"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, November 18, 2015

2015 Medley #36

Speaking Out, Poverty, "reform," Charters, Finland, Choice, A Teaching Career, 
Teacher Burnout


A Note from Dr. Downs

A local superintendent speaks out to reassure parents whose children are going to bring home lower test scores. While the scores of Indiana students on the NAEP test have never been higher, the fools in Indianapolis have overseen a circus surrounding the ISTEP test...a more difficult (and age inappropriate) test complete with screwed up technological problems and screwed up scoring, and higher cut scores.

A principal at a local school explained it as follows. "Imagine that last year you took a test and 70% was a passing score. Now imagine that this year you're given a harder test, and then, to add insult to injury, you're told, after you took the test, that more people need to fail, so we're raising the passing score to 90%." That's what the State of Indiana has done to its children.

This is the test that will be used to grade students, schools (and by proxy, their communities) and evaluate teachers. More principals and superintendents need to speak out against the continuing test-based abuse of our children, teachers, and our public schools.
We have a system where schools are graded based on their performance on one highly flawed test. These grades have a profound and wholly unfair effect on the reputation of the school district and the residents of those districts, not to mention the children of those districts. Also, we have laws on the books that require teachers’ pay to be tied to the consistent performance of children on these flawed tests. An endearing trait of children is their desire to please. I do not care what the rhetoric on teacher merit pay says, children feel responsible for test scores in ways they should not, and that is not healthy for them.


New Study: Hungry kids score lower on tests. Shocking news?

In the "this isn't news any more" category, we find out that students who are hungry have trouble concentrating on learning. Not just in the US, but world wide.
Here's a shocker for you. Latest research coming out of Cardiff University confirms that kids who come to school hungry score lower on standardized tests than kids who are fed well. The latter group of the study's 11-year-olds scored twice as high as the hungry students.

More evidence that basing teacher evaluations on student test scores is bogus. What the tests are mostly measuring is student/family poverty -- not so-called "student achievement". Of course, by now nearly everyone in the field realizes this. Thus the growing movement of resistance to testing madness that have forced some small retreats in federal and state testing policies. Or maybe just lip service to change?



The Tide is Turning: TeachStrong has Backfired

I've already written about how I thought it was foolish of NEA to join with "reformer" groups in TeachStrong. Mitchell Robinson goes a step further giving me hope that the "reform" is starting to lose its luster.
It's becoming clear that recent events in the education reform movement, like the bungled rollout of the #TeachStrong initiative, are actually the first vestiges of the death knells of the reform agenda.

For those unaware of TeachStrong, its an initiative that brings together the two national teachers unions (i.e., NEA and AFT) with over 40 of the leading organizations from the corporate reform movement, including Teach for America, the National Center for Teacher Quality, Education Post, and the CCSSO--the good folks who helped spawn the Common Core. (For a comprehensive review of TeachStrong's 9 Step Plan, please read Peter Green's excellent essay here.)

If you think this sounds like an unlikely alliance, then you are seeing the issue more clearly than the leaders of the 2 unions, who are either denying that a partnership actually exists (Lily Eskelen: "These are not the Droids you are looking for."), or trying to unionsplain it all away as "just good policy" (introducing Randi Weingarten: your new Secretary of Education).

...It has also become increasingly clear that the reformers' efforts have had no positive impact on anything other than their investors' bank accounts...

Mom to governor: ‘Please buy my child a teacher’
Will the governor read this excellent letter? I doubt it.
Please transfer my taxes from the purchase of things to the purchase of people.
Spend less on assessment and more on relationships.
Spend less on hardware and more on hearts.
Spend less on worksheets and more on wisdom.
Spend less on standards and more on students.
Buy my child a person.
Buy my child a teacher.


Study supports assertion against charters

Will this new study be buried or will it start a discussion which will lead to changing the way Indiana's charter schools operate?

Despite the fact that charter schools are publicly funded, I will never consider charters "public schools" until they are all non-profit, until they provide the same information regarding their operation and finances as real public schools, and until they are required to enroll all students and provide a free, appropriate, public education.
...a new federal study confirms that charter schools, indeed, educate fewer special education students.

Civil rights data collected by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools find that, on average, charter schools enroll proportionally fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. That holds for Indiana schools, where 14.86 percent of students in traditional public schools have disabilities, compared with 12.9 percent of charter-school students.


First Grade Math Tests in American and Finnish Classrooms

How is it possible that Finland's students achieve so well when they don't take standardized tests every year?
Burris made a startling observation as she studied this first grade math test. The publisher of the first grade math curriculum (where the test comes from) is Pearson. This is the same company that designs standardized tests for most New York students in grades three through eight. In 2010, Pearson inked a 5-year contract with the state of New York for 32 million dollars (US).

Can you see the conflict of interest here? The same company that is being paid to design standardized tests for New York students is also being paid to design curriculum for New York students. It’s in the interest of Pearson to design curriculum that will help students to succeed on their standardized tests.

This conflict of interest doesn’t exist here in Finland. There is just one high-stakes standardized test. Students are only eligible to take this matriculation exam after passing their high school courses. The exam is not designed by a publishing company; it’s created by an external board that’s nominated by the Finnish Ministry of Education.

In theory, this means that commercial curricular programs in Finland are designed to maximize student-learning; succeeding on standardized tests is a non-factor when curriculum is created.


The frightening implications of school choice

Choice, in Chicago's public schools, means Mayor Emanuel's choice to close public schools and use public funds to open privately operated charter schools. It means choosing to fund city schools so that many don't have libraries. It means choosing to fire career teachers and replace them with novices. It means choosing to eliminate the arts and physical education from some schools. It means choosing to ignore the needs and wishes of citizens so that cronies can reap the profits from privatization.
I don't care what anyone tells me about competition among schools making them all better, or how being able to pursue individual preference is paramount to all Americans. I don't care. The real impact of choice is entirely, 100% negative on our neighborhoods, on our communities, our cities. All of them.

Because "choice" of this kind quietly diminishes the real power of our democratic voice while it upholds the promise of individual consumer preferences above all else...

...Most of us are savvy enough to know that the future goal and end game of "school choice" is the breakdown of a fully funded public school system in favor of full privatization. But there's more going on here, and it has to do with the breakdown of our democratic voice as we are spoon-fed false promises of individual consumer preference. Is this a trade we're really willing to make?


Let's play teacher

Many politicians, pundits, policy makers, and "reformers" seem to believe that everyone who has ever been to school is qualified to be a teacher, pontificate about education policy, or know everything there is to know about education.

People like this don't stop to think that their knowledge of education entered their memories through immature eyes and brains. They didn't know all the background work that teachers had to do in order to plan a lesson or grade a set of essays. When you were 8 years old, did you know where your third grade teacher got the construction paper for you to make turkeys at Thanksgiving? When you were 14 did you think about where your science teacher got the idea to have you dissect a frog? When you were 17 did you stop to imagine how long it took your English teacher to grade your research paper (and 120 others)?

Have you ever noticed how star athletes make their jobs look easy? In the same way, excellent teachers make teaching look easy. Policy makers who have no clue about public education remember the "good" teachers from their childhood and youth who made education look easy. They have no idea how much hard work, time, and effort goes into preparation and grading. They have no idea how much a teacher's education and experience gives them insight into how children behave,  how children think, or how children learn. Instead they seem to believe that anyone who has ever been to school can be an education "expert."
No other profession sees anything quite like it.

Sure, we occasionally see stories about a guy who declares himself a doctor and sets up a practice with no real qualifications. Or a person who just opens a law office without benefit of a legal degree. Or a person who finds ordination documents on line and declares himself a preacher.

We have names for these people. Charlatan. Faker. Con artist. And they generally keep a low profile because everyone understands that such behavior is wrong.

...These folks want to play teacher without understanding what it actually means. Being a teacher does not mean delivering a script, it does not mean focusing on BS Tests as a measure of success, it does not mean [sending] the weakest "teachers" into the neediest classrooms, and it does not mean aligning slavishly to a set of mediocre amateur-hour national standards.
Humor Interlude

Bill Maher claims that there is another profession that, like education, has people believing that anyone can do it...and he proves it with the current crop of presidential candidates.

The following link takes you to a video which is definitely NSFW. Maher uses vulgar language and may offend some readers.

Bill Maher -- what other job...
...85% of Iowa Republicans say they find the total lack of government experience to be his biggest selling point...


Burnt out: teachers overwhelmed and resigning

"Reformers" have done their best to make teaching difficult, if not impossible. Why are teachers leaving?
Amanda is not alone. Numerous teachers across the country and in Lake County [Florida] are leaving the education field because of the implementation of the standards, an impossible work load and lack of support from administration.

“About 30 percent of new teachers flee the profession after just three years and more than 45 percent leave after five,” according to the George Lucas Educational Foundation.

Further, a survey of 4,400 current and former public school teachers found about 51 percent who left teaching in 2012-13 reported their work load was better in their current position than in teaching, according to the National Center For Education Statistics...


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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