"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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016 Medley #17

Equity, Corporate Reform, Failure, Charters, ADHD, the War on Public Education, Community Schools, RtI


Chris Christie Punches Poor School Children in the Face

In the last session of the Indiana General Assembly the state's legislators decided to provide more money to wealthy districts and less money to poor districts. Now, New Jersey's Chris Christie has done the same. It's what Republican "reformist" policy makers do.

Rick Riordan wrote in his young adult novel The Red Pyramid, "Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need." That, in a nutshell, is the difference between equality and equity. With equality every school gets the same. With equity every school gets what it needs. As long as our policy makers are unable, or unwilling, to deal with the massive level of child poverty in the country, our schools, and all our public services for children, need to focus on equity.
It is, of course, clear that impoverished urban areas need more money to provide a decent education to children hobbled by the impact of poverty, poor nutrition, poor health care, high crime rates and unemployment. Recognition of this is what made New Jersey a national leader in providing extra resources to urban schools through the Abbott decisions of three decades ago. Christie says that the urban schools are getting the extra money, but are under-performing. He should know since for the last six years many of those districts have been under his control and he has failed at every turn to make improvements...

Christie's one-size-fits-all plan for taxation does not meet our most basic understandings of fairness and justice.


Going Off the Rails

Corporate education "reform" is a train wreck failure. "Failing" schools closed throughout the country have been replaced with other schools that, based on "reformers'" favorite metric, test scores, were "failures."

No matter how hard you work, malnourished and traumatized children will not score as high on standardized tests as children of the wealthy. No matter how well trained the teacher is, children who lack medical and dental care will not learn as well. No matter how much you threaten, teachers alone cannot overcome all the deleterious effects of poverty, segregation, and racism.

How long will we keep feeding fuel to a train wreck?
At what point after a locomotive crashes should the engineer and fireman stop shoveling coal?

I would think the first priorities in the above scenario would be to clean up the wreckage, investigate the cause of the crash, and then work to correct the reasons why the train went off the tracks in the first place.

That’s if you believe train wrecks are generally something to be avoided.

Therefore, adding more fuel to the flame by continuing to shovel coal into a broken train engine would be rather idiotic, right?


The Failure of Failure

Alfie Kohn reminds us that progressive education works better than canned programs and "teacher–proof" scripts.
A few years ago, two researchers in Singapore published a study that compared the effect of traditional and progressive instruction in middle-school math. The traditional approach consisted of having students listen to lectures and individually solve practice problems with clearly defined right answers. The progressive approach was defined by collaboration, discovery, and open-ended questions.

If you’re surprised to learn that the latter turned out to be much more effective — producing “deeper conceptual understanding without compromising performance [on conventional measures of achievement]” across “a spectrum of. . .ability levels” — well, chances are you haven’t been following the research in this area. It’s long been clear that direct instruction and other traditional practices aren’t very effective in general and are particularly counterproductive with younger children.


A Call to Action to Improve the Quality of Full-Time Virtual Charter Public Schools

Virtual (online) charter schools are so bad even charter school advocacy groups admit it.

This report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers reinforces the fact that virtual charter schools are failures. Their solution? Have the public pay to continue the failed experiment through continued funding of such schools. Let the profit continue while the privatizers try to fix things.
The well-documented, disturbingly low performance by too many full-time virtual charter public schools should serve as a call to action to state leaders and authorizers across the country.

It is time for state leaders to make the tough policy changes necessary to ensure that this model works more effectively than it currently does for the students it serves.

It is also time for authorizers to close chronically low-performing virtual charter schools.

Our organizations plan to work actively with state leaders and authorizers as they embark on these efforts.


When ADHD Collides With Grit: What to Do?

I grew up with untreated "minimal brain dysfunction" (the name for ADHD in the 50s and 60s)...and struggled as a student. I kept hearing "you're just lazy," "you need to try harder," and "you give up too easily." Year after year (decade after decade) of the same negative messages has a tendency to damage one's confidence (to say the least). It's still something I struggle with daily half a century later!

Demanding "grit" in students with ADHD is contraindicated. The one size fits all mentality (aka 'learn or be punished') damages our most vulnerable students and denies them of their right to an appropriate education.
...is today’s grit more punitive than helpful? Is it just an excuse to browbeat students into accomplishing unproven school agendas, or to insist that they put up with the lousy conditions adults fail to fix?

Think about the loss of recess. Is that supposed to teach grit?

In special education the goal for students with ADHD, or other differences, has always been about helping students find what they do best.


Why the right hates American history
In light of Oklahoma’s recent attack on AP History, it would be easy to argue that today’s Republicans don’t recognize the value of a good education. However, the reality is that they do, and that the spreading attack on public education is far more sinister.

When the Patriot Act was signed, Bush and his ilk claimed the power to violate citizens’ private lives because, they said, there is no “right to privacy” in the United States. In that, they – perhaps purposefully – overlooked the history of America and the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. And they missed a basic understanding of the evolution of language in the United States.

Of course, they weren’t the first to have made these mistakes. And, the Conservatives waging today’s war on education hope that they won’t be the last.


A Community Is More of a Community When It Has a School

Public schools provide an anchor for communities. They provide stability for children...something lacking when "failing" schools – i.e. schools in poor communities – are closed and replaced by charters which don't do any better.

Local schools are important for both urban and rural communities. "Churn" and disruption might be good for business, but it doesn't help children.
...while a community school reflects and preserves the strengths of its community, it also reflects the problems and weaknesses as well. But I also know, and have seen with my own eyes, that a community is more of a community when it has a school, a place where all members of that community come together to care for and nurture one of their most precious resources—their children. In a democratic society, that has to count for something.


Response to Intervention Falls Short

I was talking to a former colleague last week – a special education teacher – about Response to Intervention (RtI) and how it isn't working. We agreed that it seemed to be a way of keeping children from getting the special educational services they deserved – saving the school system money.

Many schools and school systems adopted RtI plans because money needed to fully support special education services was inadequate – public schools are still waiting for promised federal support. There are just too many kids who need help, and not enough special education teachers – as well as not enough money to pay special education teachers – to go around.

If we, as a nation, actually cared about our children (as opposed to "my children") we would make sure that extra help was provided when needed. Instead we dump the impossible task of fulfilling every classroom need on overworked and under–supported classroom teachers...and then blame them when it doesn't work.

A US Department of Education study evaluated RtI and found that there was little research basis for using it as a method of helping students. In fact, the report reports that RtI was worse than ineffective. It actually made things worse for some students.
...this study examined over 20,000 students in 13 states and found that first grade students who received RTI actually performed worse than a similar peer group that did not. Instead of catching up to grade level, the students receiving RTI lost the equivalent of one-tenth of a school year. To quote one of the study’s authors: “[T]his turns out to be what RTI looks like when it plays out in daily life.”


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Random Quotes – June 2016


Johnson Academy receives charter renewal

Hypocrisy at work.

The constant barrage of disdain against public schools by the legislature and the governor has led to an increase in the investment in privatization and the contrasting defunding of public education. "Public schools are 'failing'" the refrain goes, "so we need to divert tax money from the public schools to vouchers and charters."

Then we read something like this...

from The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Education One, a public charter school-authorizing entity based at Trine University, granted the Timothy L. Johnson Academy a two-year charter renewal.

The academy on Werling Drive in Fort Wayne now has a two-year charter effective June 30 through June 30, 2018.

The school was rated an “F” school in the A-F state accountability rating system for 2014. The two previous years, the school received a “D.”

The school, founded in 2002, lost its charter with Ball State University in 2013.


Unqualified, Uncertified Teachers: Where is the Outrage?

How "reformers" have worked to destroy the teaching profession – Indiana version.

Problem: Career professional teachers, supported by professional teachers unions, demand higher wages and benefits. This stands in the way of privatization in two ways; 1) higher personnel costs results in lower corporate profits, and 2) education professionals support increased resources for their students thereby further reducing profits.

Answer: Destroy the teaching profession (and public schools along with it) through the following steps:

1. Claim that public schools are "failing" and blame it on "bad teachers."

2. Evaluate teachers using test scores and restrict salary increases for teachers whose students score high. This reinforces the "bad teachers" myth and allows the destruction of the salary structure for all teachers. [Odd how "bad teachers" seem to congregate in schools with high levels of poverty. Oh, and deny that poverty is relevant to achievement.]

3. Threaten the livelihoods of teachers who work with hard-to-educate students, ESL students, students who live in poverty, and students with special needs, through punishments for teaching students with low test scores.

3. Attack and threaten teacher training institutions for turning out all those "bad teachers."

4. Divert funding from public education to vouchers and charter schools providing less funding for "failing" schools. Budgets are cut. Class sizes rise. Test scores suffer. Continue to blame "bad teachers."

5. Deny that experience matters. End seniority, salary schedules, and incentives for increased education or advanced degrees.

6. Once all these are in place and a teacher shortage develops, lower qualifications for teaching through state board of education policies.

7. Ignore all research about poverty and achievement, the effectiveness of experienced teachers, and the importance of investment in public education.

Success: Using non-professional, non-career teachers, with higher turnover rates, results in lower personnel costs and higher profits.

from Russ Walsh
I would like to see the business model of any successful company that says, "Let's forget trying to make the job more attractive to top candidates, we can just hire someone who is unqualified for the job."


The Disconnect Between Changing Test Scores and Changing Later Life Outcomes Strikes Again

A child is more than a test score.

from Jay Greene
If we think we can know which schools of choice are good and ought to be expanded and which are bad and ought to be closed based primarily on annual test score gains, we are sadly mistaken.


Report Demonstrates that Greater Investment, Well Distributed, Raises School Achievement

Mind the Gap: 20 Years of Progress and Retrenchment in School Funding, Staffing Resources, and Achievement Gaps

Instead of diverting funds away from public education we ought to be investing in our local public schools.

from Jan Resseger
“(A)cross states, over the past decade and a half in particular, states with lower pupil-to-teacher ratios and fairer distribution of staffing tend to have both higher outcomes among children from low-income families and smaller (economic) achievement gaps…. We also have evidence that states in which teacher wages are more competitive have smaller achievement gaps and higher scores for children from lower income families."

Her conclusion...
...you get what you pay for, and if you want to close achievement gaps between poor children and their privileged peers, you should spend what you need to to ensure that the children living in the poorest communities get the added attention they need from highly qualified teachers.


Across the Nation, Education is Getting Short Shrift

Tax dollars earmarked for public education are being diverted to privatization schemes such as vouchers and charters. Americans, through their legislators, bought and paid for by corporate donors, are neglecting their future.

From Jeff Bryant at The Progressive
You can place blame for the country's education funding crisis squarely at the feet of state lawmakers and policy leaders who simply refuse to fund schools.


Second graders imagine their dream school. It isn’t what you might think.

What would you have wished for when you were in second grade?

Second graders at a Boston elementary school said they wish for a school with
  • "...pencils, markers, and glue sticks..."
  • "...a shiny and new school..."
  • "...a room with soft things and people to talk to..."
  • "...a better playground..."
  • "...a class pet and field trips to far-away places..."
  • "...a whole library..."
What kind of school do your kids deserve?

from Lily Holland via Valerie Strauss
I think I’ve changed my mind. When I introduced this activity, I originally said I dreamed of a school with an outdoor garden that my students and I could use to grow healthy food. Now I think I dream of a school where 7-year-olds don’t have to just dream about the schools they deserve.


Teaching, GOP lose frustrated Hoosier

Professional, career teachers are leaving education. The loss will be felt in years to come when our leaders only come from the elites who could afford quality education and our voting population consists of adults whose education was damaged by greed and shortsightedness.

From Brenda Yoder in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette
Establishment Republicans don’t seem to care about these students or others who need caring teachers more than they need six weeks of ISTEP+. They don’t care about the rural communities where schools are fighting just to stay alive. They don’t care about excellent teachers who do their best for the students they love.

They care about the money they can get from ALEC, Pearson and from being elected by the “voucher” bandwagon. Seriously, vouchers aren’t the issue anymore. Integrity, real needs, and change are.


We Can Recover From The School Choice Movement

The "choice" in education has always been available for those who were wealthy. "Choice" now means that privatized schools can choose their students. Parents who are confused and without a well-staffed, well funded neighborhood school to rely on, are left to struggle with the system.

from Ed Berger, Ed.D
“Choice” is a marketplace idea wrongly applied to education. The assumption that most parents have the information they need to make intelligent decisions about the education their children need, and the education children need to be effective citizens, has been proven wrong. School choice has failed to improve our schools. In fact, choice has created a chaos of confusion for parents who have risked (gambled) on moving their children out of comprehensive education programs to place them in partial education programs. The costs of these misguided experiments is evident in high dropout rates, incomplete educations, and damaged children.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Father's Day Reminder: Read Aloud to Your Children

An annual Father's Day post...with changes.


I started teaching elementary school in 1976 and from my very first day as a teacher I read aloud to my students. I had caught the read aloud bug from Lowell Madden, one of my Education School Professors and had it reinforced by Jim Trelease, whose Read Aloud Handbook is a treasure of information for anyone who is interested in reading aloud to children. [I've referenced Jim Trelease quite a few times on this blog.]

I read aloud to all my classes because I'm convinced that reading aloud is one of the best tools we have to help children learn to read. Reading is, arguably, the single most important skill a child learns in school.

Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us that  [Emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

The commission found conclusive evidence to support reading aloud not only in the home but also in the classroom: “It is a practice that should continue throughout the grades.” 
In its wording—“the single most important activity”—the experts were saying reading aloud was more important than worksheets, homework, assessments, book reports, and flashcards. One of the cheapest, simplest, and oldest tools of teaching was being promoted as a better teaching tool than anything else in the home or classroom. What exactly is so powerful about something so simple you don’t even need a high school diploma in order to do it and how exactly does a person get better at reading? It boils down to a simple, two-part formula:
  • The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
  • The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Reading aloud to children is an activity that entertains...it strengthens personal bonds, it informs and explains...but, according to Trelease, when you read aloud to a child you also:
  • Condition the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
  • Create background knowledge
  • Build vocabulary
  • Provide a reading role model
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.


In the newest edition of his book, Trelease devotes an entire chapter to fathers and reading aloud.

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease: CHAPTER 9: Dad—What's the score?
In case you’ve been off the planet for the past several decades, let me bring you up-to-date on our boys and their school woes.
  • In a 2008 study of reading tests in forty-five states, the girls exceeded the boys at every grade level.
  • Unlike four decades ago, it is now common for girls to dominate a high school’s highest academic positions (valedictorian), class leadership positions, advanced placement spaces, and school activities. While the girls are assuming responsibilities, the boys are playing sports or video games.
  • For the first time in history, women exceed their male counterparts in most collegiate achievements, from enrollment and graduation to earning advanced degrees, and the gap is widening annually. About the only significant area in which males dominate in college is “dropout,” where they lead by a 3:2 ratio.
(And an excellent pamphlet with important information specifically for dads....Fathers, Sons and Reading)

Boys, Trelease says, need their fathers to read to them. The relationship between fathers and sons has changed over the years, and not necessarily in a good way. Over the last few decades America's "male" culture has been dominated by sports and television -- ESPN (and ESPN2, ESPN Classic, etc.), Monday Night Football, and others -- and boys watch their role models carefully.
The landscape of the American male’s attention span was being dramatically altered and boys were soaking up the changes.
"Is there a connection," he asks, between the "decline in boys’ interest and achievement in school and the behavior of the male culture?"
Can a father play catch in the backyard after dinner and still read to the child that same evening? Can they go to a game one day and to the library the next? You betcha.
The question is...do they? Do fathers take part in their children's, and specifically their sons', intellectual development? Reading aloud to your child is an easy, fun way for fathers to have a positive academic influence on their children.
Dad—what have you done for your son’s head lately?
Make a Father's Day resolution. Read to your kids every day.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

2016 Medley #16

Elections, Why Teachers Quit, Reading in Kindergarten, Third Grade Punishment, Segregation


Now that it’s Clinton v Trump, where do they stand on education?

If you haven't yet decided who to vote for based on foreign policy experience, likely supreme court nominees, or something else, here are some samples of the education policies of the two major party candidates for POTUS...

[Full disclosure: I'm not a Democrat. I think that the education policies of the Obama administration under the disastrous direction of Arne Duncan has damaged public education as much, if not more, than the policies of George W. Bush. While Hillary Clinton says some of the right things I have no reason to believe that she will be a better "education president" than Presidents Bush (II) or Obama. On the other hand, I won't vote for Trump, a bigoted demagogue who won't denounce the white supremacists, racists, and anti-semites who support him. I'll vote for Clinton if the polls show that she can win Indiana. If not, I'll vote for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party]

Clinton: “We should be ruthless in looking at tests and eliminating them if they do not actually help us move our kids forward.” International Business Times, 10/24/15
Trump: No position.


Clinton: Too many charter schools “don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids or, if they do, they don’t keep them. And so the public schools are often in a no-win situation, because they do, thankfully, take everybody.” The Washington Post, 11/08/15
Trump: “We’ve got to bring on the competition — open the schoolhouse doors and let parents choose the best school for their children. Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00


Clinton: “I will ensure that teachers always have a seat at the table in making decisions that impact their work.” U.S. News & World Report, 10/03/15
Trump: “Schools are crime-ridden and they don’t teach.” “The America We Deserve,” by Donald Trump, 07/02/00


A Teacher Retires After 25 Years, Dismayed At How His Profession Has Changed

How long will we continue the test and punish, racial and economically segregating, anti-child, education policies of "reformers?" This is why there is a teacher shortage. This is why veteran teachers leave the profession instead of continuing to hurt the children they are supposed to teach. This is why we need to replace the state legislators and governors who get their kick-backs from testing companies and privatizers.
Why would Rick Young, a 58-year-old teacher who imagined he'd teach until the end of his working career, leave something he’s so obviously passionate about?

“It’s become a lot harder to teach and especially to teach in a way that I personally think is meaningful for my students,” he said.

Young is talking about a national trend in teaching to more clearly document and measure what’s taught, meant to keep teachers accountable, along with a new standards. That led to a shift for teachers toward standardizing lesson planning.

He said this means filling out what is, to his mind, endless paperwork as he now must plan his lessons in a more systematic and precise way.


Winning the battle but losing the war? Behind the science of early reading instruction.
There is lots of evidence that reading books to young children, even to little babies, helps children to develop their language skills. Books offer exposure to a wide variety of words, provide children with valuable knowledge about the world, and provide a treasured sharing opportunity for parents and children. However, the transition to independent reading is one that deserves careful consideration. As noted by Dr. Nancy Carlsson-Paige in her essay, “Defending the Early Years”, most kindergartners are not developmentally ready to learn to read. This is not to say they should be kept away from letters and sounds. Champions for play-based pre-school education have articulated a wide variety of ways in which play-based curricula can skillfully weave in letters, sounds and books without formal teaching or formal assessments. Feeding a curiosity for sounds, letters, and books in a way that truly excites and engages the child can nurture later reading. An early introduction to books is a very good thing for young children. However, an early expectation that a child will learn to read independently may actually backfire.


Retention doesn't work. The research is clear. At its very best, retention doesn't help students beyond the first one or two years.  Intense, early intervention works, but costs money. Americans, many educators included, would rather ignore the research than spend the money and effort to help students. Privatizers glory in the "learn or be punished" scenario which allows them to blame public schools and public school teachers for "failing."

Here are some links to actual research in grade retention, including some links within the links.
While retention policies are receiving a lot of attention due to a push to improve 3rd-grade reading, early identification and intervention are more likely to improve student performance.
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).
Another reason we strongly oppose this policy is that the consensus among researchers and experts is overwhelming that retaining students, no matter what their actual level of achievement, is likely to damage rather than help their educational prospects.
Models suggest that early primary grade retention scars the educational career mainly at high school completion, though there are important, unconditional effects on college entry and completion as a result.

Read-By-Third Grade Begins the Destruction of Young Children in Nevada

A dozen and a half states force schools to retain third graders who don't "pass the test" including Indiana...and now Nevada.
A century of education research proving retention does NOT work should be enough.

Simply: Whole group learning did not work the first time so the remedy should not be another year of whole group learning. Repetition of a grade level, without a significant change in the method of instruction does not work. Real remedies would include smaller class-size, differentiated instruction, language learning scaffolding if necessary, or individualized support like tutoring in small groups. The worst possible remedy is blanket retention for large masses of at-risk studennts.


The children of children who went to desegregated schools reap benefits, too, study finds

In 1954 the US Supreme Court decided that separate but equal schools were inherently unequal and were unconstitutional. But in 2007, the Roberts Court sidestepped Brown which set the stage for today's resegregation of America's public schools. For a short time after Brown, the Federal Department of Education took steps to make sure that schools were desegregated.

Did desegregation work? Studies showed that black students benefited from desegregation. A new report shows that the benefits continued to the next generation as well.
Previous studies have also found large benefits to black students after desegregation. But Johnson also tracked the offspring of these desegregated students — the next generation, born after 1980. And Johnson found that the more years of desegregated schooling their parents had experienced, the better outcomes these kids had. Specifically, these children had higher math and reading test scores, were less likely to repeat a grade, were more likely to graduate from high school, go to college and attend a higher quality college.

Tomorrow’s Test

Our students are a diverse group of humans...education needs to adjust.
Our schools face two central challenges as they diversify. First, how do we train and retain educators to relate to students from a broad range of racial, cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic backgrounds? More than 50 percent of public school students are now low-income. One out of 5 speaks a language other than English at home. And nearly one quarter are foreign-born or have at least one foreign-born parent. Meanwhile, about 80 percent of America’s public school teachers are white—down from 86 percent 20 years ago—and more than three-quarters are female.

As public school students diversify, qualities such as empathy, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and understanding are more important than ever in our teachers—just as they will be for all of us in an increasingly diverse society. Teachers will need to have the capacity to serve not just as instructors but also as cultural brokers and social leaders, aware of their own biases, empathetic when confronting difference, comfortable with change.

The Charter School Swindle – Selling Segregation to Blacks and Latinos

Why do we continue to throw away taxpayers' money on charter schools which can leave whenever they decide it's no longer profitable? It's time to invest in real public schools. Fix the schools we have, don't throw them away!
...charter schools DO increase segregation. They DO suspend children of color at higher rates than traditional public schools. And they DO achieve academic outcomes for their students that are generally either comparable to traditional public schools or – in many cases – much worse.

Segregation — Racial, Ethnic, and Economic — Dominates Nation’s Schools
According to the Civil Rights Project’s researchers, the most racially segregated states today are New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and New Jersey. They add: “The relative decline in the ranking of Michigan, which was often up with Illinois and New York as most segregated, probably relates to the drastic shrinkage of the Detroit Public Schools and suburbanization of black families in that metropolitan area.”

Today, the nation’s most populous and urban northern states post the highest rates of black-white school segregation, while the Brown decision was quite successful in integrating the schools across the South. Why is that? “Because of the dramatic changes in southern segregation produced by the enforcement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, none of the 17 states that completely segregated schools by law (e.g., the type of mandatory segregation that was the focus of the Brown decision) have headed this list since 1970…. The ironic historic reality is that the decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court supported very demanding desegregation standards for the South while the interpretation of Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation limited the impact of Brown in the North and West. This was a massive oversight since segregation in those regions resulted from residential segregation, itself a result of a myriad of governmental policies and private decisions like segregative school and teacher assignments by school boards, discriminatory housing policies and other local and state policies.”


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Why We Test


Indiana is currently wasting millions of dollars on bad tests used for the invalid purposes...for ranking students, retaining students in grade (IREAD-3), evaluating teachers, and grading schools.

The general consensus is that the tests are too long, taking too much time from instruction, so more money is being spent on the quest for a new test...one which will likely also be a bad test used for the same invalid purposes, but perhaps a bit shorter.

Today's Chalkbeat featured an article about the search for a new test and why Indiana would probably not choose a test which teachers actually liked and found helpful...the NWEA MAP test.

[Note: The NWEA MAP test is the same test Seattle Teachers boycotted in 2013 because it was being misused...it wasn't tied to the curriculum, and it was used to evaluate teachers. The creators of the test said that the test should not be used to judge students and teachers. See Why Garfield teachers boycotted the MAP test]

In Chalkbeat's article, Here’s why a test loved by teachers isn’t likely to replace Indiana’s ISTEP, Shaina Cavasos wrote,
The test, created by the Northwest Evaluation Association, can be administered two to four times per year in English and Math. It takes far less time than typical state exams — about an hour per subject per session — and teachers can see the results immediately, enabling them to tailor their lessons to areas where kids are showing deficits.
Sounds perfect, doesn't it? The test is shorter, taking less time away from instruction. It's more helpful to teachers so they can actually use it to learn what their students academic needs are and improve instruction.


What's the purpose of testing? Is it a tool to identify winners and losers in public education or is it a tool to help teachers improve their instruction and help students learn?
Indiana law also discourages the use of tests like MAP — so-called “formative” or “interim” assessments — as an annual state exam because the state’s A-F grading system is based on the percentage of students who pass or fail the test. MAP isn’t designed to determine which students have passed or failed according to state expectations for what kids should know at each grade level like ISTEP is — students can theoretically score anywhere on the MAP scale in any grade.
The problem is that the MAP test does what a test is supposed to do – it tells teachers where a child is in his or her learning and gives them information they can use to help their students achieve.

Indiana doesn't want that, however. Indiana wants a test that separates kids into winners and losers. Indiana wants a test that will label schools, and their neighborhoods, on a scale of A to F.
“Measuring student growth independent of grade level … that is a different purpose then measuring student performance against grade level,” Mendenhall said.
Indiana's test must tell us which students are at "grade level" – an arbitrarily determined number designed to brand as "failing" schools, teachers, and children.

The test is also inadequate for compliance with ESSA the new federal law which replaced NCLB.
“(Federal law) requires we have a grade level test on grade level standards,” Roach said. “While we do generally like (MAP), and it’s very useful to us, I think…that would need to be studied in-depth.”
The law still requires that we test kids every year...though one nice change is that punishment for failure is left up to the state.
But it’s hard to ignore that teachers say they appreciate the more specific feedback from MAP over any kind of results they get from ISTEP or A-F grades.
It's hard to ignore a test that teachers actually think might be helpful...unless you're an Indiana policy maker, or Governor, who needs a way to label teachers and schools as failures in order to bust the teachers unions and divert public funds to privately run and private schoools.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

2016 Medley #15

Request for White House Conferences on Public Education, Indiana Election, Myths, Poverty, Vouchers, Charters, School Libraries, Experience, Testing


BATs Request a White House Conference on EDUCATION and EQUITY

It's time to take the issue of public education equity to the nation. The US is one of only three advanced nations which spend more money on our wealthy students than on our poor students. Successful nations do just the opposite!
The Badass Teachers Association, representing a network of over 70,000 teachers and education activists throughout the United States, formally request a White House Conference on Education and Equity. Our organization stands firmly against the serious harm being perpetrated to public education by both corporate privatization and right wing fiscal starvation policies. The current political rhetoric strengthens our resolve to reclaim the rights of all children to a free public education.
Learn more *here*.
Our organization proposes that a White House Conference be initiated immediately. Like much of the American landscape, Public K-12 Education requires infrastructure overhaul that have been installed to insert barriers that inhibit authentic learning. We do not accept the mendacity that racial and ethnic minorities must fail due to a manufactured system that sets them up to do so.


Truth versus myth - Mike Pence's education record

Mike Pence, Governor of Indiana, has spent the last four years fighting for education...not public education, but private education: vouchers and charters. The Indiana State Teachers Association highlights the falsehoods in his recent campaign commercial.
Gov. Mike Pence recently released a campaign commercial highlighting what he considers his positive record on education in Indiana. His wife, Karen, was the messenger.

One could argue that his commercial contains more electoral mythology than actual truth. Here are some facts clarifying Pence’s record on education...

Pre-K tops Ritz education priorities

A main target of Mike Pence's anti-public education agenda has been Democratic State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. Pence and his cronies in the State Board of Education and supermajority packed General Assembly have done everything they could to make her job all but impossible.

Here Ritz emphasizes the importance of early childhood education. Earlier Pence refused a federal grant for Early Childhood to the tune of $80 million. Now, because it's an election year, he's jumped on the early childhood bandwagon...
Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz on Tuesday outlined her 2016 education policy priorities with a spotlight on expanding pre-kindergarten to all Hoosier children.

She wants to make high-quality pre-K available within the boundaries of every school district in the state regardless of income of the child.

“Through a combination of leveraging federal dollars, reverting state allocations and eliminating wasteful spending in the state’s budget, the funds are there if the political will exists,” she said. “With less than 1 percent of the state’s annual budget, we can ensure more of our children are kindergarten ready.”


Deconstructing the Myth of American Public Schooling Inefficiency

"Reform" propaganda focuses on "bad teachers," public schools that are "failing," and other myths about public education in order to encourage privatization. See also 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America's Public Schools by David C. Berliner and Gene V. Glass.
In this report, Rutgers University Professor Bruce D. Baker and Rutgers Ph.D. student Mark Weber address the common myth that U.S. public schools are inefficient - that is, spend way more money than do other nations and get worse results. They begin with a discussion of the typical presentations of data on U.S. educational efficiency, particularly those comparing the U.S. with other nations, as well as a discussion of key concepts, approaches, and research in the evaluation of educational efficiency. They then go on to present a more refined analysis of the data by adjusting for student characteristics, inputs such as class size, and other factors.


Same old story: Test scores reflect demographics

Just like always...test scores mirror family income.
There’s nothing new or surprising here, of course. It’s just another illustration of the well-known fact that test scores are largely an indication of socioeconomic status and only secondarily a reflection of school effectiveness.


On negative effects of vouchers

We were told that vouchers were the only way poor children could leave "failing" schools to attend "successful" private schools. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who weren't so poor. Then the voucher program was expanded to children who were already in private schools.

Voucher programs are not a way to help children get a better education. They're a way to take public money and drop it into the collection plates of religious institutions.
Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools. The magnitudes of the negative impacts were large. These studies used rigorous research designs that allow for strong causal conclusions. And they showed that the results were not explained by the particular tests that were used or the possibility that students receiving vouchers transferred out of above-average public schools.

Another explanation is that our historical understanding of the superior performance of private schools is no longer accurate. Since the nineties, public schools have been under heavy pressure to improve test scores. Private schools were exempt from these accountability requirements. A recent study showed that public schools closed the score gap with private schools. That study did not look specifically at Louisiana and Indiana, but trends in scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress for public school students in those states are similar to national trends.

In education as in medicine, ‘first, do no harm’ is a powerful guiding principle. A case to use taxpayer funds to send children of low-income parents to private schools is based on an expectation that the outcome will be positive. These recent findings point in the other direction. More needs to be known about long-term outcomes from these recently implemented voucher programs to make the case that they are a good investment of public funds. As well, we need to know if private schools would up their game in a scenario in which their performance with voucher students is reported publicly and subject to both regulatory and market accountability.


Charter schools' purpose forgotten

Why turn over public funds to private organizations if they don't do better than real public schools? Wouldn't it be better for us to support our already existing public education system?
If a charter school can’t perform better than a conventional public school, there is no point in having the charter school.

After all, Ohio embarked on the charter-school experiment to see if there is a way to improve on the dismal results being achieved in many urban and poor school districts, not simply to replicate their failure. The idea was that if student outcomes improved in charter schools, then the schools would continue. But if charters failed to improve on the performance of conventional schools, they would be closed.

Now, years after the experiment began, some schools are persistent failures, but instead of being shut down, they want to change the performance measuring stick so that they can remain in business.


Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement

A school library without a certified librarian is like a classroom without a certified teacher. A school without a library is a travesty.
Simply put, students suffer when they don’t have adequate resources—and, in particular, we’ve found that student achievement suffers when schools lack libraries that are staffed by full-time librarians. “Nearly every public school in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties has a library with certified staff, which has been proven to increase student reading and comprehension,” notes Kintisch. “In contrast, most public schools in Philadelphia do not employ a certified librarian, and more than 140 do not have a library.”


Does Teaching Experience Increase Teacher Effectiveness? A Review of the Research

Teacher effectiveness grows with experience. It is common sense, and it's fact.
Based on a review of 30 studies published within the last 15 years, the authors find that as teachers gain experience throughout their careers, their students’ achievement gains increase. Although the steepest gains in effectiveness are in the first few years of teaching, this improvement continues in the second and often third decade of their careers, especially when they work in collegial work environments.
Read the report *here*.

TESTING: A New Level of Third Grade Testing Punishent

FL: District Officials Lose Their Damned Minds

[Note: See the update following this]

In Florida, like Indiana and elsewhere, third grade students must pass a test to be promoted to fourth grade. The utter stupidity and abusiveness of this policy is part of America's "Learn or be Punished" mentality developed by "reformers" who don't know anything about children and education. It proves without a doubt (in my mind) that legislators who pass these sorts of laws don't care about children (other than their own, perhaps), and are just interested in lining the pockets of their testing company campaign donors – because you know that's who is bankrolling their election campaigns.

In addition, Florida education policy punishes students who attempt to opt out of the test. This would be an example of "choice," except of course, parents are not allowed to "choose" something that "reformers" don't like. Choose charter schools? Yep. Choose vouchers? Absolutely. Choose to opt your child out of a developmentally inappropriate high stakes standardized test? No way!

The result is that students in third grade whose parents choose to opt them out of the test – it's the parents who decide because, let's face it, most eight and nine year olds don't know much about the opt out process – may be retained in third grade.
This year a third grader can have great grades, the recommendation of her teacher and principal, and the admiration of her peers-- but if she didn't take the BS Test, she will fail third grade.

Let me say that again. An eight year old child who had a great year in class, demonstrated the full range of skills, and has a super report card-- that child will be required to repeat third grade because she didn't take the BS Test.

This is what happens when the central values of your education system are A) compliance and B) standardized testing. This is what happens when you completely lose track of the purpose of school.


FL: Dept of Ed Says, "Don't Blame Us!" (w/Update)
Now comes word courtesy of the Gradebook at the Tampa Bay Times, talking to the Florida Department of Education--

"Our primary guidance to the districts is to follow the law," spokeswoman Meghan Collins said Tuesday. "Obviously, the law says participation on the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment) is mandatory. But we never said you must retain a student who doesn't have an FSA score."

Collins also elaborated that there was no requirement to take the test before an alternative assessment could be used.

Collins also told Jeffrey Solochek at the Times that the department would not be sending out a letter of clarification. "We've already made ourselves plenty damn clear enough for supposedly educated people who can read and speak English," she did not actually say, but I thought I'd paraphrase. "Local decisions are to be made locally, particularly if they are so glaringly dumb that the fallout will be terrible," she only sort of approximately continued. This is, honestly, better than I expected, given that Florida is the state that once insisted a dying child take the Big Standardized Test.

 "I'm nervous about failing FCAT"


Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer Safety, Summer Learning Loss, Intelligent Parenting

Summer vacation has started...swimming, mosquitos, summer learning loss. Here's are some tips for
  • summer safety
  • preventing summer learning loss
  • intelligent parenting 24/7


Watch your children when they're in the water. Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning. Click the link. Be prepared...
  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has two pages of safety information. Print them and save them...

Summer safety tips...(and en Español).
  • Fireworks safety
  • Bug safety
  • Playground safety
  • Bicycle safety
  • Skateboard, scooter, in-line skating and heelys safety
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Lawn mower safety
and Sun and Water Safety Tips (also en Español)
  • Fun in the sun
  • Heat stress in exercising chidlren
  • Pool safety
  • Boating Safety
  • Open water swimming


The most important summer learning task for parents and care-givers -  read aloud to your children...EVERY DAY.
“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.” -- Becoming a Nation of Readers
Need some help with read aloud? Try these...
Also see


Increase harmony during summer vacation with some tips from parenting experts. Don't just read the lists here...go to the sites and take a look.

10 Commandments of Good Parenting
  • What you do matters.
  • You cannot be too loving.
  • Be involved in your child's life.
  • Adapt your parenting to fit your child.
  • Establish and set rules.
  • Foster your child's independence.
  • Be consistent.
  • Avoid harsh discipline.
  • Explain your rules and decisions.
  • Treat your child with respect.

9 Steps to More Effective Parenting
  • Nurture Your Child's Self-Esteem
  • Catch Kids Being Good
  • Set Limits and Be Consistent With Your Discipline
  • Make Time for Your Kids
  • Be a Good Role Model
  • Make Communication a Priority
  • Be Flexible and Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style
  • Show That Your Love Is Unconditional
  • Know Your Own Needs and Limitations as a Parent


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Gates Gets Schooled

As reported in a Los Angeles Times editorial, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO, Sue Desmond-Hellman, has admitted that...
“It is really tough to create more great public schools.”

Massive wealth doesn't necessarily equal massive knowledge, and the Gates Foundation has shown over and over again that its knowledge about how to improve America's education system is anything but massive.

Let's begin with just three of the assumptions the Gates Foundation used when funding its education ideas.

ASSUMPTION #1 – Small schools are better.

Small schools can work, but it takes money. Lakeside School, Bill Gates's Alma Mater, for example, has less than 800 students in grades 5 through 12. They also charge $30 thousand dollars a year tuition per child along and have an endowment of $118 million. Even if only half of the students paid the full tuition they would have a working budget of $10 million a year.

How successful would the public schools in Detroit or Chicago be if they had a budget of $10 million a year for each school?

When Bill Gates decided that he didn't want to experiment with small schools any more he pulled his funding and left the schools in the lurch. Without Gates funding...
‘We ran into cash flow problems that were directly related to growth and the speed of growth. It was very, very unfortunate.’
So, small schools might be nice, but billionaires' contributions are not guaranteed. America needs fully funded, publicly run, public schools which are not dependent on the whims of billionaires or the fluctuations of the "market."

ASSUMPTION #2 – Teachers aren't really trying so they need an economic incentive to try harder.

When did it become fashionable to assume that all teachers were lazy and didn't really want to do the hard work of helping students achieve?

"Reformers" choose to dump all the blame for low student achievement on teachers instead of considering other out-of-school factors. This is convenient for those public servants who are responsible for out-of-school factors influencing achievement. Most teachers are working as hard as they can to help students. Extra money, while it would be welcome, would probably not influence student achievement. Curiously enough, that's exactly what researchers find when they study financial incentive plans for teachers.

Yet Another Study Shows That Financial Incentives Don’t Work
...it did not improve the achievement of students, to say the least. If anything, such incentive in fact worsened the performance of students….Not only that, but the incentive program had no effect on teachers’ absenteeism, retention in school or district, nor did it affect the teachers’ perception of the learning environment in a school...
Merit Pay Misfires
When asked to take on a merit-pay system, teachers typically point to the fact that they have no control over who is assigned to their classes. Every veteran teacher knows that groups of students will vary in their ability and motivation from year to year. Each class presents its own set of challenges. And this variation exists across schools and districts.
Tying Teacher Salaries to Test Scores Doesn't Work
Research shows that the carrot of higher pay does not lead to better results. In an authoritative study conducted at Vanderbilt University, for example, teachers who were offered bonuses for improving student test results produced no more improvement than the control group.

Similar studies of teacher merit pay have shown null results in New York City and Chicago. Because of the lack of positive results, a number of pay for performance programs have been abandoned, including programs in New York City and California.

Methods that use test scores to evaluate teachers, including the currently popular “value added” calculations, have also proved highly unreliable. The National Academy of Sciences and experts assembled by the Economic Policy Institute have warned of the potentially damaging consequences of implementing test-based evaluation systems or merit pay based on test scores.
ASSUMPTION #3 – Standards will make schools better

Standards, along with well maintained facilities, a well developed curriculum, and best teaching practices, are all important for student achievement. But even the best standards won't heal what ails our nation's public schools if that's all we have.

Desmond-Hellman admitted this when she wrote,
“Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement the standards,”
And the Common Core State Standards are not "the best standards" despite the millions that the Gates Foundation dumped into them.

OBVIOUS ASSUMPTION #1 – Teachers Know More About Education than Billionaires

We don't let billionaires tell firefighters how to fight fires. Billionaires don't get to decide what books belong in the public library. Billionaires should not make public education policy just because they have a lot of money.

The LA Times said...
Philanthropists are not generally education experts, and even if they hire scholars and experts, public officials shouldn’t be allowing them to set the policy agenda for the nation’s public schools. The Gates experience teaches once again that educational silver bullets are in short supply and that some educational trends live only a little longer than mayflies.
Desmond-Hellman finished her discussion of Gates Foundation education programs with the depressingly obvious comment that
"...the Gates Foundation doesn’t have all the answers.”
It would have been nice if Bill Gates had understood that when he began his foray into influencing public education a decade and a half ago.

Does he understand it now?


For Further Reading:

The Educator and the Oligarch: A Teacher Challenges the Gates Foundation

Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools