"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, August 31, 2016

2016 Medley #22

Charters, Why Teachers Quit,
"Failing" Schools, Local Control, Money


In the eyes of the NLRB, charter schools are private, not public

In order to cash in on public money spent on education charter school promoters insist that charters are "public schools." However, in the eyes of the charter operators themselves, when they are put under pressure by the public to "act" like public schools they become private entities. See here, here, here, and here.

Now, the federal government has gotten into the discussion and has decided, through a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that charter schools are, indeed, private.

In other words, charter schools are just another voucher plan that transfers money intended for public education into private pockets.
A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), concludes that charter schools are private and efforts to start teachers unions in them should fall under their purview, rather than the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) which oversees the public sector.

The decision stemmed from efforts by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to unionize teachers at the Hyde Leadership charter school in Brooklyn.

PERB had asserted jurisdiction over the school, but the union ended up arguing that organizing efforts should be overseen by the NLRB which administers labor law in the private sector.

The NLRB in its decision, concluded that “Hyde was not established by a state or local government, and is not itself a public school.”

Detroit charter school closes just two weeks before first day of class

Local public school systems generally face a significant amount of opposition when they try to close a public school. Public meetings are held, parents argue for keeping their children's school open, alumni come back to talk about the impact the school had on their lives, and citizens argue that the school is an integral part of the community. Closing a public school is often a time-consuming and traumatic experience for the community and the students (See this article about schools closing in my community).

Free-market proponents want schools to be subject to the whims of the marketplace. In such a system, they believe, "bad" schools will close and "good" schools will be supported. The problem is that school closings hurt children. Two weeks before school started, this charter school in Detroit closed its doors. Parents are left having to frantically search for another school for their children. This, it seems to me, is an important benefit of a public school system under the oversight of an elected school board. Real public schools don't close two weeks before school starts, or in the middle of the year. School boards generally create a plan for relocating students from schools which are closed.

But for the charter industry...school closing is a feature, not a bug.
Just two weeks before the first day of class, a charter school on Detroit’s west side notified parents and students today that the high school has closed.

Officials for University YES Academy held an impromptu meeting today to tell high school students they needed to find another school to attend. Only parents and students were allowed in the meeting, and they were barred from using recording devices.

How charters became the most segregated schools in Indianapolis

See also The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
...as charter schools expand their reach across the country and every year educate a larger share of the nation’s children, the issue of racial segregation has raised significant concerns among integration advocates who warn that it can push low-income students into low-achieving schools and reduce the resources going to high-needs schools.

Even at schools like Tindley that are relatively high performing, critics say graduates will be less prepared to interact with people from different backgrounds later in life.


Why Do Teachers Stay? What Makes them Leave?

How do teachers live with the cognitive dissonance inherent in today's educational environment? How can you justify government sponsored malpractice? Each teacher must decide if they can do enough to overcome the damage done by the test-and-punish education promoted by statehouses and the the US Education Department, or whether they will succumb to that which hurts their students.
Teachers must decide…do they stay or do they go? Either way they choose, teachers usually feel guilty.

There are some who say that teachers who recognize the draconian classroom goals and objectives and their professional emasculation, should all quit. They should announce to the world that they hate high-stakes testing, or Common Core, Competency-Based Education (CBE), or an innumerable array of insidious reforms, and then they should proudly stake their career on their beliefs and walk out the door.

Some do this, and then they go fight like hell for the rights of teachers and students.

Some teachers of like mind, ban together and put up a fight, like the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School who boycotted testing.

Some teachers cry for awhile, then they turn away. They believe the only thing they can do is work on something else that will bring joy and happiness. They focus on their corner of the world, where they feel they have some control.

Who’s the best kind of teacher? That is not for me to judge, although I wonder about teachers who buy into every school reform that comes their way.

Every teacher must make up their own mind what their career means to them and how to best serve the children in their care. And there are always a whole lot of deeply personal outside factors that enter into the decision.


Grading the schools

Are America's public schools failing? The latest PDK poll once again reports that people who have children in public schools give their schools a good rating. Approximately two-thirds of public school parents rate their local schools as an A or B. When you add a grade of C, the number increases to 90%. Nationally, schools are rated much lower. Why? Could it be that the media, politicians, pundits, and "reformers" are promoting the myth of America's "failing public schools?" What do local parents know that the general public doesn't?

Failing schools or inaccurate reporting?

Stephen Krashen provides an answer to the questions above...
The explanation: Parents have direct information about the school their children attend, but their opinion of American education comes from the media. For decades, the media has been reporting more academic failure than actually exists.


A Simple Solution to Fix the Problem of our Failing Public Education System

No two public schools are alike...
A simple solution infers that a single strategy, or group of strategies, will be sufficient to address problems across a wide variety of settings--in this case, our public schools. As anyone who has ever spent a day teaching in a public school knows, no two public schools are alike, so the notion that any one idea or approach holds the answer to wide-spread, systemic change in an ecosystem as large and diverse as America's public school system is either naive or disingenuous. And neither of those traits is a good thing when it comes to making suggestions about our nation's education policy.


Mr. Gates Chats with Mr. Bowling

Bill Gates can't understand that he's not an education expert simply because he's rich. Nate Bowling does his best to explain things.
At the beginning of 2016, Bowling wrote a widely-circulated piece entitled "The Conversation I'm Tired of Not Having" in which he comes down hard on the idea of setting aside questions of education policy until we can honestly grapple with the issues of race and poverty, charging that the powers that be and the folks in the 'burbs are actually pretty happy with The Way Things Are.

...if the wealthy and super-wealthy had skin in the game, public schools would get the support they need.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Florida Teacher Opts-Out Third Grade Daughter

Andy Goldstein, a teacher in Palm Beach County, Florida, announces to the school board – the same school board that pays his salary – that he and his wife are opting their third grade daughter out of the state standardized test!

Why my wife and I are opting out our daughter from 3rd Grade High Stakes Testing. A talk by Andy Goldstein given to the School Board of Palm Beach County, FL. August 17, 2016.

Transcript of the original text:
Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I'm a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of an eight-year-old daughter who attends one of our public elementary schools.

It seems like it was just yesterday when my daughter entered kindergarten. At that time, I talked about her at our August School Board meeting in 2013.

I said that my hopes and dreams for my daughter were that she would develop a lifelong love for learning that would serve her well as she learned to construct a life that would serve her and serve others as well.

I told this board that my wife and I were not particularly interested in having her be seen as a data point for others to make money from.

Now, three short years later, which seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye, she is entering third grade.

Tonight, I'm speaking as a parent, who also is a teacher.

In Florida, third grade is the beginning of high-stakes, standardized testing for our children.

What are the high-stakes?

• Our children, on the basis of one test, will receive a number, a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, which, will serve to define them.

Some students, may do well learning throughout the year, but do not test well and may receive a 1, a one being the lowest possible score.

Some may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and will receive a 1.

Some may be special needs students, who receive a 1.

These numbers work to define our students as to whom they are. “I’m a one. I’m a Failure.”

This high-stakes testing policy, mandated by state law, works to stigmatize our students and they grow up with a limiting self-concept of who they are and what they are capable of doing and becoming.

• On the basis of this one high-stakes test, some schools—those comprised of the poorest students, who need the most help—are labeled with an “F.” Failures. This stigmatizes these schools, whose faculty and staff may be working hard to meet the high needs of the surrounding neighborhood they serve. It also serves to increase the segregation at these already segregated schools. What parents, given the means to choose what community they will move into, will choose a neighborhood with a school labeled “F.”

• There is a lot of money being made on the part of testing companies, publishers, and vendors, based on this annual imposition of this high-stakes testing.

• This high-stakes testing is part of a corporate agenda, an agenda by the rich and powerful to demonize our public schools and privatize them through the rise of publicly funded, privately managed schools called charters. Our state legislature, bought and paid for by corporate interests, is cheating our children by defunding our public schools.

• “That's the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital,” says Noam Chomsky, an MIT professor.

• Our third graders are still babies, really. Do they really need the pressures of this high-stakes testing? Recently, I read one account from a parent recounting the experience of her son when he was a third grader taking the FCAT. He was a good kid. He worked all year to learn. But he missed passing the FCAT by one point. He went to summer school to do more work and took it again. And again, he missed passing the test by one point. His mother was afraid to tell him, but he could tell by her reaction that he had not passed. He was crushed by the sense of failure. His mother, working on making dinner in the kitchen, called him to come down to eat. He did not respond. She had a premonition that something was the matter. She rushed up to his bedroom and found him hanging by a bedsheet. She got him down.

• Is there anyone who thinks this high-stakes testing is worth such a price?

• As a parent, I can answer with a resounding NO!

• My wife and I believe that our public schools should work to develop the whole, creative child in all of our schools, and in all of our communities of all colors and all socio-economic backgrounds.

• For these reasons, I’m announcing to you, our school board, that my wife and I do not support high-stakes testing in Florida, and will be opting out our daughter. Evidence for her learning will be through a portfolio.

• Thank you.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Random Quotes – August 2016


Teachers are not the problem, poverty is

Stephen Krashen reminds America to quit scapegoating teachers and public schools for low achievement due to poverty. We have one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the industrialized world – nearly one-fourth of our children. Where are the policy makers who take their share of the responsibility for our failure as a nation to take care of our children?

by Stephen Krashen
Poverty means food deprivation, lack of health care, and lack of access to books. Each of these has a strong negative influence on school performance. Let’s forget about developing new ways of evaluating teachers, fancy databases, and the other Gates ideas that have no support in research or practice. Instead, let’s invest in making sure no child is left unfed, no child lacks proper health care, and all children have access to quality libraries.


John Oliver on Charter Schools

John Oliver takes on the abuse and corruption in the charter school industry. (NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by John Oliver
The problem with letting the free market decide when it comes to kids is that kids change faster than the market. And by the time it's obvious a school is failing, futures may have been ruined.


Select Group is Served by Vouchers

Terry Springer is a former high school English teacher from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She's one of the founders of the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, a public education advocacy group (Full disclosure: I'm a member of the same group).

In the linked article she discusses Indiana's voucher program.

by Terry Springer
...[Executive director of Indiana Non-Public Education Association, John] Elcesser’s argument that voucher parents are taxpayers and their tax dollars should go to the school of their choice is rather like the argument that my tax dollar should only go to repair the roads and bridges I travel on or to pave my driveway. Public education benefits the whole community; private education does not. The arguments for the money following the child fly in the face of that perspective...


Out with the old. In with the new.

Here's a cartoon by Fred Klonsky. Earlier this month Chicago Public Schools laid off 1000 employees, half of whom were teachers. Two weeks later they announced they were hiring 1000 new teachers.

A teacher: Why I am not going to keep my bonus

Are teachers "in it for the money?" Are teachers holding back, instead of teaching well in order to get more money?

by Stuart Egan
I do not need a carrot stick. If getting a bonus to get students to perform better really works, then this should have been done a long time ago. But it does not. I do not perform better because of a bonus. I am not selling anything. I would like my students and parents to think that I work just as hard for all of my students in all of my classes because I am a teacher.

Reasons for mass resignations: 28 Dodgeville teachers leave over money and student behavioral issues

This article discusses the teacher shortage facing Dodgeville, Wisconsin. In the comments below the article, Tim Slekar, Dean at nearby Edgewood College, explains why there's a teacher shortage.

by Tim Slekar, Dean at Edgewood College's School of Education, Madison, WI
Dodgeville is just ONE example of the exodus. Teachers are leaving the classrooms in droves all across the state and enrollment in teacher education programs is plumetting. We have a teacher exodus problem.

Our elected officials will use this as evidence of a "teacher shortage" and then bitch to lower standards to let any jackass teach.

There is no "shortage." Those that have been waging the war on teachers are winning.


Who profits from a “broken public school” narrative?

Shouldn't the goal of public education be to have good public schools for all children, in all areas? Why do we have cities where children have to "apply" to public schools instead of just having excellent public schools in every neighborhood? Why aren't we working towards a system where every public school is excellent?

by Ali Collins
If you want to help a district function effectively, you work with leaders to fix underlying problems, you don’t create workarounds or do the work. In this way, non-profits enable failure. They become complicit in creating and maintaining problems they then profit by fixing. [emphasis added]


Making Joy a Reading Standard

Wouldn't it be nice if at least one reading "standard" focused on creating readers who loved to read?

by Mary Anne Buckley
Joy is in listening to and being moved by words and joy is in crafting words that move others. Joy is in recognizing ourselves in characters as well as challenging ourselves to see things from a different perspective. Joy is connecting and reflecting with one another.  I wrote that I answered the last question from the interview panel without thinking but in all actuality I’ve been thinking about that answer for years. When we remember our own personal joy of reading and infuse that into our instruction the lessons themselves become joyful.


AMERICA, DAMMIT! - Thoughts from Glacier National Park (starting at about 2:00)

(NOTE: The video contains language some people might find offensive).

by Hank Green
...We work so hard to demonize each other that everyone comes out looking like demons...


Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 Medley #21

Labels, Charters, Reform, Testing, Grades, Teacher Quality, Chalkbeat


This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.

I should begin the introduction to this article by saying that I have never seen the data walls described. I retired in 2010 and the school I worked at, and the schools I have volunteered in since then, do not list student names and test scores in public. I would agree with the author of this piece that listing students' names and test scores publicly violates the privacy of the students.

Apparently, however, this disgusting practice of humiliation and shaming is "a thing" and does happen. Those who use this practice should not be allowed in a classroom or public school.

Similarly, politicians and policy makers frequently shame public schools with letter grades and labels. "Failure" is slapped on public schools filled with students who live in poverty while there is no label "for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods." Teachers who work with the neediest students are labeled "bad teachers" while those who divert funds from public schools to corporate tax breaks, vouchers, and charter operators, receive no such condemnation.

Those who use this practice should not be allowed to make laws governing public education. We can fire them in November.

By Launa Hall, a third grade teacher in northern Virginia.
When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. They see populations and sweeping strategies. From up there, it seems reasonable enough to write a list of 32 discrete standards and mandate that every 8-year-old in the state meet them. How else will we know for sure that teaching and learning are happening down there?

But if we zoom in, we see that education actually happens every weekday, amid pencils and notebooks, between an adult and a small group of youngsters she personally knows and is deeply motivated to teach. Public education has always been — and needs to be still — a patchwork of ordinary human relationships. Data walls, and the high-stakes tests that engender them, aren’t merely ineffective, they break the system at its most fundamental level. They break the connection between a teacher who cares and a kid who really needs her to care.


Op Ed: There’s No Such Thing as a “Public Charter School”

Public education advocate Ann Berlak explains why charters are really just private schools taking public tax dollars. They are not public schools.
If public schools have not always lived up to their promise then it is necessary to redouble our efforts to have them do so, not to abandon them.
An extra in this article is found in the comments.

The comments are filled with the usual ignorance claiming that American schools are failing, teachers unions are the problem, and a variety of comments reflecting sour grapes. Among the trolls, however, there are some good, thoughtful comments (on both sides), including one by Robert D. Skeels, who blogs at Schools Matter. He wrote an informative comment presenting "the legal arguments on how privately managed charter schools are not at all 'public.'"


“Eat Your Dinner…Or Else”
The data are staring them in the face: low attendance rates among students and teachers; higher percentages of students “opting out” of state-mandated standardized tests; more teachers leaving the profession; and more parents saying they’d like the option of sending their children to charter schools.

Instead, educators from Secretary John King on down seem to be doubling down, searching for ways to penalize students who choose not to take standardized tests, their schools, and their school districts.

The ‘meal’ that School Reformers have been serving up for the past nearly 12 years of the Bush and Obama Administrations is neither delicious nor nutritious.


I call it "Learn or be punished." It's the mistaken plan by state after state to make eight and nine year olds who have difficulty meeting arbitrary reading standards repeat the third grade...as if repeating a grade helps students learn. HINT: It doesn't.

Indiana makes third graders take IREAD-3. If they don't pass they don't go to fourth grade. Florida also punishes third graders who have difficulty learning to read. So does Ohio. So does Michigan. And Iowa...and Arizona...

And in Oklahoma it's called the Reading Sufficiency Act.
Claudia Swisher is a retired teacher who lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Her article, Unfinished Business, from which this excerpt is taken, appeared in the August 2016 print edition of the The Oklahoma Observer. Claudia blogs at Fourth Generation Teacher.

Unfinished Business
This is my pet project. I’m a reading specialist. I know how students learn as youngsters, and how they learn as adolescents. Reading Sufficiency Act, or “Test and Flunk Third Graders” is a monumentally bad idea.

It seems to have been born in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Education Excellence. His state school superintendents, Chiefs for Change, unquestioningly accepted his theories and hunches. Our former superintendent was a Chief for Change, and enthusiastically promoted test-and-flunk.

I have been active with this issue for years. I have two granddaughters who are living through this policy. I exchanged emails with the original author, Rep. Sally Kern; and I advocated for Rep. Katie Henke’s bill that allowed teachers and parents some say-so in the promotion or retention decision. The test being used was awed, not a reading test at all, and scores do not give a reading level.

There is no research to support retaining nine-year- olds because they don’t reach an arbitrary score one day in April. Fans of RSA say all kids must read by third grade.

IF they ever walked into a third grade class, they would see every child DOES read ... at his or her level. They’ve only been reading for, perhaps, four years. There are vast differences in their abilities. But they all read.

RSA must be changed: no high stakes, tests that measure reading levels, funding for remediation, support for students and families and classrooms. I am all in.

FL: Test Fetish on Trial

Parents in Florida have joined together to fight the law requiring the third grade test. Peter Greene reports.
Because that's where we are now, folks-- parent groups have to take up a collection to go to court so that third graders who passed all their classes can be promoted to fourth grade.


Do Away with Grades for Reading

Russ Walsh has a great idea. Instead of punishing children for not learning to read why don't we remove reading from the report card altogether. Instead, he suggests a better way of reporting on a student's progress in reading.
That better way would report to the parent on what the child knows and is able to do in reading. Simple brief answers to a few questions on a report card would do it.
  • Is the student below, at, or above expected reading level for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate fluency for grade/age?
  • Does the student read with appropriate comprehension for grade/age?
  • Does the student choose to read independently?
  • What are the student's reading goals for the next marking period?
Notice the item on "choosing to read." I think that it is important to communicate to parents that successful readers have both the skill and the will to read.


Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers

So, it turns out that strong teachers unions actually encourage better teachers!
I find that higher teacher pay gives school districts a strong incentive to be more selective in granting tenure to teachers. Districts paying high teacher salaries utilize the tenure system more efficiently as they dismiss more low-quality teachers, raising average teacher quality by setting higher standards.

Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year

Teacher evaluations in Indiana are required by law to reflect student test scores, yet we know that out of school factors have a much larger impact on student achievement than teachers. Nevertheless, legislators can't understand why the percentage of teachers who get poor evaluations doesn't equal the number of students who get low test scores.

One reason there are so many "good" teachers is because many beginning teachers don't stay long in the classroom. A large number of teachers leave the profession within their first five years (and many don't even start their careers). The ones who leave are usually the ones who discover that they don't like to teach, the ones who are fired early in their career, and the ones who are asked to resign because they can't make it in the classroom.

This means that the teachers who are left are either skilled in the classroom, or are strong enough to improve when they struggle.

Unfortunately, legislators don't understand, or don't care, that evaluating teachers, just like evaluating student achievement, cannot be limited to a number on a standardized exam. Numbers make judgments about people so much easier – even when their inadequate or inappropriate.
For the third year in a row, barely any Indiana teachers, principals and superintendents were rated “ineffective” under the state’s fledgling evaluation system.


Chalkbeat: Our Supporters

I was struck by the disrespectful tone of the title of the article above..."Indiana flunked hardly any teachers last year." I did some exploring on the Chalkbeat website and found that, among their supporters (funders) are the "reformers" listed below. Most of the time the articles are fairly unbiased, but I've noticed a "reformist" bent now and then, such as in the above title.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc....
Gates Family Foundation...
The Anschutz Foundation...
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice...
The Joyce Foundation...
The Walton Family Foundation...


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Put Professionals In Classrooms


Oklahoma Educator Rob Miller who writes the blog, A View From the Edge, caught my attention with his post, The Olympic Celebration of Diversity. What would happen, Miller pondered in his thought experiment, if the stars we have seen in the Olympics, were placed in different events?
What if Bolt and Phelps changed places in the next Olympics? Imagine Michael on the same track as the other top sprinters competing in the 200-meter race? Can you see Bolt swimming next to the world’s best in the 100-meter butterfly?
His point is, of course, that nearly no one is good at everything. He then moves the analogy over to education...
We have told skilled young artists and musicians that they are not as valuable as other students because they scored lower on a math test. We have elevated certain teachers because they teach “important” subjects like math, science, and reading while devaluing the contribution of teachers of “less important” electives like the arts, music, drama, physical education, history, or computers.
The true mission of education is to help each child identify and nurture their natural strengths, interests and passions and then work to hone those attributes into marketable skills.
...and also this,
To say a student is not college- and career-ready because he or she cannot pass an Algebra test is like saying Michael Phelps is not an athlete because he cannot complete a gymnastics floor routine.


Both Diane Ravitch and Peter Greene commented on Utah's new rules for teaching...which don't require any training in pedagogy.

Here's Ravitch...
In a bold move to address the state’s teacher shortage (caused by low salaries), the state board of education removed all requirements for new teachers other than a college degree and passing a test in subject matter.
In other words, if you have a bachelors degree in English, and can pass the English test that Pearson Utah develops, then the state will award you a teachers license.

Peter Greene, with his usual biting wit, wrote,
I keep waiting to hear something from one of the proponents of free market for education.

After all-- no other part of the trained labor market works like this. If a hospital can't find enough doctors to fill its staff, nobody says, "Well, okay-- let's just let anyone with a college degree work in the operating room."
We do something like this in Indiana, too. Due to the Republican induced teacher shortage (see here, here, and here), the State Board of Education (all appointed by Republicans except for the popularly elected State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz), decided that anyone with a college degree can teach their subject at the high school level. Elementary school would have been included if the Board hadn't succumbed to pressure from "the people" and the "evil" teachers union.

...because you don't need to know anything about brain development, human learning patterns, or pedagogy to explain how to do a Physics problem, expound on Julius Caesar, or teach spoken French, right? You surely don't need any training in class management or child psychology to get a class of thirty-five 16 and 17 year olds to discuss the history of the Peloponnesian War.

This is the level of stupidity making the laws and rules for our public education systems. We're all about blaming teachers for all our "failing" public schools, yet legislatures starve public education and divert tax revenue into the pockets of Pearson, KIPP, various churches, and Gulen. Our poorest schools have scarce resources to overcome the effects of poverty while legislators who have created the misalignment of funds blame "bad teachers" for "failing schools."

Now Utah has followed suit, doubling down on the "create-a-teacher-shortage-then-hire-unqualified-people" plan.

Would policy makers in Utah, Indiana, or any state allow their own children to attend a school filled with untrained teachers? I doubt it.


Let's extend Rob Miller's thought experiment to professionals. Training is important when we expect people to perform certain tasks. Because of that training certain people are better able to do certain tasks...just as Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, and all other olympians have trained. What would happen if the trained professionals we rely on were asked to perform the tasks of other professionals?

Would you want a plumber to rewire your house?

Would you let an electrical engineer perform your emergency appendectomy?

Legislators and state board of education members would likely agree that it would be nonsensical to ask an airline pilot to perform brain surgery...an accountant to defend you in court...or a chemist to do your taxes.

Why, then, is it ok to allow untrained amateurs to direct the learning and development of the nation's most important resource...its children?

These folks are not friends of public education. Click to read about them.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Best Schools in the World


In a recent article, The Best Schools in the World Do This. Why Don't We?, the editors at NPR questioned why we aren't doing what high-achieving countries are doing in education. They reported on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) study titled No Time to Lose which gave suggestions for improving our nation's education. The three "takeaways" which NPR thought were most important were
1: More Help For The Youngest Learners...
2: Teachers Need To Be Better...
3: Fix Career And Technical Education (CTE)...
To be sure all three of those areas of American education could use improvement. Universal Pre-K is important, as are having the best people in the classroom and providing for career education. But NPR, heavily influenced by their corporate donors who favor privatization (see here and here), is solidly in the "reform" camp and doesn't mention that NCSL left out the number one problem facing American public education.


NCSL claimed that there's an education crisis in the US in part because of our low scores on international tests.

No Time to Lose: How to Build a World-Class Education System State by State

When the fifth survey was administered in 2012, the number of countries in the survey had grown to 65, and included less-developed countries. The news was worse for the U.S., which placed 24th in reading, 36th in mathematics and 28th in science. Again, our standing was in the middle of the countries surveyed. After all of the national, state and district reform efforts during the decade following NCLB, the U.S. was outperformed not only by a majority of the advanced industrial nations, but by a growing number of less-developed nations as well.
Stephen Krashen, however, frequently reminds us that our national average is skewed by the much higher level of child poverty in the US (emphasis added).
The media has learned nothing from the extensive research done on international test scores in the last decade ("U.S. Students Get Stuck in Middle of the Pack on OECD Test," December 3). Study after study shows that the strongest predictor of high scores on these tests is poverty, a conclusion that is backed by a number of other studies showing that students who live in poverty have poor diets, insufficent health care, and lack access to books, all of which contribute to low academic performance. When researchers control for the effect of poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world.
Carnoy and Rothstein agree with Krashen. Poverty affects student performance and, given the high level of child poverty in the US, it's understandable that our average would be lower than those nations with lower levels of poverty.
Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared...
What did No Time to Lose have to say about the failure of state legislatures to reduce child poverty in their states, the failure of charter and voucher experiments encouraged by states, and the failure of legislatively enforced test and punish schemes?

Not much.

Instead we're told that state legislators, the same people who, in Indiana for example, gave us the loss of collective bargaining for teachers as well as public education resources diverted to charter and voucher schools, are the ones who need to decide how to fix the schools. The Feds, with their NCLB, RttT, and Common Core, need to be kept out of it.
State legislators must be at the center of this discussion. Education is first and foremost a state responsibility. State legislators represent and can bring together the diverse viewpoints at the state and local levels that must be included in setting a vision and priorities for reforms. States must work together with local entities to design efforts that are practical and appropriate for each individual state. We will not be successful by allowing the federal government to set agendas and priorities.

On the Plus Side

Legislators should ask actual teachers for help in developing public policy which will benefit the majority of students. The report suggests bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders including "state and local policymakers, teachers, principals, superintendents, unions, business, parents and students" in order to set a vision for reform and identify priorities.

And, according to NCSL, we do one thing right – standards.
The only policy approach developed by both U.S. states and top-performing countries is high academic standards. But all of the top performing countries have coupled developing such standards with a curriculum framework, specific curriculum and well-aligned, high quality, essay-based assessments in seamless instructional systems. Most states have yet to move in this direction, and implementation of rigorous standards has been haphazard at best.
There is no mention of the fact that in some of the high performing nations, the assessments are all teacher developed. Finland, for example, uses no standardized tests until it's time for students to go to the university. There's nothing in the report about consequences for low achievement, such as retention in grade. There's nothing about "accountability." There's nothing indicating the high stakes nature of our tests as opposed to those in other nations.

On the other hand, the report did say that states needed to provide adequate resources, and that teachers needed "rigorous preparation and licensure." They also mentioned that successful nations do not allow alternative routes to the classroom.

TFA anyone?

What Should We Do?

The NCSL lists four elements they claim helped high achieving nations improve their international test scores.

Element #1: Children come to school ready to learn, and extra support is given to struggling students so that all have the opportunity to achieve high standards.

Universal Pre-K. We need that. We also need the safety net provided by other nations for their children...health care, food and shelter safety, a lower rate of child poverty, and effective programs to increase jobs for their parents.

Element #2: A world-class teaching profession supports a world-class instructional system, where every student has access to highly effective teachers and is expected to succeed.

We need incentives for our best and brightest to enter the classroom. We need fully trained teachers, not TFA temps, or plans like Indiana's REPA III which allow untrained college graduates to "teach" just because they have content knowledge.

A "world-class instructional system" is more than just highly trained teachers. We need support for maintaining buildings, resources, and continuing professional development. How many schools are there in Chicago (and around the nation) with no school library? no classes in the arts or physical education?

In many of the higher achieving nations students who need the most help, children in poverty, or with special needs, receive the most help. Their schools receive the most resources. Unlike in the US, one of only three advanced nations who spend more money on the wealthy than on the poor.

Element #3: A highly effective, intellectually rigorous system of career and technical education is available to those preferring an applied education.

This would be great, once our crumbling urban educational infrastructure is repaired.

Element #4: Individual reforms are connected and aligned as parts of a clearly planned and carefully designed comprehensive system.

The only planning our state legislature has been doing in Indiana is how to transfer more tax funds from public education to private and privately run schools.


NCSL ends their report with
If we assemble the best minds in policy and practice, implement what we know works, and commit ourselves to the time, effort and resources needed to make monumental changes, we can once again be among the best education systems in the world. If they can do it, so can we. But there’s no time to lose.
It would be wonderful if state legislatures around the nation took those words to heart, but those are very big "ifs."

  • assemble the best minds in policy and practice
Teachers, those who actually practice education, have been left out of conversations and decision-making in public education for decades.

Are legislators and other policy makers willing to give up their control and let actual, practicing educators have a voice?

  • implement what we know works
Research has shown that retaining children in third grade based on one standardized achievement test doesn't improve achievement. Neither does diverting public funds to voucher and charter schools...or freezing pay for teachers...or closing schools and replacing them with charters...or replacing career teachers with Teach For America temps...or any of the other so-called "reforms" that have been hatched by vulture capitalists aiming to profit off the backs of our children.

Will politicians reject campaign donations meant to skew their votes towards privatization?

  • commit ourselves to the time, effort, and resources
We have continually ignored the weakest and most needy members of our society. Our child poverty rate is shamefully high. The US Congress has yet to fulfill its promise to fully fund special education.

Education costs money. Are the wealthy in America willing to pay their fair share to help all children? Are state legislatures ready to increase taxes on those making more than $400,000 (the top 1%) in order to fully fund public education?

Will politicians and policy makers take responsibility for the damage done to public schools through test and punish, privatization, and anti-teacher policies?

The NCSL wants to fix the mess that state legislatures have helped create.

Why don't we do what the best schools in the world do?

Ask your legislator.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Devalued and Disrespected


I went to the dentist this morning for my semiannual cleaning and check up. The dental hygienist cleaned my teeth and took x-rays. I reported to her that one of my teeth was giving me some trouble. It was extremely sensitive to both hot and cold.

The dentist, when he came in, was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth. He looked at the x-rays, but they were "inconclusive." He tested it, but was unable to determine the cause of the sensitivity. So, unfortunately, I'll have to wait to see what happens. Apparently there is nothing that can be done right now.

He also said that I had a tooth that needed to be repaired and that I would have to come back next week to have it fixed.

As I left the office it occurred to me that the reason I was willing to come back to have my tooth repaired, and the reason I was willing to wait and see what happened to my sensitive tooth, was that I trusted my dentist.


I know that my dentist has had the training needed to practice dentistry. On the wall in his office he has framed and hanging a bachelors degree from Purdue University and a degree in dentistry from the Indiana University School of Dentistry. I know those two universities well since I have attended both and earned a certification from the former, and two degrees from the latter. They are well established state-supported universities and I trust them to provide a good education to the professionals I seek for my own care.

Even though he was unable to find the cause of my sensitive tooth, I trusted his professional judgement.


When we're sick we trust doctors to help us heal. When our cars break down, we trust mechanics to repair them. When our pipes break, we trust plumbers to fix them. We trust attorneys with our legal problems. We trust accountants to do our taxes. We trust architects and engineers to plan and build our homes and offices.

And we trust dentists with our teeth.

Specialized training and government licensing is necessary and appropriate in many professions. We have given our leaders the right to evaluate the preparation of our society's professionals and then let us know, through licensing, that they have completed the training needed to do the job. Once that's done, we trust them to do the job they are paid to do.


Most teachers are trained in University-level Schools of Education. I received my education training from the same two universities (albeit in different locations) as my dentist attended. My degree in education is from Indiana University and my certification in Reading Recovery is from Purdue University.

Why, then, is my profession not afforded the same respect and trust as others?

[Of course, individual teachers are valued and respected by individual students and parents, but as a whole, teachers in America's public schools are not given the recognition they deserve. Policy makers rarely listen to teachers even when making educational decisions. Instead, policy makers listen to billionaires with no education experience.]

Here are two reasons (among many).


Reason 1: "Reformers" have perpetuated the myth that America's public schools are failing

The general consensus promoted by the media, "reformers," and politicians from both of the main political parties is that America's public education system is failing.

This is demonstrably untrue.

What is true is that some schools struggle to help their students achieve. The main problem in the US is our high child poverty rate. Research is clear that poverty negatively affects student achievement. Stephen Krashen explains that our public schools are excellent [emphasis added],
In "Test scores may move, learning doesn't" (July 12), Jo Craven McGinty says that there is "compelling evidence" that the US education system is inadequate, because American students "score below average in math and average in reading and science" when compared to other countries on international tests.

Not mentioned is the finding that when researchers control for the effect of poverty, American scores on international tests are at the top of the world.

Our overall scores are unspectacular because of our high rate of child poverty: The US has the second highest level of child poverty among all 34 economically advanced countries (now over 23%, compared to high-scoring Finland’s 5.4%). In some big city public school districts, the poverty rate is over 80%.

Poverty means poor nutrition, inadequate health care, and lack of access to books, among other things. All of these profoundly impact school performance.
The best instruction in the world cannot overcome the effects of poverty, and our high rate of child poverty brings down the average.

Politicians and policy makers are hesitant to promote this idea for several reasons. First, it's unpleasant to admit that one's policies have allowed the high rate of child poverty present in America. Second, some policy makers are convinced that schools can solve the problems of poverty. To do that, however, requires a much higher investment in our public schools than we, as a nation, seem willing to make.

In societies where education is more successful the child poverty rate is lower.


Reason 2: Teaching is still viewed as "Women's Work" and still devalued and disrespected.

For the last hundred years public school teaching in the United States has been dominated by women. Even today, when fields traditionally dominated by men are open to women, more than 3/4 of all public school teachers in America are women. This is especially true in the primary grades where I suspect that the percentage of men teachers is even smaller.

In a field so dominated by women, it's not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.

Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.

In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.


Until our leaders and policy makers accept responsibility for the level of child poverty in the United States our average national academic achievement will remain low. We continue to squander nearly 1/4 of our most important national resource. Until the devaluing and disrespecting of women ends, teaching will continue to be devalued and disrespected.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2016 Medley #20

Preschool and Irony, Privatization,
Let Teachers Teach, Experience Matters,
Test and Punish, Governor Pence


Excuses won't help children get head start

Indiana Representative David Ober has knocked the irony meter off its shelf. It seems he's against state supported preschool, claiming that we don't have anything "long term to show it's working." His objection is that we don't have enough data to show that universal preschool has a good "return on investment."

On the other hand, what does he say about the data on voucher plans? What does he say about the data on charters? The research into vouchers and charters suggest that neither provides a better education, and sometimes worse, than real public schools.

Ober's response?

Silence, followed by votes to increase the privatization of Indiana's schools.
When it comes to early learning opportunities, Indiana children hear little more than excuses. The latest – “where’s the data to show it works?” – is the weakest yet.

After years of fighting efforts to establish preschool programs other states have long embraced, the General Assembly approved a small pilot program in 2014, serving just 2,300 children statewide. Now it’s become the latest stalling tactic for legislators looking to block its expansion.

“Right now we just don’t have the data. We have at most one year – we have nothing long term to show it’s working,” Rep. David Ober, R-Albion, told The Journal Gazette’s Niki Kelly. “My reticence from the beginning is ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is there a return on investment?’ Some argue yes and some no.”

Ober voted against the preschool pilot program, which carries strict income limits. A family of four can earn no more than $30,290 to qualify for a pre-K grant. By contrast, a four-member household with income of as much as $83,000 a year can qualify for a K-12 school voucher.

The Noble County Republican supported a vast expansion in the voucher program in 2013, even though no data exist to suggest it offers any return on investment. Lawmakers have never authorized a study of the five-year-old private-school choice program.

Preschool Education and Its Lasting Effects: Research and Policy Implications

Here is an interesting research report for Ober to read. It explains the lasting effect of well designed, well staffed preschool programs.
  • Policy makers should not depart from preschool education models that have proven highly effective. These models typically have reasonably small class sizes and well-educated teachers with adequate pay.
  • Teachers in preschool programs should receive intensive supervision and coaching, and they should be involved in a continuous improvement process for teaching and learning.
  • Preschool programs should regularly assess children’s learning and development to monitor how well they are accomplishing their goals.
  • Preschool programs, in order to produce positive effects on children’s behavior and later reductions in crime and delinquency, should be designed to develop the whole child, including social and emotional development and self-regulation.
  • Because an earlier start and longer duration does appear to produce better results, policies expanding access to children under 4 should prioritize disadvantaged children who are likely to benefit most. More broadly, preschool education policy should be developed in the context of comprehensive public policies and programs to effectively support child development from birth to age 5 and beyond.
And in case that's not enough, Rep. Ober, please see the following...


Shouts of 'Shame!' as Michigan panel implements controversial DPS plan

The people who were shouting "local control" (along with Republican Presidential candidate Trump) are the same people who are taking control of public education away from local municipalities and school boards.

The problem with Detroit's public schools goes from bad to worse...
LANSING -- Michigan's Emergency Loan Board on Monday approved measures to implement a $617-million financial rescue and restructuring plan for Detroit’s public schools, over the vocal objections of elected school board members and others who attended the meeting in Lansing.

The board approved borrowing to retire or refinance debt, plus the transfer of assets from the old Detroit Public Schools to a new Detroit Public Schools Community District.

There were shouts of "Shame!," "Jim Crow" and "Black lives matter" as the three board members left an auditorium at the Michigan Library and Historical Center through a back exit.

Critics say the plan treats Detroit public school students as second-class citizens because they would be the only Michigan public school students who could be taught by uncertified teachers. They also say much of the debt addressed by the plan was rung up while Detroit schools were under state control.

Attacking the Public in Public Education

The reasons our state constitution includes funding for "common schools" is because public education benefits everyone. The founders knew that. "Reformers" apparently don't.

Local public schools should be supported, not closed. Public funds should go to improving public schools for everyone, not sent to privately run charters or transferred to vouchers for parochial schools. Parents should not have to go shopping for schools like they shop for shoes.
The whole argument that choice-voucher systems should put all decision-making in the hands of parents makes a foundational assumption that education is not a public good, maintained by the public in the public space in order to deliver benefits to the public. Instead, it re-imagines education as a consumer good, created by a vendor and then handed off to the student while money changes hands. Where education might once have been viewed like air or water or other shared public resources, we're now encouraged to see it like a pizza or a toaster.

We can now start to see some of the side-effects of this view. When a public school is closed these days, it's not necessarily seen as a blow to the community, like the loss of a park or the pollution of a water supply. Instead, it's treated like a store closing, as if we just lost the Taco Bell on the corner, or the local K-Mart was closed up. It's a business decision made by someone who doesn't answer to the community, really pretty much out of our hands, right?


Bringing Back Some Teacher Control to Reading Instruction

Children are all different. One size doesn't fit all.

Let teachers exercise their professional judgement.

Let teachers teach.
As teachers, we know our students better than anyone else. Yet in some schools, teachers are given curriculum and told to follow it with fidelity—meaning, do exactly what the teacher guide says and never veer. To compound this issue, principals and district personnel visit these teachers, observe their teaching, and criticize or punish them when the lesson hasn’t been followed verbatim.


Yes, Long Experience Makes Better Teachers

Michelle Rhee made her mark by claiming that unions allowed old teachers to keep teaching even if they were "bad." It turns out, however, that experience matters. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why schools in states with strong unions have higher achievement than schools in states with weak or no unions...and by the way...unions don't want bad teachers in classrooms any more than anyone else.
Nearly fifteen years of federal policy that essentially demands that teachers raise test scores or else face serious consequences, has, however, undermined the morale and reputation of teachers. Our society has been encouraged to blame teachers alone for failing to “produce” test score gains in the poorest communities, despite that we know that test scores are affected by families’ economic circumstances and that state governments with inequitable finance systems fail to support the teachers and students in the school districts whose needs are greatest.

...Here are the report’s four central findings:
  1. “Teaching experience is positively associated with student achievement gains throughout a teacher’s career. The gains from experience are highest in teachers’ initial years, but continue for teachers in the second and often third decades of their careers.”
  2. “As teachers gain experience, their students are also more likely to do better on other measures of success beyond test scores, such as school attendance.”
  3. “Teachers make greater gains in their effectiveness when they teach in a supportive and collegial working environment, or accumulate experience in the same grade level, subject, or district.”
  4. “More experienced teachers confer benefits to their colleagues and to the school as a whole, as well as to their own students.”


Arizona Fails its Children!

Arizona...just one of many states (including Indiana) which punishes children for not learning.
Once again, parents are left to wonder why their children didn’t pass the test.
  • Did they have unaddressed reading difficulties–and/or dyslexia?
  • Did they have undiagnosed learning disabilities?
  • Were they pushed to read too early?
  • Were they taught incorrectly?
  • Was the test poorly devised?
  • Were the standards inappropriate?
Whatever kind of learning problems exist, there are a variety of strategies and arrangements to assist students without making them feel like failures.

There is a large body of anti-retention research. But some states don’t seem to understand such research exists. Nor do they care for the feelings of their students, and when those students drop out years later, they will wonder why. Children who fail kindergarten through 3rd grade have a 75% chance of dropping out of school by tenth grade (Roderick, 1994).


How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters

Pence is an opportunist. First he was for preschool. Then he was against it. Now he's for it again. It's all in his politics and whether or not he believes it will help him get votes.

What a hypocrite.
He also angered Ritz over his changing views on early-childhood-education funding. In 2013, he supported a move by Ritz to apply for federal funds for early-childhood education through President Obama’s Race to the Top competition. Indiana didn’t win but moved to apply again in 2014, with a better chance of success because the criteria had changed. Some $80 million was at stake. Pence suddenly changed his mind and refused to enter the competition, supposedly because of federal requirements that came with the money. Ritz said there weren’t any of significance.

In 2014, however, he did push for — and won — millions in state funding for a pilot prekindergarten program in the state. Then, last month, he decided federal money might not be so bad after all. He wrote a letter to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, saying that he was interested in federal early-education grants under the new K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. He said the pilot had worked well and that the state was now ready to use federal funds to expand it.


Monday, August 1, 2016

Enough Reason Not to Support Trump

Vague policies, abusive language, calls to violence...those reasons, alone, ought to be enough to keep you from voting for Donald Trump. Here are more, if you need them.


Laughing at Trump’s Acceptance Speech, Part Three

The concept of "free speech" is difficult for some people to understand. Individuals may endorse candidates, however, people who are speaking on behalf of non-profit organizations cannot. A pastor, priest, imam, rabbi, or other clergy, can express their personal preference, just not when they are preaching. On the other hand, any member of the clergy can discuss issues from the pulpit such as abortion, capital punishment, school segregation, and gun control.
At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community because I’ll tell you what, the support they have given me, and I’m not sure I totally deserve it has been so amazing and has had such a big reason for me being here tonight. So true. They have so much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits. An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. Their voice has been taken away.
This is a lie. The Johnson amendment does not prevent churches from “openly advocating their political views.” It prevents all non-profits from endorsing candidates. They are completely free to discuss political issues and endorse specific legislation and churches do this literally every day. But even when churches deliberately violate the restriction on endorsing candidates, as hundreds of churches have done every year on Pulpit Sunday, urged on by Christian legal groups, not a single one of those churches has ever lost their tax-exempt status. Not one. This notion that churches are being censored is ridiculous. They are bound by the same rules that every other non-profit it. If they’d like to remove that restriction, like any other organization, all they have to do is give up their non-profit, tax-exempt status.


One of the problems with Donald Trump's candidacy is that it has emboldened racists, white nationalists, and white supremacists. Trump reluctantly "disavowed" David Duke's support, but has been mostly quiet on the subject since then. On the other hand, somehow, members of white supremacists groups continue to be part of his candidacy.

He also has a long history of misogynistic comments.

RNC Gives Full Access Press Credentials to White Supremacist Radio Host
One of the people who had full access press credentials at the RNC was white supremacist James Edwards, a radio host who claims that interracial sex is “white genocide.” He says the RNC explicitly invited him to come and broadcast his show live from the RNC and he interviewed several members of Congress and a Trump adviser.

More White Supremacists at the RNC
Matt Forney, a pro-Trump white supremacist who claims women “want” to be “raped” and “beat[en],” attended the second day of the Republican National Convention with a guest pass and reported live from inside the convention arena for a racist radio program...
The white supremacists are pretty much unanimous in supporting Donald Trump. That fact alone should be enough to vote against him.

The Absurdity of Trump as the Pro-Mother Candidate
Women represent 46 percent of the total U.S. labor force, and 40 percent of American households have female primary breadwinners. In 2014, women made 83 cents for every dollar made by a man. Single women without children earn 94 cents for each dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents. As researchers have noted, gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country, motherhood is.
As President, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all.
Really? Then why didn’t he raise that issue even a single time during the entire last year of campaigning? Why isn’t there a single policy that addresses the gender gap in pay or affordable child care on his website where he lays out his positions and proposals? Not even a hint of one. He’s literally never mentioned either of those subjects before.
And I found it highly amusing that the audience applauded those things. If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama said those exact same words, they’d be booing and screaming COMMUNIST at them. They were just in a total mob mentality and primed to applaud anything they heard. And if Trump actually did propose anything like that, the Republicans in Congress would shoot it down quickly.