"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.”


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