothing else.
Congratulations to Seattle’s teachers. After a five-day strike, they won a contract that increases teacher pay by 9.5 percent over three years. Just as significantly, the deal includes benefits for students: guaranteed recess and the creation of panels to address racial disparities in discipline and learning.

It would be nice to think Indiana teachers and school boards might follow that example and bargain for contract provisions that help children. But they can’t. It’s against the law.

Thanks to school reform laws that the state legislature approved in 2011, teacher collective bargaining in Indiana can deal with salary, wages and fringe benefits – and nothing else.


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!


A Manifesto for a Revolution in Public Education
Click here to sign the petition.

For over a decade...“reformers” have proclaimed that the solution to the purported crisis in education lies in more high stakes testing, more surveillance, more number crunching, more school closings, more charter schools, and more cutbacks in school resources and academic and extra-curricular opportunities for students, particularly students of color. As our public schools become skeletons of what they once were, they are forced to spend their last dollars on the data systems, test guides, and tests meant to help implement the “reforms” but that do little more than line the coffers of corporations, like Pearson, Inc. and Microsoft, Inc.




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