"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, January 18, 2016

2016 Medley #2: MLK, Get the Lead Out, Testing, and the Earth

Dr. King, Lead Poisoning, 
Testing, Climate Change


In honor of MLK Day I present this quote from Dr. King for the benefit of the Indiana General Assembly which is doing its best to "bust the union." The legislators have already taken away most of teachers' rights to collective bargaining, benefits based on seniority, due process in labor disputes, and have forced school corporations to use the junk-science of evaluating teachers using test scores. This year they have another collection of bills including one which would "[pit] teachers against one another in a bidding war" for salary dollars.

The plan is to further weaken the Indiana State Teachers Association because "UNION!"

Dr. King said,

Weekend Quotables
The two most dynamic movements that reshaped the nation during the past three decades are the labor and civil rights movements. Our combined strength is potentially enormous. -- Speech given to the Illinois State AFL-CIO, Oct. 7, 1965


Why is lead poisoning even an issue any more? We know the damage it does. We know how to get rid of it. We are just too focused on making money to spend what we need to spend to fix our problems.

The news about Flint Michigan's lead-polluted water supply isn't news any more. The damage however has been done...

Why should we care? Take some time to read about the risks of lead poisoning for our nation's children and the damage it does.

Lead Poisoning Is Still A Public Health Crisis For African-Americans
Before Freddie Gray died of spinal injuries he received in police custody, sparking weeks of protest in his native Baltimore and around the country, he was a "lead kid," one of thousands of children in the city with toxic levels of lead in their blood from years of living in substandard housing -- and long-term health problems as a result.

"Paint was peeling off the windows," recalled Gray in the 2009 deposition of a lead-poising lawsuit he and his siblings filed against the owners of the building they grew up in. For children like Gray, who was 25 years old when he died in April, lead poisoning can mean ADHD, behavior problems, and irreversible brain and central nervous damage.

Lead Poisoning

What's the future of the children of Flint and other places where lead poisoning is prevalent?
Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children under the age of 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also may be exposed to lead.

I've written about lead poisoning before. I'll ask the same question I have on numerous occasions; When are we going to get serious about the health of the children in our nation?

From earlier this year...Poisoning Children, then Blaming Them: The Lead Connection

The World Health Organization (WHO) says of lead poisoning...
The consequences of brain injury from exposure to lead in early life are loss of intelligence, shortening of attention span and disruption of behaviour. Because the human brain has little capacity for repair, these effects are untreatable and irreversible. They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.

From April, 2013...Update to Poisoned Children and "Reform"

The Arizona School Boards Association has published a report (available in pdf) titled, A Strange Ignorance The role of lead poisoning in failing schools.. The executive summary contains the following.
Not all children can learn, not when they have been poisoned. If environmental lead, instead of calcium, is incorporated into a child's rapidly developing brain tissue "between birth and age three," those tissues will not function correctly. Ever. By the time children reach the public schools, the damage has been done, and it is irreversible.

Lead is an incredibly potent neurotoxin prevalent in older neighborhoods. It takes a surprisingly small amount of lead to damage developing brains, a few sand-grain sized paint chips will do it. Those children, in turn, will sustain brain damage that ensures both educational and social problems for the rest of their life. This early lead poisoning has been linked to:
  1. an inability to learn because brain tissues constructed of lead do not bind properly to form the neural learning connections,
  2. to attention deficit disorders because lead damaged brain tissues have a tendency to misfire and disrupt normal concentration,
  3. to violence because the careful balance of brain structures in the prefrontal cortex that inhibits impulsivity and violence is disrupted, and
  4. to drug use because untreated sufferers find illegal drugs help to medicate the agitation caused by lead damaged brain cells.

From May, 2011...No Excuses

Study links lead exposure, low student test scores
Children who ingested even small amounts of lead performed poorly later on school tests compared to students who were never exposed to the substance, according to a new study of Connecticut students.

The Duke University study also found that black children were much more likely to have experienced lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than the state's white children. Educators worry that factor might be among many contributing to Connecticut's status as the state with the largest achievement gap between the races...

Several other government and university research studies nationwide over the years have found links between lead poisoning and delays in academic and cognitive growth, although the Duke study is Connecticut's first research linking individual students to their test results.


High Stakes Testing Doesn’t Protect Civil Rights – It Violates Them

NCLB was sold to the American people to fight the "soft bigotry of low expectations," as if "expectations" alone were enough to increase student learning. The nation's children are still waiting for its adults to invest in their children. Instead we have invested in testing companies and private corporate charter operators. Children are still not our nation's priority...
Our school policies for the past few decades have been about denying the right to an equitable education to our poor and minority students. Though the ESSA holds promise to limit federal meddling, it does nothing to change that. And all these people who cry foul at a potential loss of federal power are either ignorant or crying crocodile tears.

It’s no wonder that hundreds of civil rights organizations oppose high stakes testing. Nor is it surprising that the media rarely reports it. And it shouldn’t be a shock to learn that the overwhelming majority of civil rights organizations who have suddenly began championing testing are those who get big donations from the philanthro-capitalists pushing this agenda.

How Measurement Fails Doctors and Teachers

The New York Times decries the test and punish culture, but they start with a false assumption. When "education reform" moved into full swing about 2 decades ago, our schools were not lagging behind those in other countries. What was lagging behind...and what still lags behind...is our ability to take care of our children. We still remain the nation with the highest child poverty level among wealthy nations in the world. Poverty and our neglect of poverty is what's causing failure in our schools.
In education, it became clear that our schools were lagging behind those in other countries.
The times goes on to speak about the damage done to the profession of teaching by the test-and-punish policies of the last two administrations.
...the objections became harder to dismiss as evidence mounted that even superb and motivated professionals had come to believe that the boatloads of measures, and the incentives to “look good,” had led them to turn away from the essence of their work. In medicine, doctors no longer made eye contact with patients as they clicked away. In education, even parents who favored more testing around Common Core standards worried about the damaging influence of all the exams.
We have ignored teachers' voices.
Whatever we do, we have to ask our clinicians and teachers whether measurement is working, and truly listen when they tell us that it isn’t. Today, that is precisely what they’re saying...

Our businesslike efforts to measure and improve quality are now blocking the altruism, indeed the love, that motivates people to enter the helping professions. While we’re figuring out how to get better, we need to tread more lightly in assessing the work of the professionals who practice in our most human and sacred fields.
(h/t Cumudgucation)

Afflicting the afflicted

At least as important as protecting our students from the damage done by bad tests is that student test scores shouldn't be used to measure schools or teachers to begin with. There is no basis it.

Steve Hinnefeld notes that in Indiana legislators are once again focusing the damage done by standardized tests on the schools trying to teach high poverty children.
Indiana schools that get successive Fs face increasingly severe state sanctions. Schools that reach six Fs in a row – and apparently there are three that could this year – face state takeover.

This doesn’t make any sense. The only reason for SB 200 in the first place is that the spring 2015 ISTEP tests were so difficult that it would be unfair to base grades on those results. But if that’s the case for schools that got an A, B, C or D in 2013-14, it should be just as true for schools that got an F...Schools that had been getting Fs may have made extraordinary efforts to improve. If ISTEP had stayed the same, maybe their grades would have gone up. But with the tougher 2015 test and the much higher bar for passing, they may have fallen short.
Many of these schools serve the largest numbers of poor children. For them, accountability can seem an affliction. And now the legislature is giving other schools a break but not them.

New Jersey Study Commission on Testing: Keep Weighing the Pig

Russ Walsh understands that you don't improve learning by more and more testing. He asks three important questions...SPOILER ALERT: The answer to all three questions is NO!
Are standardized tests an effective way to hold schools accountable?
Are PARCC tests "high quality?"
Are standardized tests effective in narrowing the achievement gap?

...I have an idea. Instead of yearly testing, let's all just stipulate that the achievement gap exists and that it is in reality an opportunity gap. Then we can do away with all the tests that keep telling us what we already know and focus our attention on things that are likely to reduce the opportunity gap like cleaner, safer schools, wrap around health and wellness programs, and attracting high quality teachers.


Your Participation is Not Optional

Aside from ignoring science when it comes to using high stakes tests for purposes other than that for which they were developed, we are a nation of anti-science anti-intellectuals. In the recent Republican debate we heard that we won't ruin the economy in order to move to cleaner power (also read: we're not going to disappoint my donors from the fossil fuel industry) and since we can't solve the problem by ourselves let's not worry about it.

I wonder if Trump with "believe" in science once his buildings on the coasts start taking on water...
Belief in global warming is optional, but participation is mandatory.


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