"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, March 9, 2016

2016 Medley #6

America's Priorities, Charters,
Testing, TFA, Reform


A Bill of Rights for School Children

If we really cared about the future of this country we'd make our children a national priority. They are the ones who will lead this country through the 21st century and beyond. Right now we have the highest child poverty rate in the developed world. We guarantee a dismal future when we allow nearly a quarter of our children to grow up in poverty. All the posturing of politicians are empty words to those children. They'll grow up, as Carl Sagan has suggested,
...as disadvantaged, as unable to cope with the society, as resentful for the injustice served up to them. This is stupid.
The U.S. needs to join the rest of the world and ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Children should be guaranteed safety, food, education, health care, equality, the right to free expression, and the right to play. These would guarantee children the right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Public education advocate and blogger Russ Walsh has written A Bill of Rights for School Children. We would do well to adopt this as well...
1. Every child has a right to a free, high quality, public education.

2. Every child has a right to attend a well-staffed, well-resourced, clean and safe local neighborhood school.

3. 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.

4. Every child has the right to a school that provides a rich and varied curriculum that includes the visual and performing arts, integrated technology, and physical education.

5. Every child has a right to a school that provides a rich and varied extra-curricular program including athletics, clubs, and service learning opportunities.

6. Every child has a right to instruction that is well-planned, engaging, and collaborative.

7. Every child has a right to instruction that is developmentally appropriate.

8. Every elementary school child has a right to daily recess.

9. Every child has the right to go to a school with adequate support personnel including librarians, nurses, guidance counselors, and learning support specialists.

10. Every child has a right to an element of choice in the educational program, including the right to choose to take advanced level courses. 


Mother of Girl Berated in Video Assails Success Academy’s Response

You've probably seen the video that went viral of the teacher at one of Eva Moskowitz's Success Academy charter schools berating and belittling a first grader. This article brings up a very important point which many parents aren't aware of when they engage with a charter management organization. There may not be a way to file a complaint or discuss the problem when the school doesn't have to be accountable to a publicly elected school board.
Seeking to hold someone accountable for what happened to her daughter, Ms. Miranda went into a Department of Education building in Brooklyn to ask about filing a complaint, but was told that Success was independent from the school district. She said that Ms. Nicholls, the principal, had given her information about how to reach Success’s board of trustees, and that she had sent a letter, but she was not optimistic that she would get a response.
You can write to the corporate board, but there's nothing making them pay any attention other than corporate profits. These people are for-profit which means that children are secondary. A commenter named Patricia wrote [emphasis added]:
This parent went to the DOE to file a complaint and was told that Success was independent of the district; how are we to expect major changes in a system when parents don't even understand how that system works. My guess is that this mother represents many hardworking parents who simply want a good public, local education for their children; they have no idea that they're actually handing their kids over to a private school completely outside the purview of local government that's funded with their own tax dollars.

National Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Reigning in Charter Schools

Speaking of parents who want a "good, public, local education for their children..." here's an article discussing a poll which shows that parents want neighborhood schools!

America's public school system, through each state's system, supposedly guarantees a free, appropriate, public education. It's never been perfect, but destroying it, instead of fixing it isn't rational. Parents and communities want improved schools in their neighborhoods not unaccountable charter schools. [emphasis added]
  • Overwhelming majorities, as high as 92%, back proposals to strengthen transparency and accountability, improve teacher training and qualifications, implement anti-fraud measures, ensure high-need students are served, and make sure neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected.
  • 92% of voters support requiring companies and organizations that manage charter schools to open board meetings to parents and the public.
  • 90% of voters support requiring companies and organizations that manage charter schools to release to parents and the public how they spend taxpayer money.
  • “School choice” ranks last in a list of the biggest concerns voters have for K-12 education, with only 8% listing it as a concern.
  • Far more popular than “school choice” or unaccountable charter schools is the concept of community schools, which serve as community hubs, ensuring that every student and their family gets the opportunity to succeed no matter what zip code they live in. 

Whom Do Charter Schools Serve?

Finally, the money keeps flowing from the taxpayers pockets to the charter operator's bank accounts with little or no accountability.
And now, irony climbs atop irony. Charter schools that have creamed high scoring students from the public schools are labeling high percentages of the students "autistic" to increase their state allotment from under $10,000 per regular student to about $20,000 per "autistic" student. And then they report no expenditures for special programs.


Teacher: Why Am I Testing This Child?

The number one enemy of education is still on the loose in our schools: high stakes testing. Policy makers, pundits, and politicians all bow down to the gods of accountability, even though high stakes tests don't measure what they use them for.

Diane Ravitch wrote, "Tests should be used only for the specific purpose for which they were created."

Any other use constitutes test misuse and abuse.

Student achievement tests are created to measure how much of a particular curriculum students have learned. We still misuse the tests and abuse schools, teachers, and students by
  • punishing students for not learning
  • punishing teachers for having students who don't learn 
  • punishing schools for having students who don't learn
And probably sooner, rather than later, we will begin punishing schools of education for graduating teachers who have students who don't learn.

The important phrase here is "students who don't learn." There are dozens of reasons why children struggle to learn, and most of them have little to do with school or teachers.
“In all seriousness, the level of absurdity is reached when a profoundly disabled student is required to be tested and the testing looks something like this… a teacher pulls a chair up to the student’s wheel chair and reads a test question to the student. The student has nearly no use of his limbs or body but can turn his head. Then the teacher reads the possible answers “A”… blah blah blah “B” … blah blah blah and then the teacher holds up a sheet with letters on them and tracks the students eyes trying to guess at where the child’s eyes are looking at A, B, C or D! Meanwhile most of the test material (if not all) is not even relevant to the child or part of the child’s learning day. His day is focused on physical therapy to learn to swallow or to increase motor movement in his very stiff arms and legs. He is well below grade level because along with his physical issues there are cognitive ones too. Is this really the best use of this child and teacher’s valuable time to force him to endure a grade level test based on his chronological age because EVERYONE MUST BE TREATED EXACTLY THE SAME so that data crunchers are happy?”

The Flawed Premises of Reform

Tests measure what the designers wrote them to measure. In recent years states have asked testing companies to make tests which will measure that which cannot be measured. Anxious to keep the money flowing from the states' treasuries, the testing companies have complied, even when the results are invalid and unreliable.

People want education reduced to a single number that they can rate as good or bad. The public doesn't want to be bothered by such things as disabilities, poverty, or social unrest. Those and other variables, which determine the validity of the tests, aren't interesting enough for politicians, journalists, and test-makers to discuss with the general public. Since people don't understand science and statistics, they don't understand the impact of variables. Politicians get money from test-makers and voters to provide answers. So, tests become the answer to everything that ails public education, and, by extension, the nation.
if we want better and more equitable results from our education system, we should... measure whether our kids are meeting them

Also sounds sort of sensible, and yet we do not know how to do it. It really is as simple as that-- we do not have a large-scale, standardized instrument that can measure all learning for all students in a standardized, one-size-measures-all manner. Instead of asking, "What's the best way to measure critical thinking" test manufacturers have asked "What's something we could do on a standardized mass-administered test that would pass for a critical thinking measure?"


Study examines Teach For America’s impact on costs, hiring at 5 school systems

Fire expensive teachers because they are too expensive...and then hire Teach For America temps who end up costing even more.

Is there even the slightest pretext among "reformers" that they're interested in student achievement?
Five major U.S. school systems – in Atlanta, Chicago, eastern North Carolina, New Orleans and New York – paid finder's fees that ranged from $2,000 to $5,000 per TFA corps member per contract year, a research team found in its examination of the organization's contracts with the school districts.

The financially troubled Chicago Public Schools paid TFA nearly $7.5 million in finder's fees between 2000 and 2014 – a time period when the school system also underwent significant budget cuts, closed numerous schools and laid off thousands of teachers, according to the study, published in Education Policy Analysis Archives.

The research team found similar payouts in Atlanta, where six school districts paid a total of $5.3 million in finder's fees for 690 TFA corps members who taught in the district's schools between 2007 and 2014.


How Do You Explain the Corporate Assault on Public Education to Friends Who Know Nothing About It?
...you have to give them examples of what “education reform” actually means....

Like “teachers are evaluated as ineffective or effective by the test scores of their students, even though research demonstrates that this is a flawed method”

Like “uncertified, inexperienced teachers who are assigned to the kids with the greatest needs”

And for a fanfare: “Our nation has pursued failed market-based policies for 15 years. It is time to do what works, based on evidence and experience.”


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