"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

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Look! Something Shiny!

Look, it's a shiny New Improved! Test guaranteed to distract you from the dirty, faded, ISTEP+ test that cost the state billion$ and never really worked.

The ISTEP+ is gone (or at least, it will be...soon...um, maybe), and the supermajority in the state legislature, composed almost exclusively of non-educators, will choose which standardized student achievement test to misuse next.

Hours of work, funded by taxpayer dollars, will result in the students of Indiana again being threatened by taking a new standardized test developed to measure student achievement.

When the New Improved! Test is put in place everyone will be happy, school children will smile (no more throwing up on test booklets!), teachers and administrators will breathe a collective sigh of relief, and "reformers" can continue working toward their goal of privatizing education in Indiana.

But there's a blemish beneath the surface of the shiny New Improved! Test.

It will be misused, just like ISTEP+ was misused.

The New Improved! Test will immediately be misused in at least four ways.
  • It will be misused to grade the state's K-12 schools and school corporations using a flawed A to F grading scale. Student achievement tests are developed to measure student achievement, not schools. Prediction: The New Improved! Test will determine that schools which choose students from wealthy homes will be graded "A." "F" schools will get the students from high poverty areas. Coincidentally, communities which house "F" schools will also be labeled as "failing."
  • It will be misused to make high stakes decisions affecting students. The New Improved! Test won't be able to measure creativity, determination, perspective, intuition, honesty, courage, perseverance, thoroughness, flexibility, fluency, originality, elaboration, confidence, self-control, curiosity, or wisdom, but it will still give "valuable information" about student placement. Some students will still lose their schools to "state takeover." Consistent education will be disrupted. Students will lose a complete curriculum and focus only on Reading and STEM.
  • It will be misused to evaluate teachers. Student achievement tests are developed to measure student achievement, not evaluate teachers. Prediction: The New Improved! Test will determine that high poverty schools are filled with ineffective teachers. Effective teachers apparently only choose low poverty schools.
  • It will be misused to prove that public schools are "failing." Prediction: Charter schools (even those which get D or F on the grading scale) and private schools will be the only hope for the children of Indiana. There will be no reason to invest in public education. Instead, more charters will need to be opened. More voucher money will be allocated. More public schools will be labeled "failing" and then closed.
The Indiana Senate, run by a supermajority of "reformers," has agreed to eliminate ISTEP+, but public schools will continue to be damaged, public school students will continue to be labeled and shortchanged in their education, public school teachers will continue to be vilified, and corporate "reform" will continue without pause.

Thank you, New Improved! Test, for doing exactly what ISTEP+ did to improve education in Indiana. Nothing.

Oh, and until the New Improved! Test is chosen, approved, and implemented, ISTEP+ will still be misused in the same old way.

Senate agrees to eliminate ISTEP
The legislation creates a 22-member panel to study alternatives and make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly this December. Some things the panel must consider are the feasibility of using existing national tests, reducing the time and costs associated with the test and transparency and fairness.

Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, the author of the bill, said he doesn’t like how the Senate narrowed the scope of the panel to only testing instead of overall accountability systems for teachers, schools and students.

He also noted he doesn’t agree with putting testing experts directly on the panel.

A conference committee is a small group of legislators from both sides of the aisle appointed to hammer out a final compromise.

Another sticking point with Democrats is that GOP lawmakers have made Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz a member of the committee – but not the chair. Gov. Mike Pence would appoint the chair.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Post #1,000 – What Matters to Students


This is entry #1,000 for this blog.

My very first post on this blog was titled, as was the blog at that time, On Beyond Thirty. I had just finished my 30th year as an elementary school teacher in my local school system, and was anxious to express the frustrations I felt at some the changes happening to public schools throughout the nation. At the time, however, I didn't realize how much more difficult things were going to get.

For the most part, over the last 999 posts, I've focused on the damage "reformers' have done to public schools, with an occasional nod to music and baseball.


Over the 40 years I've spent in public education either as a classroom teacher, a pull-out reading specialist, or a volunteer, I've taught about 1,000 students (not counting my college years as an intern and student teaching).

I started teaching at a time before computers and the internet. In my first blog entry I wrote,
...my first class of third graders had no clue what a personal computer was, and had never heard of an iPod, an SUV or a hybrid car. They listened to music on records made of vinyl, or on cassette tapes, watched movies on film projectors in theaters or on TV broadcast, didn't have cable TV, and would have thought that "internet" had something to do with moving fish from the end of the hook to the boat.
In those days teachers were aware that educational fads came and went. Each year, it seemed we were introduced to some new idea which would help us make every child a success. None of those ideas worked for everyone, of course, but most of us tried everything and kept the parts that worked for us. We all knew that there would always be some children who would challenge our abilities to teach the curriculum.

In that way, our teaching philosophies and teaching methods changed and grew. Today, in Indiana, experience doesn't count for much according to the state legislature, but we knew that a good school had a mix of young teachers and veterans. We learned from each other, and our students benefited.


Over the last 40 years one educational concept has helped me more than any other; Building good relationships between teacher and student. Students benefit when teachers build positive relationships in the classroom. In Relationships Matter, I wrote,
The goal of education should be to build lifelong learners, not test takers. Skills like perseverance will be of greater benefit than parsing sentences or finding the greatest common factor of two numbers.

Academics are important, but it's who we are and who our students grow to be that determines our success in life...much more than the facts we know or our score on the SAT or other test.
The concept of good relationships came home to me late last year when I received a visit from a former student. I wrote about that in Tests Don't Measure Everything.

The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) is currently running a social media campaign focusing on things in public education which work (click here). The student I wrote about in Tests Don't Measure Everything wrote her story which will be published on the NEIFPE blog at the end of February. In it she said,
Right after Christmas that year, my family had a particularly hard weekend. My mom and dad fought a lot, but we were all used to it and didn’t think much of it. Things seemed different, however, and we were all old enough to recognize it. They sat us down and told us they were getting a divorce. We were also moving, which meant changing schools and leaving our home behind. I was devastated. My family was falling apart and everything I knew and loved was about to change.

That Monday, I went back to school. I was sad and withdrawn. I remember sitting with my sister at lunch instead of my friends. She was a fifth grader and equally despondent. There was nothing we could do to fix our parent’s problems. We would walk home quietly together and then sit up in her room. Each day was never ending. By Wednesday of that week, I was a mess. I was holding in so much, and there wasn’t anyone to talk to. I had stopped participating in class and withdrew socially. Mr. Bloom knew it immediately.

I am sure there was a moment where the other kids saw Mr. Bloom come over to me and kneel down by my desk. I am sure someone came in and watched the classroom for him as he quietly walked me to the adjoining room. I don’t remember any of that. But that day was a defining moment in my childhood. As we went and sat down in the other classroom, he quietly asked me what was wrong. I remember that being all I needed to hear…he knew I was hurting and I began to sob. At that point, I didn’t care. He didn’t need to say anything because what I needed was to be held and rocked like the broken child that I was. This man, this father, this teacher recognized that I was going through something horrible. My world was upside down and he knew it. It was everything I needed at that exact moment. I needed to feel safe and comforted by a grown up I trusted. My parents were dealing with their own emotions, and I felt so alone. He listened when I told him what was happening at home. He explained that it wasn’t anything I had done, and he told me that it would get better…it was exactly what I needed to be told at exactly the right time.

What may seem insignificant to an outsider was life changing for me, even at nine years old. I had enough common sense even then to realize things were going to be a lot different after this school year. But I had someone who cared and made the rest of that school year awesome. School was my escape. I joke to my mom even now that Mr. Bloom’s talk saved me from years in therapy. He was the one reliable person in my life that year. His class was my safe place and he made my days normal. For this I am forever grateful.
I remembered that incident when I talked with her, but I had no idea that it was as important to her as it was...so important that she remembered it in such detail 30 years later.

I also remember a letter I got from a student. It was written from prison. I wrote about it 2 years ago.
The adult Joe wrote to tell me that his father had recently died. He said that, at the end of the year in third grade, I had helped him create a Father's Day card. I remembered that. It was common for us to make Mother's Day cards in May each year, but Father's Day takes place after school ends for the summer. For some reason, I decided that particular year, that I would have my class make Father's Day cards as well. I don't think I had ever done it before...and I don't remember doing it again. I told the students to save the cards after they got home for the summer...and to give them to their fathers (or another important male relative) on Father's Day.

Joe's letter reminisced about the Father's Day card. He wrote how I had helped him think of things to write, spell words he didn't know, and illustrate the card. Then he told me that the card he made that day was the last contact he ever had with his father. For that young man the fact that I had decided to make Father's Day cards with my class became a significant life fact a few years later.
I wish I could say that I was instrumental in the lives of each of the one thousand students who passed under my educational care, but, of course, I wasn't. There were students who I had trouble with, and with whom I was unable to develop the kind of relationship they needed. Those are the students I failed. Those are the students to whom I need to say,
"I'm sorry that I wasn't the person you needed at that time in your life."
As the adult in the room, it was my fault...my weakness...my responsibility. It was my failing that I was unable to help some of the children I worked with. I know that their letters to me, should they ever write, would be very different.


School curriculum is important. Teacher effectiveness is important. Maintained facilities are important. Sufficient resources are important.

But the relationship that teachers build with their students makes or breaks the learning process.

In his post, A Bill of Rights for School Children, Russ Walsh includes ten "rights" to which students are entitled, including a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe neighborhood school, and the right to developmentally appropriate instruction. He also includes,
Every child has the right to be taught by well-informed, fully certified, fully engaged
teachers who care about the child as a learner and as a person. [emphasis added]
In their rush to blame teachers for low student achievement "reformers" fail to understand that a score on a standardized test isn't all there is to school. They don't understand that the human interaction between student and teacher is every bit as important as knowing who invented the spinning jenny or when World War I ended. I don't believe that any of my students would ever write to tell me that they were glad I taught them math facts, how to spell their, there, and they're, or how to fill in circles on a bubble test.

When Henry Adams, great-grandson of the second president, and grandson of the sixth, wrote,
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops
I'm pretty sure he didn't mean influence as a "test facilitator."


Monday, February 15, 2016

A Big Red "F" For Indiana

Indiana legislators and "reformers" love letter grades...so communities (via their schools) are graded as A through F using already invalid ISTEP scores. Those grades are good for things like getting campaign donations from privatizers, bashing public school teachers, and directing real estate agents to where the money is, but not much else.

Now that the Network for Public Education has given Indiana a grade of F because of the failure to actually help improve student achievement and public education, legislators will likely complain that these grades aren't valid...that they're biased (irony alert)...or even more likely, they'll ignore them completely.

An editorial in Sunday's (Feb. 14, '16) Journal Gazette summarizes the report about Indiana...

State gets poor marks in dedication to schools
Indiana earns Fs for supporting teacher professionalism, resisting privatization and investing school funding resources wisely. It earned Ds for rejecting high-stakes testing and giving children a chance for success. Indiana public schools continue to serve the vast majority of students. Public school enrollment this fall was 1,046,146 students, compared to 84,030 non-public students.

The poor mark for high-stakes testing won’t surprise anyone familiar with the state’s continuing struggles with ISTEP+, the standardized test administered to students in grades 3 through 8. Indiana also is among a handful of states requiring third-graders to pass a reading test to be promoted to fourth grade.
The state did get a B in school finance...and a D in High Stakes Testing and Chance for Success, though, as we'll see I disagree with the High Stakes Testing grade.

The grade card then, is 3 Fs, 2 Ds, and a B – not the worst in the nation (thanks to Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Mississippi), but certainly not anything to be proud of.

The complete report from Network for Public Education (NPE) can be found here...

My comments, and my grades, along with NPE's, cover three of the categories. These three alone would be enough reason to change the political leadership in Indiana in November (if not sooner). Add to that the refusal of the Republican governor to work cooperatively and respectfully with the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an actual teacher, and we have a serious situation for Indiana's school children.

[On an interesting side note, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI), Glenda Ritz, used to be a Republican. She switched parties in order to help us get rid of former SPI and "reformer" extraordinaire, Tony Bennett. She recognized that his and then Governor Mitch Daniels' policies were damaging the public schools in our state. Suellen Reed, the SPI before Tony Bennett, also a Republican, is currently on the advisory board of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a pro-public education group fighting "reform" and privatization. She served for 16 years as SPI under Democratic and Republican Governors in a congenial atmosphere which disappeared with the Daniels/Bennett administration.]


Indiana uses the ISTEP to grade schools and evaluate teachers, neither of which is a valid use of a tool meant for measuring student achievement. Last year's ISTEP mess has at least encouraged the legislature to rethink the test and likely go with a different provider. However, grading schools and teachers using student achievement test scores will probably continue no matter what test is used.

Indiana also uses the ISTEP to label each school and school system on an A through F scale. Schools and neighborhoods are then either damned or lauded. That judgement is based, for the most part, on the economy of the families whose children attend the school since standardized tests have a direct correlation with family income. The D and F labels attached to low-income schools are detrimental to the community, to its families, and to its children. Students and their families are punished for having low incomes. Teachers are punished for working in high poverty schools.

Furthermore, Indiana uses a reading test, IREAD-3, to prevent students from being promoted from third grade to fourth. The rationale is that they need a year to catch up. Research into retention has shown time and again that students who are behind in third grade don't catch up through retention, and in fact, fall even further behind. The money for IREAD-3 would be better spent on early intervention (see here, and here, and you might as well check this out, too).

NPE used various criteria in which to give Indiana a D. They also figured their grade before the monumental failure of last year's ISTEP. My feeling is that the overuse, abuse, and misuse of tests in Indiana is reason enough to award the state a BIG RED F.

NPE Grade – D
My Grade – F


NPE graded states on their ability to treat teachers with respect as professionals. Indiana fails.

The legislative chairs of the respective education committees (Robert Behning, chair of the House Education Committee, and Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee) seem to take pleasure in depriving public school educators of their rights. In 2011 they led the drive to
  1. eliminate due process for teachers. In the past administrations which wished to terminate a teacher had to allow the teacher a hearing with an impartial mediator. This allowed the teacher to present her case in front of someone who was not involved with the school system and could rule impartially. We call this Due Process. The law was changed in 2011. Now, teachers who are to be terminated can request a meeting with the superintendent or the school board. The chances of a fair and impartial hearing are reduced. This is what was meant by the term tenure in K-12 education in the state. Indiana teachers no longer have it.
  2. reduce collective bargaining to only salary and insurance. Teachers and school systems no longer have the right to negotiate things like class size, evaluations, prep time, or parent teacher conferences. Teachers now must do what they're told, despite the damage it might do to student learning. The collective bargaining law changes (actually all the law changes in 2011) were meant to punish the teachers unions in Indiana, which they have done, but they also limit the flexibility that school systems have in negotiations as well. The supermajority in Indiana doesn't seem to understand (or care) that negotiations and bargaining is a process that takes two parties: the teachers and the school system.
  3. use student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers. Why is it that there are fewer "bad" teachers (based on student test scores) in wealthy areas? Why is it that schools in high-poverty areas always seem to have many more "bad" teachers? Because student test scores reflect the level of parental income. Using student achievement test scores to evaluate teachers (and schools) is quite simply a misuse of tests and should be stopped.
  4. force schools to abandon the step-scale for teacher pay and eliminate seniority. Apparently the supermajority and its "reformer" donors don't consider experience a benefit in public schools. I wonder if they would be happy with an inexperienced teacher for their own child...an inexperienced surgeon taking out their appendix or an inexperienced attorney defending them in court. The truth is, experience matters, in every job or profession.
The legislature and the governor also have a problem listening to the elected educational professional in the government, the State Superintendent of Public Education, Glenda Ritz. Instead they've worked tirelessly, and successfully, to limit her influence on Indiana's education policy. Apparently they believe that the auctioneer that leads the Senate education committee, the florist that leads the House education committee, and the radio talk show host who sits in the governor's chair, all know more about public education than someone who
  • is a National Board Certified Teacher with two masters degrees
  • is a former Teacher of the Year
  • has 33 years of teaching experience in public education
Or perhaps it's that she's a Democrat and former union leader who got more votes than their "reformist" friend, Tony Bennett...

Here's an irony for you...the legislature is "studying" the reason for the looming teacher shortage.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F


Public Education is a public trust. It should be funded and controlled by the public through democratically elected school boards. President John Adams wrote,
"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."
Indiana has the most expansive voucher program in the nation, diverting millions of dollars from public schools to private, mostly parochial schools.

Indiana politicians also favor privately run charter schools over public schools by methods such as loan forgiveness (even when the school closes), additional special-favor loans to charter schools, and support for the proven failure of virtual charter schools.

In Indiana "failing" public schools end up as "failing" charter schools, which then become "failing" parochial schools getting taxpayer dollars. Instead of redistributing tax money reserved for public education to private corporations and religious organizations, the state ought to help students in struggling schools. In the past, Indiana was one of the few states where struggling schools got higher funding than schools in wealthy areas. That changed in 2015. Now, the better you do on standardized tests, the more money you get.

State budget proposal shifts aid toward wealthy schools
...changes in the funding system proposed Monday appear likely to funnel most of those extra dollars to wealthy and growing suburban school districts, while some of the poorest and shrinking districts could actually get less money.
So, instead of putting money where it's needed, the state "rewards" schools for high performance, forcing students in poorer areas to do more with less. Those same students are then "blamed" for "failing" and their schools get closed or turned over to a charter company. The failure of the state to provide for the students is blamed on the school, the teachers, and the students, and privatization gets the PR boost, and the profits, it was after all along.

NPE Grade – F
My Grade – F


The state of Indiana is lead by a "reformist" governor and a "reformist" supermajority in both houses of the legislature. Their goals appear to be the complete privatization of public schools, the deprofessionalization of public school teachers, and the elimination of Indiana's teachers unions, all accomplished through testing.

Things are not likely to change soon. Politicians talk a good game, but they are driven by the need to be reelected, which means they respond to those who pay their campaign expenses, i.e. donors. And the biggest contributors are the corporate donors who use public education tax revenue as a source for profit.

If Indiana wants to improve its public schools...and we ought to pause to think about whether or not that's actually true...which will benefit all our children and our communities, we're going to have to change things. Poverty is the main cause of low achievement. As long as Indiana's 22% child poverty rate, the same rate as the nation's, continues, we'll have struggling students. At this point it will take several generations to undo the damage done by the last 12 years of the supermajority legislature and the last two governors.
There are no “silver bullets” when it comes to improving schools. The myth that “three great teachers in a row” can close the achievement gap has always been a ploy. However, if states are willing to invest time and money guided by the right values, we will see steady progress for our public schools and our nation’s children. 


Saturday, February 13, 2016

2016 Medley #4

Politics, Charters, "Failing" Schools,
Status Quo, Literacy "Experts"


Where do the 2016 presidential candidates stand on education?

Here's a link to a chart explaining current candidates' education policies. The column on vouchers says it all. Every Republican listed in the chart (except for Donald Trump) either "Supports" or "Strongly Supports" vouchers. Each of the Democrats "Opposes" vouchers. Trump supports vouchers as well (see here and here), but apparently Parents Across America missed it.

Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is the only one who is specifically against using tests for teacher evaluations.

So, no surprises...
PAA does not endorse any candidate, but we are committed to educating parents and the general public about where the candidates and parties stand on education issues. The information in the following table was retrieved on Feb. 10. 2016 from www.ontheissues.org/education and www.ballotpedia.org. We have focused on the two remaining Democratic candidates and the top 6 Republican nominees based on [February 10] national polling.

Louie Gohmert: We Got Sanders Because We Let 'Hippies From The '60s' Become Teachers

Louie Gohmert (R: TX) has got to be one of the stupidest members in the US House of Representatives. Why is Bernie Sanders doing so well? Simple, thinks Gohmert, because...Hippies!

According to Gohmert, "socialism has never worked"...except Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist and that has worked is working in lots of places...just ask the folks in Denmark (happiest country in the world), France (best health care system in the world), Canada (wealthiest middle class in the world), Norway (world's highest standard of living) and elsewhere.
...we let some of the hippies from the ‘60s who created such chaos then start teaching the teachers,” Gohmert said, “and teaching them how great socialism is and just rewriting history and keeping them from realizing socialism has never worked, it will never work in this world, in this life, because if you’re going to pay everybody the same thing then they’re going to quit working.”

The Dirtiest Election in History: The campaign of 1826

You think today's election campaign is dirty? You think the fireworks at the Republican Debates are offensive? Historians agree that today's campaign is nothing like the Presidential campaign of 1826.

According to the John Quincy Adams campaign, Andrew Jackson married a bigamist which meant his wife was a whore.

According to the Andrew Jackson campaign, John Quincy Adams was a pimp for the Tzar of Russia.

And here's a quote from the video below that sounds familiar...
In this election, the truth hardly mattered...


Indiana Virtual Charter Schools: Not Worth the Public's Money

Virtual charter schools are stealing our money. They have terrible results yet continue to be well funded. Here's why they're still allowed to get taxpayer money...
Since 2006, the parent company for Hoosier Academies schools, K12 Inc., has donated over $81,000 to some influential people in state government: Mitch Daniels, Bob Behning, Dennis Kruse, Brian Bosma, Teresa Lubbers, the House Republican Campaign Committee, the Senate Majority Campaign Committee, Carlin Yoder, Tim Brown, Jeff Thompson, Ed Clere, Tony Bennett, and Mike Pence. Of that $81,000, a token $500 went to the Indiana Democratic Caucus and another $500 to Democrat Pat Bauer--but both of those contributions were back in 2006. After that, it must have been clear that K12, Inc., didn't need the Democrats.

Most Charter Schools are Public Schools in Name ONLY

Read Steven Singer's excellent, well-researched post. Charter schools are only public schools when they want taxpayer dollars.
1) Charters Don’t Accept all Students...
2) Charters Have No Transparency...
3) Charters Advertise...
4) Charters Defraud the Public...
5) Charters Often Get Worse Results...


The Myth Behind Public School Failure

This article is from 2014, but it's still appropriate. The public assumption, fueled by the media, is still that America's public schools are failing. Ed "reformers" grab that false narrative and run with it...vouchers and charters are the result.
To truly understand how we came to believe our educational system is broken, we need a history lesson. Rewind to 1980—when Milton Friedman, the high priest of laissez-faire economics, partnered with PBS to produce a ten-part television series called Free to Choose. He devoted one episode to the idea of school vouchers, a plan to allow families what amounted to publicly funded scholarships so their children could leave the public schools and attend private ones.

You could make a strong argument that the current campaign against public schools started with that single TV episode. To make the case for vouchers, free-market conservatives, corporate strategists, and opportunistic politicians looked for any way to build a myth that public schools were failing, that teachers (and of course their unions) were at fault, and that the cure was vouchers and privatization.

Jonathan Kozol, the author and tireless advocate for public schools, called vouchers the “single worst, most dangerous idea to have entered education discourse in my adult life.”


Reforminess IS The Status Quo

After 3 decades of public school bashing, starting with A Nation At Risk and culminating with the test and punish policies of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the status quo in America's public schools is based on so-called "educational reform." Students in 2016 America live with public funding diverted to private corporate and religious schools, test based curriculum, test evaluated schools and teachers, high stakes tests for passing from third grade to fourth grade and for graduating, deprofessionalized teachers, and the constant drum beat of accountability, accountability, ACCOUNTABILITY.

Where is the accountability for the failure of states to fully fund public schools instead of giving public money to private and parochial schools? Where is the accountability for school buildings with leaky roofs, warped gym floors, moldy bathrooms, and poorly ventilated classrooms? Where is the accountability for the children who live in poverty, at 23%, the highest child poverty rate in the developed world?

Where is the accountability for the lawmakers? Why aren't they branded with the word "Failure?" John Kuhn, superintendent of Perrin-Whitt Consolidated Independent School District (Texas), wrote,

"I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?"

Jersey Jazzman reminds us that "reform" is the status quo...
If you follow the arguments of the "reform" movement, you'll know what I'm saying is not a parody -- these people really do believe this stuff. They really do think schools, by themselves, can overcome massive economic inequality, generations of racism, and a social system whose primary task is to replicate itself. They really do think that simply changing the governance structure of a school away from democratic local control to market-based private control will somehow unleash education excellence.

They really do think the quality of teachers is uniformly mediocre, but that it can be improved without spending any additional monies simply by changing incentive structures. They really do think fast turnaround prep programs are perfectly adequate for training people in the incredibly complex art and science of classroom teaching.

They really do think test-prep pedagogy is adequate for gaining the social and cultural capital necessary for social mobility. They really do think everyone should go to college, and that over-credentialing the millions of people who do necessary work will somehow ameliorate socio-economic inequity.


A Rose is a Rose and For Some, a Digital Content Manager is a Literacy Expert

Here we're reminded that "reformers" have no understanding of education. A person with a B.A. in Political Science (the same degree that Margaret Spellings had when she was considered by some to be qualified to be Secretary of Education) is a person who is considered a literacy expert (emphasis added).
After receiving the following announcement from Achieve the Core, I looked up the qualifications of their literacy expert (sic) offering the seminar.
Silas Kulkarni
Education Management Professional
Washington, District Of Columbia
Education Management...

Yale University

Yale University
B.A, Political Science


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

NEIFPE Answers Reformer's Questions

I'm a member of NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (Facebook page: HERE and @NEIFPE on Twitter).

Last week we received an email from someone who is "not a public school teacher," but "works in a public charter school" and is taking a "class" delivered by the Institute for Quality Education (affiliated with Hoosiers for Quality Education), an "education reform" group in Indiana. The writer asked us to answer three questions. He correctly answered the first, using the group's mission statement. The other two he phrased in "reformy" ways implying that we were for forced attendance at local public schools and that we want to strip privately run schools (charters and parochial schools) of their funds.

To his credit, he did ask us to clarify whether or not we agreed with his answers. We did not agree with two of them, of course, and below are the three questions he asked along with our answers.

Thanks to the NEIFPE team for their work in composing this response.

NEIFPE: Who We Are

From time to time, people have asked us who we are and what we do. Recently, we received a letter asking us to answer the following questions about our organization. Here are the questions and our responses.

What is the goal/vision for the organization?

NEIFPE's mission statement outlines the goal of support for public education.

We are citizens, teachers, administrators, and parents united by our support for public education and by concerns for its future. Recent federal and state reform measures have created an over-emphasis on testing and have turned over public education to private interests. We believe that these reforms threaten the well-being of our children and jeopardize their futures. Our goal is to inform ourselves and to start community discussion about the impact of these measures on our public schools and, more importantly, on our children.

How is this organization working to improve education in Indiana?

NEIFPE advocates for a strong public school system that serves all children in the state. We believe education will be improved when education policy is back in the hands of educators rather than in the hands of politicians and their supporters. We believe that the tax dollars for public education should be distributed equitably to fund schools that are accountable to their communities. We believe that education is for ALL students, regardless of ability, race, and religion, and we believe public tax dollars should not be used for schools that exclude children. We also believe we should use our tax dollars towards the actual education of children rather than for testing and test preparation activities. We believe parents have always had a choice to send their children to public or private schools but taxpayer dollars should support public schools.

We advocate for a system that supports schools in addressing the needs of the students to prepare them for citizenship. We advocate for accountability that focuses on the progress students are making rather than one based upon high stakes testing, test preparation, and data collection. We advocate for developmentally appropriate instruction based upon research driven methods. We advocate for teachers who are knowledgeable in both content and pedagogy.

Is this organization a resource for teachers?

NEIFPE is a resource for information on local and national education policies, not an instructional resource. We try to help teachers make the connection between education policies and the effects of such policies on their classrooms and the teaching profession. Our mission is to inform and engage the general public so that they will understand the impact of current education policies on our communities, our neighborhoods, and our children. We would like the public to understand how their tax dollars are used in education. The resources we provide help others gain a better understanding of education policy, the political agenda in education, and how to defend our public school system. In addition to tracking current legislation, we provide research and evidence for people to use in advocacy efforts. We also provide information to our state legislators to help ensure they have a balanced perspective and understand how legislation will affect public schools, teachers, and students.

Our agenda is, quite simply, the support of public education.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Random Quotes - February 2016


This is how Bernie or Hillary wins: The speech that would seal the nomination

Bertis Downs, a member of the Board of Directors of the Network for Public Education, wrote this for Salon. How many teachers and parents would support a candidate who promised that all public school children would get the education they deserved?

from Bertis Downs
Which campaign wants to lay claim to public schools supporters? Easy. Whoever embraces these ideas first. Just imagine:

...John Dewey once said, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that we must want for all of the children of the community.” Well, under my administration, we will actually govern that way and foster the kinds of schools where we would all be proud to send our children. We all know the factors that make a school great: excellent teachers who are respected, compensated, and supported so they can better teach our children; a rich and varied curriculum that includes the basic academic subjects as well as the arts and physical education; safe and healthy learning environments; the school as a center of community; strong leadership that focuses on enabling educators to collaborate, develop, and improve as they teach; reasonable class sizes; and an active and engaged parent and community presence. These describe some of our best schools — both public and private. And these are the attributes our policies need to be building and sustaining, not undermining and discouraging. For too long, our policies have created a de facto parallel system — schools for the Haves and other schools for the Have-nots. We need to shift our thinking and try a different approach — one that strives to improve opportunities for all of our nation’s children, not just a select few. Put simply, we must redouble our efforts to expand on our schools’ existing strengths, while freeing teachers to teach and addressing the lingering inequality that presents challenges to teachers and administrators.

Which classroom would you choose for your child?


Congress passed the reauthorization to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act last December. The Every Student Succeeds Act returns much of the task of monitoring the nation's education system to the state. Testing, among other things (such as support for the for-profit charter industry), is still very much a part of the law. Here are two comments about the new law that focus on the same issue – poverty. No improved testing system is going to remove the effects of poverty on the huge number of students in America's public schools who live with unmet physical, medical, emotional, and social needs.

Why are none of the candidates for President talking about America's embarrassingly high child poverty rate?

Before we talk seriously about Every Student Succeeds ...

There are certain requirements

from Stephen Krashen
I offer an updated version as a comment on the new education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act:
When Congress passes
Every Student Is Well-Fed,
Every Student Has Proper Health Care, and
No Student Is Left Homeless,
Then we can talk seriously about
"Every Student Succeeds."

There's a Way to Help Inner-City Schools. Obama's New Education Law Isn’t It.

from Pedro Noguera
[ESSA is] not addressing the real issues related to poverty that are contributing to why those schools are struggling. Having less emphasis on testing, particularly if states use those resources to devise other means to support schools, will be helpful. But you still don't have federal or state strategies to address issues related to poverty and how they affect schools—that's a glaring omission. The origins of these federal policies were tied to President Johnson's war on poverty. Supplemental funds were sent to school districts serving poor children to compensate for issues related to poverty. Since the enactment of NCLB, the focus on mitigating poverty has been replaced by a focus on accountability as measured by test scores.


from Alfie Kohn

Why Standardized Tests Should Not Be Used to Evaluate Teachers (and Teacher Education Programs)

Assessing any teachers with student standardized achievement tests is invalid. Achievement tests were developed to measure student achievement. The variables affecting a student's standardized test are too many to give a teacher credit or blame for the score.

Legislators who are responsible for requiring that student test scores be used to measure teacher quality listen up: Learn something about tests and measurements before you start passing laws about tests and measurements.

from David C. Berliner, quoted in Audrey Amrein-Beardsley's VAMboozled
Assessing new teachers with standardized achievement tests is likely to yield many false negatives. That is, the assessments would identify teachers early in their careers as ineffective in improving test scores, which is, in fact, often the case for new teachers. Two or three years later that could change. Perhaps the last thing we want to do in a time of teacher shortage is discourage new teachers while they acquire their skills.

Report: Lowest-scoring teachers concentrated in poorest schools

Any teacher who teaches in a school filled with students who live in poverty will become "low scoring teachers." Why is the USA one of only three advanced nations on Earth investing more money in schools for the wealthy than in schools for the poor?

Emphasis added.

from University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
Researchers say, however, that they don’t know whether the discrepancies reflect true differences in the quality of teaching or that it’s just harder to be effective or get high marks in higher-poverty schools.

“They may reflect that it is harder to get high scores in unorganized, chaotic schools or in schools with few resources or instructional supports for teachers, as other studies have shown,” the report notes.


NPE State Report Card 2016

The following is from the introduction to the 50 State Report Card given by the Network for Public Education. Diane Ravitch repeats her oft quoted belief that public education is something that we have agreed to provide for all children of our society because it benefits all of us.

By Diane Ravitch in Valuing Public Education: A 50 STATE REPORT CARD
Educating all children is a civic responsibility, not a consumer good. Sustaining a public education system of high quality is a job for the entire community, whether or not they have children in public schools and even if they have no children. An investment in the community’s children is an investment in the future, a duty we all share.


Plan to change teacher pay and pensions passes after emotional debate

In their continuing effort to cause damage to the public education system, the Indiana House of Representatives has passed a bill, under the guise of easing the looming teacher shortage, which will allow school systems to pay some teachers more money, thereby reducing the amount of money available for everyone else. This is the latest attack on teachers by legislators who are hell-bent on hurting the Indiana State Teachers Association even if that means destroying public education in the process. The bill now goes to the Senate.

by Melanie Wright, music teacher and member of the Indiana House of Representatives
“If we make those salaries negotiable and outside collective bargaining, we will have salaries all over the place,” she said. “Our mid-level teachers will look for options to get out. They already are exhausted from all the mandates that have been put on them.”


Most schools' grades stay flat

Kudos to this superintendent who is determined that the damage caused by the legislature will not prevent his school system from providing the best education it can for its students.

By Chris Himsel, superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools
“It’s not going to change what we do. We try to provide a healthy and safe learning environment that engages our learners in meaningful activities and supports them whenever learning becomes difficult and obstacles get in the way,” he said.

“Nothing’s going to deviate us away from that mission, and our primary focus at this point is not to look back on the past and all the issues that came across with the ISTEP+ and the transition to the new test and the new accountability standards and those kinds of things.”