"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, October 19, 2015

2015 Medley #33

Punishing Children, Poverty, 
Disrespecting Teachers, Diversity in Teaching,
A Courageous Principal, Charters, "Reforms," Politics, Resources

Today's medley is especially long, but, in my opinion, is worth working through. First, and most important to me, is the article about the Michigan House passing a "punish third graders" bill which would retain students in third grade if they can't read well enough. I also include several articles which speak to the continued disrespect of American teachers, including one from a usual supporter of public education. I include the usual articles about poverty and "reform," and a shout out to a courageous principal. Finally, I've included an outstanding resource for supporters of public education.


Yet another state has made it their business to punish third graders, 8 and 9 year olds, because the adults in the state have failed. Both Democrats and Republicans in the Michigan House have joined together to pass a bill requiring children to be retained in third grade if they can't read.

One legislator, showing his complete lack of understanding of the problem, railed against "social promotion" which he apparently believes is the only alternative to retention in grade. Decades of research has shown retention in grade to be ineffective as a means to improve achievement and to increase the likelihood of students dropping out.

The legislation also has a provision to punish teachers for working with high-risk or low achieving students by evaluating them based on student test scores.

The damage done by legislators making education policy continues.

(See also For You Michigan!—You Are WRONG about Retention!)

House OKs bill to hold back struggling third graders
The Michigan House today approved a controversial bill that would require students to repeat the third-grade if they're not proficient readers.

...Meanwhile, the educator evaluation bill passed with no debate. The bill limits the number of consecutive years a student is assigned to an ineffective teacher, requires that 40% of a teacher's evaluation be based on student test score data and gives schools the ability to choose how they're going to evaluate staff.

...The current law says 50% of a teacher's evaluation must be based on student growth data — data showing how much improvement a student made while with the teacher. State test scores are a key part of that data.

But that changes under the bill approved today. Beginning this school year, 25% of the evaluation must be based on test data. That rises to 40% beginning with the 2018-19 school year.


Peter Greene provides a link to information about students living in poverty. He discusses and provides a link to a map showing the increase in child poverty rates yearly beginning in 2006.

Student Poverty on the Map
...consider that the increase [in poverty] is not because more children are being born into poor families, but more families are learning what it means to be poor. Think about how much of that struggle our students are bringing into our classrooms.


Is there some research that shows that removing office furniture from classrooms increases student achievement? Donna Connelly, a Bronx principal apparently believes there is. She has ordered teachers to remove their desks and filing cabinets from their classrooms. No need to keep supplies in your desk, no need to keep files on students or teaching helps. Teachers shouldn't sit.

Would any other professionals ever get treated like this? What an ass!

Principal forbid teachers to sit — so she threw out their desks
A Bronx principal ordered her teachers to give up their desks last week, and had the furniture dumped at the curb — telling staff she doesn’t want them sitting in class.

Donna Connelly, principal of PS 24, the Spuyten Duyvil School in Riverdale, also told teachers to empty their filing cabinets, which she then discarded.With class in session, teachers were told to push their desks and cabinets into the hallway. Custodians then hauled them outside and piled them like trash on the blacktop of a school across the street...

...“Figure it out,” she snapped when staffers asked where to store their supplies, a source said.


Herein I am told that the decades I spent as a reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher were years I spent harming my colleagues. The implication is that my job – which included diagnostically testing students, helping them to improve their reading skills through instruction, working as my building's co-test coordinator, assisting the principal with professional development, spending an hour a day at bus duty, lunch duty, and recess duty, and working with teachers to improve instruction – had only a vague, poorly defined, purpose. There is also the suggestion that my evaluations were faked...since I didn't have "as much accountability" as other teachers...and if true, that was somehow my fault. The mountains of paperwork I had with Reading Recovery, the scoring and analysis of diagnostic tests, and the daily preparation needed to work with dozens of students a day seems to this author to have been just what I did to "look busy." My real goal, according to him, was to "look busy" and increase my influence over the principal.

The generalizations in this piece are offensive – as generalizations often are. It seems that "specialists" are highly trained teachers educational parasites who suck up to the principal...and the principal is someone who is there only to make life more difficult for teachers.

Yes...I knew there were teachers who felt this way when I was working. I'm extremely disappointed, however, because this article is by someone who supports public education and who I hitherto respected. I would have expected less generalization about "specialists" and more specifics about how we can improve the teaching profession and get rid of bad teachers no matter what their role.

Typical "reformist" divide and conquer attitude...

Teachers, beware of the “specialists.”
Enter your “specialists.” Unlike classroom teachers, their job duties are more vague, ill-defined. Their time is not micro-managed. In that role, I’ve seen them become experts at looking busy, but accomplishing very little. What is crucial to their work, however, is the proximity in which they are able to work with the principal, thereby participating in decision-making that should be better left to classroom teachers. Contrary to classroom teachers, their jobs don’t require as much accountability, yet the decisions they make with the principal’s ear can impact the accountability to which classroom teachers are held.

Inasmuch as teaching is different than, say, office work, a school is still a workplace. And just like any other office, there are certain individuals who jockey for positions and favors, trying at all times to make their jobs seem more important, relevant, more interesting, and busier than they actually are, while at the same time increasing the demands on classroom teachers.

Beware the specialists.


Read this to see the lack of logic behind treating teachers differently than other professionals.

Imagine that these parallel organizations were given prime locations in existing facilities (built and paid for with public monies), displacing the professionals that had served your community for many years.


Sometimes satire comes too close to reality.

Department Of Education Hires Art Teacher To Spread Evenly Across All U.S. Public Schools
...officials from the Department of Education announced Tuesday they had hired 26-year-old art teacher Kelsey Alexander to be spread evenly across all U.S. public schools. “Ms. Alexander is a well-qualified teacher, and we have the utmost confidence that she will provide quality art instruction to our nation’s students as she rotates through each of the 98,000 public schools in this country,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan...

...As of press time, Alexander had spent an estimated $3.2 million out of pocket on the art supplies needed for her lessons.


It's not a fact that only teachers of color can be effective with students of color, however, this article makes some very important points about how black and Latino teachers leave teaching at an even greater rate than white teachers...

Why Teachers of Color Quit: Low pay and high stress drive black and Latino teachers to leave the profession at higher rates than their white peers.
Though 40 percent of students in the American public education system are black and Latino, only 13 percent of teachers nationwide are. In Teach for America specifically, 90 percent of the students corps members teach are black and Latino, while 39 percent of corps members are teachers of color. While this lack of proportional diversity exists in several professions, when your job focuses on leading a mostly black and Latino student population to succeed academically and socially in a predominantly white society, race matters so much more.


Some principals have the courage to stand up to "reformers."

Troy Laraviere: My Statement on CPS’ “Warning Resolution”
Parents submitted forms directing us not to give the test to their students. CPS responded by telling principals that we must defy parents and sit the student down in front of a test—that only when the student refused it, could we allow him or her not to take it.

I know of no other field in which the professionals are ordered to disregard parents’ choices and force children to refuse to participate in what their parents have already refused to allow them to participate in. If a parent tells a doctor that she does not want her child to take a particular prescription, the doctor is not ordered to disregard the parent and put the medicine in the child’s hand and make the child refuse it himself.


Leonie Haimson, the Executive Director of Class Size Matters, and a member of the Network for Public Education Executive Board, tries to teach "reformers" about charter schools.

Six Charter School Myths; my testimony before the City Council today

Testimony before the NYC Council Education Committee
Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters
4. Charter schools get higher test scores because of the superior quality of education they provide.

Whether or not they achieve superior results, and there is much dispute about this, it may be due to charters’ increased funding, the socio-economic and demographic background of their students, and/or their much higher suspension and attrition rates. Probably all these factors contribute. Of course, the more a school pushes out struggling students, the higher their test scores will likely be. 


John Thompson expresses hope that the era of "education reform" might be coming to an end. If it ceases to be profitable maybe they will leave education to the professionals...

John Thompson: A Sad, Sad Year for Corporate Reformers
John Thompson, historian and teacher, explains why corporate reformers are in a bad mood. Nothing seems to be working out as planned. The word is getting out that Néw Orleans was not a miracle. Worse, black communities are angry at the white elites who took control of their schools.


We know where Republicans stand on public education: destroy it, privatize it, bust the unions, and bring an end to professional educators.

Democrats in general, however, have been friends of public education, at least until President Obama appointed Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education and doubled down on the George W Bush administration's test and punish philosophy. And, just like in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, very little of substance with regards to K-12 education policy is being discussed by any Democratic presidential hopeful.

They offer vague assurances that they support universal pre-school, affordable college, and some even claim to want to get rid of "too much testing," but Barack Obama wanted us to stop "teaching to the test," too and look where that got us.

Near Silence on Education at First Democratic Debate
I wonder if CNN would have felt more pressure to ask even a single token education question if the largest national teachers unions hadn’t already endorsed Clinton. Both the American Federation of Teachers representing 1.5 million members and the National Education Association representing 3 million members have backed Clinton.

Well, leadership has. Member outreach, polling, even voting by the organizations largest representative boards has been almost entirely absent.

But now that teachers have been pigeonholed in Clinton’s camp, what’s the point of asking education questions? In the public eye educators have already chosen their candidate. Why would they need to hear Clinton’s thoughts on education policy? Why hear her opponents thoughts? Their minds are made up.


Nancy Bailey's Education Website

Nancy Bailey is a retired special education teacher, an author, and a voice for public education. Her website contains her blog, which is well worth following. I've linked to her latest blog post in my comments above about retention in grade 3.

She also maintains a valuable resource – a listing of blogs and groups which support public education. It's definitely worth checking out.

[Full disclosure: My blog (the Wordpress mirror version) is included under the Activism tab – Anti-Corporatization of Public Schools, and my group, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE), is included under the Activism tab – State Action Groups – 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!


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.




No comments: