"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, November 14, 2018

A Vaccine Against Charlatans

I've been thinking about the state of science education in the United States. A while back I wrote about improving our science education, and since that time nothing has changed. At least not as far as our federal government's (and in Indiana, the state government's) attitude towards science is concerned. For example, the U.S. is now the only country in the world which has officially denied climate change by our attempted withdrawal from the Paris Accords...A coal lobbyist is running the EPA...and the Department of the Interior is working to sell off land it's supposed to protect.

Sadly, the state of science literacy in the United States has allowed many Americans to be unaware of what's happening. Many Americans don't really understand why they should be concerned.

It's important that we improve science literacy in the U.S. But how?


TEACH THE COMMUNITY

How can we help improve science education in the community, state, and nation? Here are some ideas for parents, teachers, and concerned voters...

1. End the waste of our time and money on standardized tests and use the savings to pay for professional development for teachers teaching science, and for equipment and supplies to help them. Use the savings to pay for professional development and supplies for all teachers.

2. Make sure children come to school ready to learn. To that end, we need to spend dollars on countering the effects of poverty beginning with good prenatal care for every pregnant woman in the country. The U.S.A. is 56th in infant mortality rates behind countries like Latvia, Cuba, Canada, South Korea, and the U.K. Science has taught us what to do...we need to see to it that there is carry-over of scientific knowledge into the real world.

3. Work to counter the effects of poverty by investing in early childhood education in which children can explore themselves and the world. Our enrollment rates and expenditures on Early Childhood programs lag well below the OECD average.

4. Provide every child with a full and balanced curriculum,
...including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.
5. Support students by lowering class sizes.


6. End the diversion of tax dollars to unaccountable and unregulated charter schools, or vouchers for private and parochial schools.

7. The relationship between poverty and achievement is well established, but instructional innovations, improvements, and support can't overcome the effects of poverty alone. Students need support services to help ameliorate the effects of poverty. Services such as nurses, social workers, counselors, after-school programs, and transportation, should be available. The Chicago Teachers Union has developed a program, specific to Chicago schools, titles The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve 2.0. Many of the plans in this document are worth considering for other school systems.

8. Ensure that every school is staffed with fully-trained, professional educators and support staff.

9. Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards. Lack of transparency should not be an option.

10. The privatization of public education has increased school segregation. We know from research that desegregated schools narrowed racial and economic achievement gaps. It's time to fulfill the requirement of Brown vs. Board of Education.


A PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY

"...public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good."
The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must 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 expense of the people themselves. -- John Adams
The preceding suggestions will cost money, and you might ask, "How can we afford that?" Ending the overuse and misuse of standardized testing will provide one source of income for schools to use. Ending the diversion of tax dollars for privatization will provide more, but that won't cover everything. We have to choose to spend more money on our future citizens.

Instead of asking, "Can we afford that?" we should state, "We cannot afford not to fully fund public education." The public schools quite literally, hold our future. For the well-being of our children and grandchildren, we must fully fund our schools.


FOR SCIENCE TEACHERS

Science teachers at all grades need to keep up with current information, especially in today's anti-science atmosphere. The following are some ideas to help keep science teachers up to date on science topics. Others interested in science education can also benefit from these.
  • Do your part to help students (and their parents) understand the scientific method, to see science in everyday life, and to dispel myths and misconceptions about science (e.g. "evolution is just a 'theory'").
  • Work with your colleagues to develop multi-disciplinary projects. Science can be found in history, geography, philosophy, physical education, the arts, and other subject areas.
  • Invite scientists from local industry and academia into your classroom to explore ideas with your students.
  • Be an advocate for science. Teach so that your students become as excited about science as you are. At a minimum, ensure that they are scientifically literate when they leave your class.
  • Join scientific organizations to advocate for science education and to keep up with the latest news in your field...groups like
○ The National Science Teachers Association
○ The American Association for the Advancement of Science
○ The National Science Foundation
○ The Association for Science Teacher Education
○ The Association for Science Education
  • Read about ways to improve science education in the U.S.
○ The Improving science education in America
○ The Ideas for Improving Science Education in the U.S.
○ The How can we reform science education?

CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won't be easy. We can do it if we focus on today's students...tomorrow's leaders.

"When you have an established, scientific, emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it, and the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us."

πŸ”­πŸ”¬⚗️

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Note to My Leaf-Burning Neighbors

This post was first published on November 2, 2017. Some links have been edited/corrected.

AUTUMN

Ah...who doesn't love the nostalgic scent of burning leaves in the fall?


Answer: Anyone with lungs!

It's Autumn in Indiana and my woodsy neighborhood is filled with fallen leaves. Many of my neighbors are recycling them by mulching them into their lawns or gardens or hiring crews to pick them up. Some others, are piling them up and setting them ablaze, and by doing so filling the air with poisonous toxins and choking ash.

IT'S JUST ONE LITTLE FIRE

What damage can one little fire cause?

It's not just one little fire...it's several since we live in an addition with dozens of houses and hundreds of leaf-dropping trees. The point is that "multiple fires in one geographic area can cause concentrations of air pollutants that exceed federal air quality standards" – at least until the current EPA decides that the right of citizens to breathe is just not a priority.

And, about those lungs...
Besides being an irritant, leaf smoke contains many hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and benzo (a) pyrene. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the bloodstream and thus reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. So carbon monoxide can be very dangerous for young children with immature lungs, smokers, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases. Benzo (a) pyrene is known to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and coal tar as well as leaf smoke.
[Full disclosure: The above paragraph is about me. Burning leaves make me sick. I have some serious lung issues and, while I hate to use the term elderly when talking about myself, I'm getting there...assuming I last through the leaf-burning season!]

KEEP YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN INSIDE

That benzo (a) pyrene stuff is a big deal. It can negatively affect your nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, it messes with your DNA, and it's a carcinogen. Why would anyone do that to themselves and their families...not to mention the little children who live next door or two houses down...or the old folks on the corner...or everyone else in the neighborhood?

My neighborhood (Google Earth).
Note the dark green...trees.

INSTEAD OF BURNING

So, you live in the woods...what do you do with all the leaves?

Some cities (such as Fort Wayne) provide curbside pickup of leaves. Pay attention and make sure you get them to the curb in time for pickup.

Or, instead of setting them on fire, follow the recommendations of Rosie Lerner of the Purdue Extension Service.
You could compost those leaves yourself. Dry leaves alone will break down slowly over time, but you can speed that process by mixing the leaves with green plant materials, such as grass clippings, garden discards and produce scraps. Or you could add a source of nitrogen, such as livestock manure or commercial fertilizer. Mix (turn) the pile occasionally to keep a good supply of air in the compost. A good-sized compost pile should be a minimum of 3 cubic feet. The compost will be ready to use as a soil conditioner in several weeks to several months, depending on size and management techniques.

Shredded leaves also can be used as a mulch around garden and landscape plants. Mulches provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature. Leaves can be applied to dormant plants in winter to prevent young plants from heaving out of the ground. Leaf mulch can help keep soil cooler in summer. No more than a 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves should be used around actively growing plants. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help prevent them from matting down and preventing air from reaching roots.

Directly applying the leaves to a garden or unused area of soil is another option. Try to spread the leaves over as large an area as possible, then till or plow them under. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help them to break down faster.

My personal favorite option is to simply shred the leaves through my lawn mower until the pieces are small enough to just leave them right there on the lawn! Dry leaves are much easier to handle through the mower than moist ones. If possible, remove the bagger so all of the leaves are deposited right back onto the lawn as they shred.

Click this image for information on how to use leaves in your garden.

My lungs thank you.

πŸ‚πŸπŸ‚

Friday, November 9, 2018

Still Teaching From the Grave

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996

Last month I reread Carl Sagan's Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the brink of the Millenium. It is Sagan's last book, published in 1997, the year after he died from the rare bone-marrow disease myelodysplasia.

Billions and Billions is a book of essays covering a wide range of topics, including the fact that he never actually said, "billions and billions" on his Cosmos television series, extraterrestrials, abortion, and exoplanets. He also included essays on some pet concerns of his – climate change, and the diminishment of science literacy in American society.

He dealt with our national ignorance in an earlier book (see the quote in the picture below), but in Billions and Billions, he continued his quest to convince his fellow humans that we must take care of the Earth, our home, lest we join the dinosaurs in extinction.
The Earth is an anomaly. In all the Solar System, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet. We humans are one amongst millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for 180 million years, the dinosaurs were extinguished. Every last one. There are none left. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And we’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.
The mid-term elections held earlier this week have reminded us that in order for us to survive as a species, and allow other species to survive, we must extinguish the anti-intellectualism – "a kind of celebration of ignorance", as Sagan put it – that has once again risen to the surface in our society. The only way we can do that is to educate ourselves, our children, and even more importantly, our leaders, so they can understand the issues facing us.

Sagan wrote presciently about a future that one could argue has come to pass...
I have a foreboding of an America...when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.
We have been bamboozled by scientifically illiterate charlatans whose goal is not the health of the Earth or the human species, but the bottom line of their corporate sponsors.


Even though he's been gone more than two decades, we can still learn a lot from Dr. Sagan.

πŸŒπŸ“‘πŸŒ”

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

ISTA: "We'll be Careful"

My last two posts dealt with ISTA and their collaborations with Stand for Children.
I'm happy to report that I have heard from ISTA's leadership. They are well-aware of the dangers of working with Stand for Children and have assured me that they are entering in the discussions with "eyes wide open." They promise to be very careful.

There was no response to my suggestion that the appearance of collaboration with "reformers" might be bad.

In any case...we'll just have to see what happens next.


🚌🚌🚌

Thursday, October 25, 2018

ISTA and Stand for Children. For or Against?

WAITING FOR AN ANSWER

In my last post I wrote that ISTA was "joining" with Stand for Children (SFC) to work for more state funding for education. At least that's what I think they meant when they said,
ISTA is reaching out to a broad number of groups to help achieve increased school funding and teacher compensation – Stand is just one of these organizations.
I don't know any more details than that.

ISTA's President told a colleague that we should talk to her directly instead of posting on social media. I admit...the first thing I did when I heard that ISTA was "reaching out" to SFC was to tweet a "say it isn't so" tweet. Since then, however, I have emailed the leadership twice – once on October 21, and again on October 23.

[I understand that they are busy. I'm retired. The leadership of ISTA is not. I have noticed that they have been having a variety of meetings lately. So, I'm not complaining that I haven't heard from them. I appreciate the work they do for the teachers of Indiana. That's why I was a member every year that I taught, and have remained a member even into retirement. So...I'll wait.]


TALKING WITH THE ENEMY

I agree that it can be beneficial to talk to those with whom we disagree. It’s my hunch, however, that "reaching out" is more than talking. If it is not, then I hope that ISTA publicly announces that it is not. If it is more than just talking, then I object.

If I had heard that ISTA was talking to SFC in order to convince them to support public schools rather than continue their “reformy” ways I would have been skeptical of their chances of success but it would not have been a problem. The fact that the plan is to “reach out to SFC” in a drive for more funds seems like something different.

I'm all in for fully funding Indiana's public schools, but I have a feeling that I'm not going to like how SFC wants to use extra education funding in Indiana...more charter schools perhaps?

The money SFC has invested in Indy has gone for school board members, who in turn have joined with the Mind Trust, the Innovation Network, and privatization. This, from Nov. 2016...

How Much Money Has Stand For Children Spent On IPS Board Elections And Indiana Lobbying?
...a WFYI News review of Stand For Children’s Form 990 federal tax returns gives some insight into how much and where campaign and lobbying dollars are spent. Five years of filings show the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit continues to make Indiana -- one of its 11 state affiliates -- a focal point for school reform efforts.

At least $1 million was spent in Indiana during the past five years. The bulk of that money appears to go toward lobbying state legislators to pass laws, including the controversial bill that led to “innovation network schools” supported by IPS Superintendent Lewis Ferebee and the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office.


APPEARANCES MATTER

At the very least this looks terrible and ISTA ought to publicly renounce any affiliation with groups that work towards closing public schools to open privately run charters. That's my opinion.

SFC doesn't really work for teachers, either.

For example, here's an blog post about SFC's take on teacher evaluation from a few years ago (2014). Ironically, the post was written by ISTA.

ISTA: Stand for Children's Teacher Evaluation Study Flawed and Misguided
Stand and other education “reform” groups need to quit trying to draw a direct line from a student’s single set of test scores to a teacher’s comprehensive evaluation. It makes no sense. It is overly simplistic. It is not defensible. It is unfair.

Stand for Children and Rep. Behning should focus on TRYING TO HELP HOOSIER CHILDREN instead of trying to HURT TEACHERS. The public has had their fill of this nonsense.

SFC hasn't improved since that post was written. My post from October 22 included information from an Answer Sheet article, written last July, discussing what SFC, in concert with The Mind Trust, has done to Indianapolis public schools. Here's yet another exerpt. As you read it, keep in mind that SFC has spent a substantial amount of money buying seats on the Indianapolis school board.

What’s really going on in Indiana’s public schools
When schools reopen in Indianapolis, Indiana in July, the doors of three legacy high schools will remain shuttered. The Indianapolis Public School (IPS) board voted last fall to close them after six months of raucous meetings where community members accused the board and superintendent of ignoring community concerns. Like many school closures, the recent shuttering of what were once three great high schools would disproportionately impact low-income children of color.

DOES THE RIGHT HAND KNOW WHAT THE LEFT IS DOING?

It seems that ISTA is also against ISTA's plan to "reach out" to SFC. The upcoming election includes new school board members in Indianapolis. ISTA is working hard to defeat SFC-backed candidates. And with good reason...

Indiana teachers union spends big on Indianapolis Public Schools in election
Stand for Children, which supports innovation schools, typically sends mailers and hires campaign workers to support the candidates it endorses. But it is not required to disclose all of its political activity because it is an independent expenditure committee, also known as a 501(c)(4), for the tax code section that covers it. The group did not immediately respond to a request for information on how much it is spending on this race.

Chances are SFC is spending heavily on the school board election in order to keep the majority that has pushed for privatization in Indianapolis. The Chalkbeat article, quoted above, also said,
...one particular bone of contention is the district’s embrace of innovation schools, independent campuses that are run by charter or nonprofit operators but remain under the district’s umbrella. Teachers at those schools are employed by the school operators, so they cannot join the union.

The trio was also endorsed by the IPS Community Coalition, a local group that has received funding from a national teachers union.
[According to Chalkbeat, it seems the main concern here is the teachers union as bogeyman. Keep in mind, however, that Chalkbeat is funded by a variety of billionaires and other privatizers such as the Walton and the Gates Foundations.]


What is indisputable is SFC continued desire to privatize Indianapolis's public school system by electing pro-privatization school board members. ISTA is spending thousands in opposition.

Now that action by ISTA is something I can agree with.

SFC: IN A NUTSHELL

Again, I'm all for fully funding public schools, but I don't believe that joining with SFC will result in what ISTA is hoping for. A few years ago, Diane Ravitch explained SFC's purpose...

Stand for Children Does Not Stand for Public Education
Let’s be clear: Stand for Children and its kind want to put an end not only to teachers’ unions but to the teaching profession. They want teachers to be evaluated by test scores, despite the overwhelming evidence that doing so will promote teaching to standardized tests and narrowing the curriculum, as well as cheating and gaming the system.
ISTA shouldn't reach out to Stand For Children. Ever.

A PERSONAL NOTE

A comment on my post from Oct 22 asked me if I am now ready to rip up my ISTA card.

My answer: No. I didn't join ISTA for trivial reasons...and I won't quit because the leadership has decided to do something I disagree with.

Instead, I'll express my dissatisfaction with this particular action (like I have done with other actions in the past) to local and state level leadership. If I don't agree with their answers I will continue to speak up and try to change their minds.


🚌🚌🚌

Monday, October 22, 2018

ISTA: Lying Down With Dogs

LYING DOWN WITH DOGS

The Indiana State Teachers Association is joining with Stand for Children. Why would ISTA join with an ed-reform group?


In case you don't know, Stand for Children is a pro-ed-reform group deeply involved with the privatization of Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS).
With the arrival of Oregon-based Stand For Children, Indianapolis school board elections started to take on a decidedly different tenor. Until 2010, a few thousand dollars was all that was needed to win a seat. That all changed when Stand For Children, an education reform 501(c)(4), started pouring tens of thousands of dollars into the 2012 elections. Stand’s tax return that year reported that the election of three Indianapolis school board members was a top accomplishment for the organization.
The result of this is that Indianapolis has seen school closures and disruptions led by the district superintendent...appointed by the school board purchased by Stand for Children.

DISRUPTED? HOW?
Stand for Children also spent $473,172 lobbying Indiana lawmakers on Public Law 1321, which was passed in 2014. Public Law 1321 was based on a 2013 model policy drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch-funded member organization of corporate lobbyists and conservative state legislators who craft “model legislation” on issues important to them and then help shepherd it through legislatures. Public Law 1321 allows Indianapolis and other districts across the state to create Innovation Network Schools — schools that are overseen by the school district but managed by private operators. These include privately operated charter schools that gain instant access to existing public buildings and resources.

IPS opened the first Innovation Network school in 2015. Fast-forward to 2018, and the district website lists 20 Innovation Schools in total. The Mind Trust has “incubated” and helped IPS open many of those Innovation Schools, including Daniels’s Purdue Polytechnic High School, with seven more schools in the pipeline.

GERM

Groups like Stand for Children are part of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) which has caused much of the academic and economic turmoil in our public schools for the last several decades. Why does ISTA, representing Indiana's public school teachers, want to join with them?

My guess is that any increase in education funding supported by groups like Stand for Children will be tossed down the voucher/charter sinkhole!

IPS is being privatized. Stand for Children is helping.

Read the entire article by Darcie Cimarusti on Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet.

Then, contact your ISTA officers and representatives for a more complete explanation, and a change in policy.



FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been a member of ISTA and NEA since the day I started teaching...42 years ago. I'm now a member of ISTA- and NEA-Retired.

πŸ«πŸšŒπŸ“š

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Direct Threat to Every Country on the Planet

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.

You may have missed it among all the news coverage of the upcoming midterm election, the tweets, and the World Series. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report outlining the catastrophe which is approaching if we don't do anything to head of the warming of the Earth – fires, flood, drought, severe weather, which will invariably lead to climate refugees, fresh water shortages, and conflict over arable land and water.

Only one nation isn't on board with the rest of the world. The United States.

Last week French President Macron asked the members of the UN to start economic boycotts against us. "Macron's point is that any country that fails to fight climate change poses a direct threat to every country on the planet."



The New York Times reported on the UN Climate Report...

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040
The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming. The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.
...and a link to the actual report.

Global Warming of 1.5C
“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.
WE ACCEPT SCIENCE WHEN...

We accept the science which makes our cell phones and computers. We accept the science which brings us our television programs and podcasts. We accept the science of medicine whenever we go to the doctor or take a prescription. We accept the science of flying on airplanes.

Climate change caused by human action is as established a science as any of those things. The only "doubters" are those whose millions billions are made by, or supported by fossil fuel companies. These are the same people who brought you the "Cigarettes are not harmful" lie.

Watch...



WILL YOU BE HERE IN 20 YEARS?

Will we come to our senses soon enough to preserve our environment for our children and our grandchildren (and our great-grandchildren)? According to the UN Report, we should change our ways for anyone who expects to be alive in twenty years, too. At "three-score and ten" I may not be around in 2040, but (hopefully) my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandson will be.

Are we smart enough to sacrifice some economic gains for clean air, clean water, and a livable planet? The Earth will be here in 20 years no matter what we do. Will we?


For more information, see

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

🌎☀️🌎

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

Adding money to your IRA, 401k, 403b, or any other investment isn't a personal expense; it's an investment in your future.

Similarly, money spent on public education is an investment, not an expense. Roads, parks, public libraries, and public schools are all public benefits...they all contribute to the public good and the tax money we spend on them is an investment in our future. Through the public good, we guarantee the benefits of our society to those who follow us.

When it comes to education, there is a waiting time for the return on the public's investment, but after that wait time, it's clear that society benefits. For example, the G.I. bill after World War II was an investment in veterans which helped build prosperity after the war.


It is the same with public education. We may not always see an immediate positive impact, but, in the long run, an educated populace will earn more, produce more, and live better.

It seems that Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) doesn't agree. He is. apparently, against public schools as stated in this post on facebook from last week.

"What the hell are we doing, putting government in charge of educating our children?"-- Jim Lucas, October 4, 2018
LOCAL SUPERINTENDENTS SAY ISTEP IS WORTHLESS

Lucas was responding to this article on Fort Wayne's WANE-TV about the low test scores on this year's ISTEP - Less than half of Indiana's students passed ISTEP. Perhaps he only read the title because if he had read the entire article (or had watched the embedded video) he would have read this...
Northwest Allen County Superintendent Chris Himsel says he hasn't looked at [ISTEP test scores] and doesn't care to.

"ISTEP does not tell us why the kids passed," he said. It does not tell us why kids do not pass and therefore it offers us no information that helps us improve instruction for kids. Therefore we will pay very little attention to them."'

We shared some of NACS' results with him. With only 45 percent of his high school students passed both sections of the test, he says that doesn't line up with the nearly 95 percent of his students passing the national college-readiness ACCUPLACER test.

"There's a disconnect between the test scores which makes us believe there's a flaw in the testing system Indiana's using for the ISTEP," he said.
And this...
Superintendent of Southwest Allen County Schools Phil Downs agrees, calling the ISTEP a waste of time and tax dollars.

"While Southwest Allen County Schools is legally obligated to take the ISTEP+ tests, SACS does not place much value in their results," he said. "ISTEP+ scores continue to produce results that do not align with any other measures of student performance SACS uses, are in no way useful for teachers, nor are they helpful to students and their parents."

PUBLIC EDUCATION - WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

Lucas is a member of the Republican super-majority in the Indiana House and a member of the House Education Committee. As such, he is at least partly responsible for the condition and quality of public education in Indiana, and he, along with others in the legislature, must be held accountable.
  • He favors the privatization of education and supports vouchers and charter schools. He also supports expensive testing programs. As a consequence, the funding set aside for public schools has been less than what is needed because money for testing and for financial support of voucher and charter schools all come from the same pot of funds.
  • He and his ilk have supported the deprofessionalization of Indiana's teaching force...the loss of collective bargaining, the lowering of requirements to become a teacher, the lack of autonomy in the classroom, and a 16% decrease (adjusted for inflation) in the salaries of Indiana's teachers.
In other words, Lucas is a member of the group (the education privatizers in the Indiana House, the Indiana Senate, and the State Board of Education - mostly Republicans) which has removed incentives for teachers, made choices on how and what to teach, yet has held teachers accountable for the decisions of the legislature. Those decisions have caused the current teacher shortage and damaged our public schools. If he doesn't like how Indiana's public education is working, he has himself, and his cronies, to blame.

High stakes standardized tests are academically worthless and a waste of money. They measure family income, not achievement. Charter schools and vouchers are diverting funds from public schools. Legislators, like Lucas, who have tied the hands of actual educators, must take responsibility for the damage they have done to public education in Indiana.

Lucas and his fellow Republicans own 70% of the Indiana House of Representatives and 80% of the Indiana Senate.

We can change those percentages on November 6.


πŸ›πŸ«πŸ“

Friday, October 5, 2018

2018 Medley #23

For Kids-Not For Profit,
McCormick Asks For Accountability,
Teacher Evaluations, Income and Testing,
The Reading Wars, Elections Matter,
DeVos's Ignorance,
October is ADHD Awareness Month

PUBLIC EDUCATION: FOR KIDS, NOT FOR PROFIT

IRS Should Close Tax Loophole That Allows Private School Voucher “Donors” To Profit With Public Funds

Indiana has a tax credit of 50% for donors to scholarship granting organizations which means that half the donations to those organizations come from the state. It's worse, however, in ten other states,  Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia. I must admit that I'm surprised Indiana hasn't gone this far...
For example, imagine that a wealthy South Carolinian who is in the top tax bracket gives $1 million to a “scholarship organization” that funds the state’s private school voucher program. South Carolina will reimburse that donor $1 million – this means the donor hasn’t spent anything. Nonetheless, the federal government considers that $1 million a charitable donation and therefore not taxable. At the top federal income tax bracket of 37 percent, the donor saves $370,000 on their federal taxes. But because the donor was reimbursed by the state for every dollar of their $1 million donation, that extra $370,000 savings is pure profit. It’s outrageous.


STATE SUPER CALLS FOR CHARTER AND PRIVATE SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

Superintendent of Education, Dr. Jennifer McCormick Supports Conditions on Receipt of Public Funds; Won’t Run for Re-Election

Jennifer McCormick, a Republican, ran for Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2016. Her opponent was the incumbent Glenda Ritz. During her tenure, Superintendent Ritz tried to use her position to support public schools and protect public education from the privatizers in the legislature and the Indiana State Board of Education (SBOE). Dr. McCormick professed to have a similar educational platform as Ritz, but she claimed that, as a Republican, the Governor, Legislators, and members of the SBOE, would listen to her.

They didn't.
...Superintendent McCormick believes that “any school that takes public money should be an inclusive place for LGBT students and staff.” It seems pretty clear that she does not see eye-to-eye with her Republican colleagues on what the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s role should be or with how charters and private schools should be held accountable for their receipt and use of public money. This news came as Dr. McCormick discussed the Department of Education’s legislative priorities for the upcoming session. Among the priorities she announced for the Department were providing an inclusive environment for K-12 students, holding charter school authorizers accountable both fiscally and academically, and reducing testing time.


TEACHER EVALUATIONS

An Open Letter to NJ Sen. Ruiz, re: Teacher Evaluation and Test Scores

There are too many out-of-school factors for teachers to be held 100% responsible for the achievement of their students.
You can't hold a teacher accountable for things she can't control. Senator, in your statement, you imply that student growth should be a part of a teacher's evaluation. But a teacher's effectiveness is obviously not the only factor that contributes to student outcomes. As the American Statistical Association states: "...teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions."(2)

Simply put: a teacher's effectiveness is a part, but only a part, of a child's learning outcomes. We should not attribute all of the changes in a student's test scores from year-to-year solely to a teacher they had from September to May; too many other factors influence that student's "growth."


HIGH INCOME - HIGH SCORES

ISTEP results are a non-story

Speaking of test scores...ISTEP scores are finally here...delayed again...and still worthless for anything other than giving schools full of high-income students another "A" banner for their hallway. Meanwhile, schools full of low-income students fight to get equitable funding for wrap-around services. Where are the "F" banners for the legislators who fail to take responsibility for inequitable funding?
It’s a lousy week to be an education reporter in Indiana. ISTEP-Plus test results were released Wednesday by the State Board of Education, so editors are assigning – and readers are expecting – the usual stories. Which schools did best? Which did worst? Which improved, and which didn’t?

Reporters who spend their work lives visiting schools and talking to educators and experts know this is the epitome of a non-news story. They know that years of experience and research tell us that affluent schools will have higher test scores than schools serving mostly poor students.


THE READING WARS

The Reading Wars? Who’s Talking About Reading and Class Size?

"The 'reading wars' never go away — at least not for long." -- Valerie Strauss

There are more than two sides to The Reading Wars. Actual practitioners, reading teachers, understand that teaching reading is a nuanced process. You can't ignore context and you can't ignore sound-symbol correspondence.

A good teacher finds out what her students need and what helps her students learn. She then tries different approaches and chooses that combination which most benefits the student.

Class size matters. The larger the class the more difficult it is to focus on the needs of each student. Large classes force teachers into focusing on the approaches which meet the needs of the majority of students...which means some students miss out.
Any teacher who has studied reading, understands that both phonics and whole language are important. A great reading teacher is capable of interweaving the two, depending on the instructional reading needs of every student in their class.

Some students need more phonics. Other students don’t need as much phonics. Teachers are better able to address the individual needs of their students while bringing the class together, if they have manageable class sizes. Questions involving how to teach reading are important, but class size is critical no matter how reading is taught.

Lowering class sizes enables teachers to create an individualized reading prescription, like an IEP. It enables teachers to provide more one-on-one instruction which we also know helps students. It also provides them with more time to work with parents.



VOTE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

Education -- and Betsy DeVos -- are issues in key political races this November
While it may not top the list of issues motivating voters to go to the polls, education is a key factor in some big races. (Depending on age, location, political affiliation or time of survey, other matters may come out on top, including the economy, immigration or health care.) And while Education Secretary Betsy DeVos isn’t on the ballot anywhere, her priorities are.

Americans have long cited education as a key concern when asked by pollsters to list issues important to them, but it has never been seen as one that could affect their vote. But for a combination of reasons, including the inevitable swing of the political pendulum, things seem different this year.

Hundreds of teachers and retired educators — an unprecedented number — are running for political office on the local, state and federal levels. There are hundreds of teachers — most of them Democrats — running for state legislative seats alone.


DEVOS DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW

Betsy DeVos doesn’t know what she doesn’t know about education

The Dunning-Kruger effect "...occurs where people fail to adequately assess their level of competence — or specifically, their incompetence — at a task and thus consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. This lack of awareness is attributed to their lower level of competence robbing them of the ability to critically analyze their performance, leading to a significant overestimation of themselves. In simple words, it's 'people who are too ignorant to know how ignorant they are'."

Betsy DeVos is too ignorant about education to understand that she knows nothing about education.
“Parents, by their very nature, should decide what, when, where and how their children learn,” DeVos said.
But even amidst the barren, dystopian landscape of Ms. DeVos’ vision of American education, the quote above somehow caught my eye. You have to give it to her: Betsy has a real knack for distilling complicated, complex problems down into a single ignorant, nonsensical nugget of edu-drivel.

And she’s just clever enough to remember who her audience is here–and it’s not teachers, or teacher educators, or the 75+% of parents who are happy with their kids’ schools. No, her audience is the conservative base who believe that nothing public is better than anything private, who refer to public schools as “government schools,” and believe that paying even a single dollar in taxes is a form of robbery....


OCTOBER IS ADHD AWARENESS MONTH

7 Facts You Need To Know About ADHD

October is ADHD Awareness Month. It's sad that we even have to post the following...
1. ADHD is Real

Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States long ago concluded that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a real, brain-based medical disorder. These organizations also concluded that children and adults with ADHD benefit from appropriate treatment. [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]


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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Don't Bother Me With Politics. I Just Want To Teach.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

You come to school early every day, work your hardest to help the children in your classroom, stay late to finish getting ready for tomorrow (or take work home).

You buy materials for your classroom, averaging around $500 a year, but sometimes you spend more, as much as $1000. Sometimes you forget to keep track of what you get...things like snacks for the kids, stickers, posters, paper, pencils, markers/crayons, and books. It doesn't matter too much, only a portion of what you spend is deductible on your taxes.

You find yourself worrying about the struggling students in your class. There just aren't enough hours in the day for you to get to them. There are too many other students in your class...and it's impossible to help all of them who need extra help during the school day. So you often stay after school or come in early, to help one or two who have transportation. Some of your students need extra help, but there aren't enough specialists to help them. Some need medical attention, but the school nurse is only at your building three days a week. Some of them need time with the school's counselor or social worker, but their schedules are full. You end up being a nurse and counselor, as well as a teacher.

It's Saturday, time to catch up. You spend the morning at school and rush to your own child's soccer game after a few hours. You get home, make dinner, eat, and clean up, then collapse on the couch.

As you fall asleep watching TV, you think about the upcoming "Test week" and you worry that your students aren't ready. Your evaluation is dependent on their success or failure despite the fact that you can't go home with them to make sure they get enough sleep, do their homework, and are food- and housing-secure. If you teach third grade you understand that your students' academic futures depend on their ability to pass the "reading" test.

You're an average American teacher. Your classroom is overcrowded. Your school is underfunded.

How did this happen to American public school teachers?


TEACHERS AND THEIR SCHOOLS UNDER ATTACK

American public school teachers are under attack, along with their schools and students. The attack is coming from the very people who should be supporting teachers the most. The attack is coming from their neighbors, friends, and relatives...and even from their colleagues...through their votes, or lack thereof.

The attack comes from the state legislature, the federal government, and those who voted for anti-public education politicians, or those who didn't vote at all.

I've heard teachers say, "I don't want to be bothered by politics. I just want to teach. I probably won't vote anyway."

It may not be to their liking, but teaching is a political act.
“[Teachers] want to tell legislators what’s going on, they want legislators to visit their classrooms, they want people to help them have the tools and conditions they need to do their job,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers. “They don’t see that as political, they just see that as part of, ‘Help me do my job.’”

But: Curriculum is political. Standards are political. Testing is political. Funding is political.

Education is political. Can teachers not be?
Phyllis Bush, a co-founder of NEIFPE, the Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, wrote,
...if we CHOOSE not to vote, we are allowing those who do vote to make decisions for us in our towns, our states, and our nation.
In Indiana, the members of the state board of education chosen by the Governor, and the legislature (led by the Governor), all elected by the voters of Indiana (the voters, including teachers' friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues) have...
  • reduced funding for public schools by diverting tax dollars to private schools, parochial schools, and privately run charter schools. Many Indiana classrooms are now overcrowded.
  • passed legislation limiting teachers' due process, collective bargaining rights, and salary increases. Salaries for Indiana teachers have shrunk by 16% since 2000.
  • passed legislation removing incentives for advanced study and experience.
  • supported reducing the requirements for becoming a teacher, thus trivializing the time, energy, and cost teachers expended to become licensed in Indiana.
  • made the overuse and misuse of standardized tests required for all public schools.
  • placed the blame on so-called "failing" schools and their teachers for students' achievement difficulties due to out-of-school factors associated with poverty.
If you (or your friends, neighbors, relatives and colleagues) didn't vote or voted for policymakers who don't support public education, then you (and they) have contributed to the legislation damaging public education in Indiana.

Teachers who don't vote allow others to make decisions about what goes on in their classrooms. As the former first lady, Michelle Obama said this week, "Democracy continues, with or without you." If you don't vote, it goes on without you.

"Democracy continues, with or without you."

Teachers, vote for candidates who will protect and support your profession and against those who pass legislation and make policy that will damage public schools.

Parents, vote for candidates who will support the public schools that 90% of our children attend.

Taxpayers, vote for candidates who will invest in the future of your state by supporting the constitutional mandate for a free, public school system. It is the duty of the General Assembly to
...provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.

REGISTER THEN VOTE

Indiana voter registration ends on October 9. You can register or check your voter registration at the Indiana Voter Portal.

Then vote on November 6, 2018.

The public schools of Indiana need you

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Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 Medley #23: Seven Disturbing Reads

Climate Change, Teacher Pay,
Privatization: Vouchers and Charters,
The U.S. Mistrusts Education,
Politics Matters, Ethnic Labels

I added a number to the title of this post because I read the latest by Nancy Flanagan, an education blogger who is ending her tenure at Education Week to go out on her own. Read her stuff...

THE SIXTH EXTINCTION

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Kolbert shows us, without a shadow of a doubt, that the Earth is warming. Our food supplies and oxygen supply are at risk.

Simply put...There is just one country in the entire world – the United States, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry – which refuses to accept the truth. The ecosystem which has allowed humans to survive and thrive is dying; we're killing it. We need to pay attention to the world's scientists before it's too late.
...having freed ourselves from the constraints of evolution, humans nevertheless remain dependent on the earth's biological and geochemical systems. By disrupting these systems – cutting down tropical rainforests, altering the composition of the atmosphere, acidifying the oceans – we're putting our own survival in danger. Among the many lessons that emerge from the geologic record, perhaps the most sobering is that in life, as in mutual funds, past performance is no guarantee of future results. When a mass extinction occurs, it takes out the weak and also lays low the strong. V-shaped graptolites were everywhere, and then they were nowhere. Ammonites swam around for hundreds of millions of years, and then they were gone. Richard Leakey has warned that

"Homo sapiens might not only be the agent of the sixth extinction but also risks being one of its victims."


THE PAY GAP

Teacher Pay Gap Reaches a Record High

Teachers are compensated at a lower rate than other professionals. Ironically, the teacher pay gap is approximately the same as the gender pay gap. Women earn less than men for the same work. The teaching profession, which is traditionally filled by women, receives less than those professions traditionally filled by men.
When adjusting only for inflation, the researchers found that teachers, compared to other college graduates, are paid nearly $350 less per week in salary in 2017, or 23 percent less.

When they adjusted for education, experience, and demographic factors, the gap had barely shrunk – 18.7 percent, up from 17 percent in 2015.

While benefits such as health insurance and retirement improved for teachers relative to other professionals during that period, the total compensation (wage and benefit) penalty for public school teachers grew from 10.5 percent to 11.1 percent in 2017.


VOUCHERS DIVERT PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS

The False Promise Of School Vouchers

Schools which accept vouchers in Indiana have a choice. They can either accept or reject your child. They don't have to justify their choice. They can reject your child because of your family's religious beliefs, your child's sexual or gender preference, your child's academic achievement level, or his or her behavior problems. The only "choice" parents have is whether or not to fill out an application for a private school. After that, it's up to the school to choose the child.

Vouchers do not improve school achievement. Voucher schools are not subject to public oversight as are public schools.
...new studies have shown, not only do the claims made by voucher supporters fail to withstand closer scrutiny, these programs also allow private, often religious, schools to receive a skyrocketing volume of taxpayer funds without oversight. These facts should be enough to dissuade anyone from the notion that private school voucher programs are what’s best for America’s students.

First, public schools are under legal obligation to be open and nondiscriminatory in their acceptance of all students, regardless of race, sexual orientation or ability. Voucher programs, on the other hand, are governed by different laws in different states, but most allow private schools to accept taxpayer dollars but reject students with vouchers for a variety of reasons, ranging from disability to ability to pay.

That’s right: voucher programs actually fund discrimination. According to an analysis by the Huffington Post of the Florida Hope Scholarship Program—a voucher program aimed at public school students who have undergone bullying—10 percent of the schools participating in the program have “zero tolerance policies” for LGBTQ students. And nearly 20 percent of participating schools have dress-code policies that lead to disproportionately punish students of color.


CHARTER SCHOOLS: PRIVATE SCHOOLS DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO PRIVATE WALLETS

Charter School Corruption Is Changing Education Policy And Politics

Lack of public oversight has yielded a charter industry full of corruption and cheating. Public money should go to public schools...and all schools accepting public funds ought to subject to the same oversight, restrictions, and requirements.
As scandalous news stories and scathing reviews of the charter industry continue to emerge, the negative impacts these schools have on families and communities will prompt more to question the wisdom of expanding these schools and draw more attention to the need to ratchet up regulations for the charters already in existence.


THE U.S. DOESN'T VALUE AN EDUCATED CITIZENRY

Let’s fund education like we value it

In OECD nations, funding for education increased an average of 4% from 2010 to 2014. In the U.S. it dropped by 3%.

The United States has always had a national undercurrent of suspicion with respect to education. During the 2016 campaign, then Candidate Trump even went so far as to claim that "I love the poorly educated." What he meant to say was that he loved everyone who supported him, but the implication, which has been borne out in his administration's attitude towards public education, is that there was no need to improve the education of those who needed it the most -- as long as they voted for him.

And Trump wasn't the first to bring in the education level of voters to the campaign. In the 1952 campaign, Adlai Stevenson was branded an "egghead" by V-P candidate Richard Nixon. Richard Hofstadter, in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, wrote that the term was coined because "the country seemed to be in need of some term to express that disdain for intellectuals."

School teachers have frequently been accused of being agents who disrupted tradition and taught children politics. A school board member (and local Eagle Forum member) in my district once accused staff members of exercising "mind-control" over students (something many of the teachers wished they could actually do in order to increase student attention to their assignments!). In another example, a Texas state school board member once proclaimed that "Somebody's gotta stand up to experts" when educated people tried to explain why actual science needed to be included in the state science curriculum.

The title of this piece hits the nail on the head. We, as a nation, don't value education and we don't want to pay for it.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a conservative think tank focused on education policy issues. One of their frequent contributors is a person named Dale Chu...
• Chu: Finally, there are those who argue that the system as it currently exists works perfectly fine for the era it was designed for (think the G.I. Bill and universal high school). In this view, education is wrongly perceived as broken. Moreover, the thinking goes, we won’t make any headway unless we solve larger societal issues like poverty or institutional racism—though for better or for worse, reformers tend to part ways when it comes to race.


VOTE YOUR INTEREST

Why Politics Matters

Why do the poorest, sickest Americans vote for candidates who promise to take away their health-insurance? Why do struggling workers vote for candidates who promise to move their jobs overseas? Why do middle-class taxpayers vote for candidates who give tax breaks to the wealthy, reducing services for those who need it?
That was the astonishing conclusion of a study reported by Inc. The study ranked life expectancy in all 50 states, and came to some truly eye-opening conclusions. Among them: residents of Mississippi have the same life expectancy as residents of Bangladesh.


LABELS AND ETHNICITY

Disowning the Lie of Whiteness

"Nazis march unmasked in our streets...too many of our police use murder and atrocity to ensure the social order."

Labels reduce us to one thing: black, Hispanic, Jewish, Socialist. We're all much more complicated than that.
I don’t want to live in a world where human beings are tattooed and numbered and sent to their deaths.

Because the Holocaust is not over.

American slavery is not over.

Neither is Jim Crow or lynching or a thousand other marks of hatred and bigotry.

Nazis march unmasked in our streets. Our prisons are the new plantation. And too many of our police use murder and atrocity to ensure the social order.

As long as we allow ourselves to be white, there will be no justice for both ourselves and others.


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