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

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

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Random Quotes - September 2015


Irony, Education Reform and Teacher Shortages

Is the current teacher shortage the result of a purposeful attempt to destroy the teaching profession? After years of teacher bashing fewer people are becoming teachers. States are opening up classrooms to untrained novices like 5-week trained graduates in TFA programs, and "professionals" who are content area specialists with no training in pedagogy (REPA III in Indiana). Fewer long-term professionals means less money spent on personnel. Less money spent on personnel means more profits when the same low standards are applied to privately owned charter schools and private/parochial schools. More profits...

Who would want to enter a profession which is constantly belittled, poorly paid, and set up to fail?

Two quotes from educator Russ Walsh...

From Russ Walsh
So as I understand the reform agenda, repeated attacks on the teaching profession is not the problem. The problem is, instead, the economy. We can expect to attract the best and brightest to a profession that has low pay, low esteem and low stability. That does not sound like any law of supply and demand that I read about.
After making the teaching profession as undesirable as possible we need to lower our standards for teachers in order to fill classroom shortages. Add Indiana to the states mentioned below.
Next, we can solve the teacher shortage by loosening certification requirements, so that anyone who can prove s/he is breathing can teach. This seems to be the direction that states like North Carolina and Kansas are going. As I understand this argument, it goes something like this, teachers and their unions are the problem in education, so let’s solve the problem by putting even less qualified, less knowledgeable people in the classroom. I have to wonder how many reformsters go to a doctor who is unlicensed and received five weeks of medical training in the summer.


Duncan Still Oblivious

The buck gets passed...Duncan blames the states, the states blame the federal government, local school districts blame the states and the federal government.

The fact is that our students are tested to death in order to fill the bellies of test manufacturers.

Today, while talking to a teacher about testing, I was told that now, the third graders in our local school district only have to take the ISTEP (the state test given in two parts in February and April), IREAD-3 (given in March), and the NWEA (a computer based achievement test given two or three times a year depending on the school system).

The teacher gave me that information and from the tone of his voice he was relieved because this was actually less than third graders have had in the past. We have so over tested our students –– we're so used to massive amounts of testing –– that when we cut the amount of testing down to only three different tests in one year, taking approximately 15-20 hours of class time (not including test-prep and transition time) it almost seems reasonable.

But it's not reasonable. The tests are still misused and overused.

ISTEP is being misused to grade schools and teachers and has virtually no diagnostic benefit for teachers and students. IREAD-3 is being misused to punish students who struggle with reading by threatening them with retention. Why do we need IREAD-3 when ISTEP and NWEA also test reading achievement? Why do we need ISTEP when NWEA also tests math, reading, and language?

How many millions of dollars are schools in Indiana spending on testing which should be spent on student learning?

...and Duncan thinks that "no one is that focused on [test] scores?"

From Peter Greene
Meanwhile, [Duncan is] clueless. "No one is that focused on scores," he says, and I'm now thinking that he's not so much smoking something as shunting it directly into his brain. Because the kids who can't move on to Fourth Grade in some states because their scores were too low, or the schools that are being shut down or sucked dry by charters because their scores are too low, or the teachers whose professional evaluation is in some part set by BS Test scores-- I think all of those folks are pretty focused on scores. Plus, Duncan's comment sidesteps a big question-- why should anybody be focused on test scores at all?


Destroying Public Schools To "Save" Them

What happens when public schools are blamed for all the societal failures in the nation, and taxpayer funds are diverted to private charters and parochial schools?

From Jersey Jazzman
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.

No Zip Code Tyranny

"Reformers" claim that we must close "failing" schools and replace them with charters...and by "failing" schools they mean schools where test scores are low. Where are test scores the lowest? In schools with high numbers of students who live in poverty. Schools in poor neighborhoods of cities are the ones often targeted to be closed and replaced with charters. Who lives in the poor neighborhoods of cities? Children of color.

From Peter Greene
...the wealthy do not choose choice.

Burdick-Will took a look at 24,000 rising ninth graders in Chicago. In neighborhoods with median income over $75,000, the students attended one of two or three schools. In neighborhoods with median income under $25,000, students were divied up among around thirteen different schools.

..."We think of choice as a thing of privilege,” she said. “But what we see is that there is a privilege of not having to choose." [emphasis added]


School Closure: A Tragic Turnaround Strategy

Across the nation public schools are the focus of community in neighborhoods and small towns. What happens when those schools are closed, instead of improved, in order to free up funds for privatization?

From Jan Resseger
School closure is one of the four approved, top-down “turnaround” plans prescribed by the federal No Child Left Behind Act for schools unable to raise test scores after several years. The implication of the “turnaround” language, of course, implies that somehow closure will inspire rebirth, but too often school closure has meant not only the death of the school but also the demise of the neighborhood for which the school was the institutional anchor.

USED: Accountability for Public Schools Only

Secretary Duncan's Education Department just tossed another $157 million at charter schools. Take a look at how carefully USED takes care of public tax money (which should be going to public schools) –– check out Diane Ravitch's article, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up! Manipulator of Charter Data Wins Big Federal Grants for Ohio

From Peter Greene
The double standard remains the same. Public schools must account for every penny, including federal bucks that must be spent only as Uncle Sugar demands. Public schools must keep open records always available to the taxpayers. Public schools must even hire employees whose only job is to monitor and report on the money-- all the money. Meanwhile, charter schools just get money thrown at them with no requirement to do anything except, I suppose, have a nice day.

EduShyster: Three “White Shoe” Law Firms Sue to Lift the Charter Cap in Massachusetts

The only thing Diane Ravitch doesn't mention here is that the same thing is happening all over the country.

From Diane Ravitch
The Bay State–or at least its current leaders–seem determined to create a fiscal crisis for underfunded districts and a two-tier system of schools with public funds. One free to choose its students, the other required to enroll all students.


Technology for technology's sake

In the mid-80s desktop computers invaded public schools. As an "early adopter" of computer education, I was fortunate enough to be able to help colleagues develop lesson plans which used computers to enhance learning. It was difficult, however, to convince people that, like a film projector, or a tape recorder, computers were just tools...and should not be the focus of education itself. Software for education, I argued, should be high quality, taking advantage of the medium's strengths rather than just copying paper-based teaching tools. The software "worksheet" was the prime example. Why would a mindless, busywork worksheet delivered electronically be better than the traditional paper and pencil mimeographed sheet?  Obviously, it wouldn't. Both are a waste of resources -- either physical or electronic.

Times have changed but there are still new technological advances being used as simple replacements for obsolete technology. The latest...moving overused and misused standardized tests to computers.

Gerald Bracey is missed...

From the late Gerald Bracey


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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