"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

Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Top Ten: Medley #25

We're coming to the end of another calendar year so it's time for resolutions and "best of" lists. Here's the list of this blog's Top Ten Posts of the Year according to the number of hits each one received.

#10, MARCH 29

What's Bugging Me Today: Testing Ignorance - RTFM

The Children's Defense Fund released a report which revealed that they do not understand how tests work in general, and how the NAEP works, specifically. They claimed that 67% of America's eighth-graders were reading "below grade level" which was not the case based on the proof they cited. Correctly reading the information they relied upon, we can conclude that 75% of America's eighth graders are reading at or above "grade level."
This means that the 67% of students who scored below proficient on the NAEP's 8th-grade reading test were not honor students, not that they were "below grade level." Students who are "proficient" are high achieving students. Students who are "basic" are average, and students who are "below basic" are the ones who are at risk of failure. 67% of students below "proficient" does not mean that 67% failed the test!

In fact, 76% of eighth graders scored at "Basic" or above on the NAEP nationally. That's still not perfect...and some might argue that it's not even acceptable, but it's much better than the mistaken assumption that "67% of eighth graders score below grade level."


#9, MARCH 4

Time for The Test! What Can One Teacher Do?

Each year teachers have to stop teaching to make time for intrusive state standardized tests. It's a waste of time and doesn't improve the learning process. Furthermore, the results of the tests are used in invalid and unreliable ways.
Understand that the increased importance of standardized tests -- the fact that they are used to rate schools and teachers, as well as measure student knowledge accumulation -- is based on invalid assumptions. As a professional, your job is to teach your students. If knowledge were all that was important in education then an understanding of child development, pedagogy, and psychology wouldn't be necessary to teach (and yes, I know, there are people in the state who actually believe that). We know that's not true. We know that one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning is the relationship between teacher and child. We know that well trained, caring teachers are better educators than computers.


#8, SEPTEMBER 14

Just in Case Someone's Listening

After nearly 13 years of ranting against the corporate-led destruction of public education, I lament that not much has really changed.
The sad news is that things have gotten worse for public education since I started writing here in 2006. We're still dealing with privatization, union busting, teacher scapegoating, the overuse and misuse of tests, and the lack of funding or support for public schools. When we add to that, a teacher shortage designed and implemented by those same "reformers," the task of saving our schools seems overwhelming.

#7, JUNE 16

Fathers Day 2018: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

My annual Fathers Day post with the same message each year: 1) read aloud is important and 2) dads should do it!
Jim Trelease, in The Read Aloud Handbook reminded us [emphasis added]
In 1985, the commission [on Reading, organized by the National Academy of Education and the National Institute of Education and funded under the U.S. Department of Education] issued its report, Becoming a Nation of Readers. Among its primary findings, two simple declarations rang loud and clear:

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


#6, OCTOBER 10

Education is NOT an Expense

Corporate reform is slowly changing public education into a consumer good. It's not and shouldn't be. It's a public good. An investment in public education is an investment in our future.
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.


#5, JUNE 9

Privatization – Still Failing After All These Years

Privatizing public schools doesn't help children. Learning doesn't improve. The impact of poverty isn't eliminated.
We cannot afford to fund three educational systems with public tax dollars. We need to return to one, publicly funded, public school system.

What about "failing" public schools?

What "privatizers" call a "failing" public school is, in fact, a "failing" municipality or state government. The answer to low achieving schools is not to take money and resources away in order to fund a second or third school system. The answer is to improve schools so that all students are well served.

Even so, America's public schools perform well. We don't have a "failing" school problem. We have a child poverty problem.

Public funds should be reserved for public schools.


#4, NOVEMBER 30

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

Who would have thought that demoralizing teachers, cutting their salaries, eliminating benefits, and reducing job security would have a detrimental impact on the profession of teaching?
"I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”

#3, AUGUST 3

LeBron James and the Promise of Public Schools

If we cared about the future, we would provide the same services to all schools that LeBron James is providing. These are the schools all children deserve.
LeBron James is a millionaire...but unlike others among the super-rich who stick their wallets into America's education infrastructure, The LeBron James Family Foundation, along with community partners, is helping to fund a public school run by a public school system, and staffed with unionized public school teachers. The taxpayers are paying for the school, teachers, and the usual expenses just like they do for all public schools, while the Foundation and its partners are providing funds for building renovations, wraparound services, and other extras.

This kind of investment is what all our children need and deserve...


#2, AUGUST 15

Back to School in America, 2018-2019 Indiana Edition

Underpaid. Overworked. Is it any wonder that there's a serious teacher shortage in Indiana (and the rest of the U.S.)?
A teacher's paid work day is only 7 or 8 hours long...but for the vast majority of teachers, the workday doesn't begin when the students arrive, or end when they go home. Homework and after-hours work is part of everyday life for teachers. I have seen teachers stay at school 4 or 5 hours after the students leave, carry home hours of paperwork every night, or spend every weekend in their classroom, not trying to get ahead, but trying to keep up. I have been that teacher.

And each year the legislature adds something new...

THE #1 POST OF 2018, SEPTEMBER 27

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

The turnout for the last election was higher than in previous midterm elections. Too many teachers, however, still voted for the Republican legislators for the Indiana legislature who have done their best to damage public education.

Many teachers from Indiana are one-issue voters. Unfortunately, the one-issue is not education. It's time teachers stood up for their own profession and voted for the interests of their students.

Teachers must become the political voice for their students.
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.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

What's Bugging Me Today: ADHD Denial, Misdiagnosis, and the Harvard Study

The parents of a young child with a summer birthday asked the pediatrician if their child was ready to start school. The pediatrician told them, "Go ahead and send him. It's never too early to start them in school."

Even if I hadn't been a teacher involved in early education when I heard this, I would have known that this was bad advice. Starting school too early can be damaging. I knew because...

STARTING SCHOOL IN CHICAGO

In Chicago, in the early 1950s, the Kindergarten entrance date cutoff was October 1. My mid-September birthday made me eligible for entrance to Kindergarten which, back then, started the day after Labor Day, about two weeks before my 5th birthday.

I struggled all through school. I made progress...now and then good progress, but I had trouble paying attention; I didn't always know what was going on at a given moment during class; I couldn't focus on the task at hand; I couldn't remember what I had read.

Every year I would start the school year with high hopes. I promised myself that I would keep up with the work, pay attention, and stay organized. And every year, by about the second or third month, those promises would be lost.

While in Elementary School I was diagnosed with Minimal Brain Damage, the horrifying 50s term for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). My treatment consisted of therapy with a child psychologist of which I remember very little other than the fact that I assumed that there was something "wrong" with me. At some point, and without any memorable closure, the therapy stopped. Nothing more was done for my MBD/ADHD, and I continued to struggle with the social and academic aspects of Elementary School.


MOVING ON TO HIGH SCHOOL

At various times my parents and teachers said things like this to me (note the mixed messages):
  • What were you thinking?
  • Why didn't you think before you [insert behavior]?
  • You could do so much better if only you would try harder.
  • Did you even try?
  • You're just lazy.
  • You'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on.
and my parents heard things like this from my teachers,
  • He's just not bright enough to do the work.
  • He's smart enough and can do the work, he's just lazy.
  • He could do so much better if only he put forth some effort.
  • He needs to learn to pay attention.
In high school, I learned that words have power. One day during my senior year, my English teacher kept me after class. She was a good teacher who clearly cared about her students (think: Professor McGonagall). She said to me, "You could do so much better if only you would try harder." Once again, I knew something was "wrong" with me...because I did try, but each year I would "forget" to pay attention. I would procrastinate. I would lose things. At that time in my life, I wasn't really sure what "try harder" meant. I ended up with a "C" in her class, and I have dragged her words around with me ever since then.

Still, I somehow managed to get by and survive Elementary and High School. High school band and orchestra helped - I always got an A in each.

College was the same. I got into college because of my musical ability (though I only stayed in the music school for one semester) and barely made it through my freshman year. I was allowed to come back for a third semester as a freshman, on the condition that I improve. I did, slightly, but continued the same pattern from elementary school and high school. I managed to graduate with a bachelors degree using several rounds of summer school to make up for classes I missed or failed.

Sullivan High School (Chicago) Orchestra, c.1966

TURN-AROUND

After college, I worked in retail and, much to my surprise, I did very well, becoming the head of a sub-department in less than a year. When my first child was born I became interested in child development so I decided to go back to school. With the help of adulthood, marriage, and the responsibility of a child, I was able to get a teaching certificate and was even inducted into an education honor society. I followed this with a masters degree and a Reading Recovery certificate.

I spent my teaching career engaged in what was, ironically, the source of my childhood shame, embarrassment, and failure: elementary school education. I had some success and some failures as a teacher, but I kept at it and kept trying to improve. I eventually learned about ADHD (and ways to compensate for my own ADHD symptoms). In the middle of my career, I started working with children who were struggling in school...children who were like I was.

ALLEGED ADHD?

Last week I read a comment on a popular education blog that suggested that mental health diagnoses were quackery. The commenter accepted that there are mental health problems, but the diagnoses, at least to the commenter, were fake. The comment even referred to "alleged ADHD kids." I can only assume that there is some painful mental health problem to which the writer was exposed which was misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, left untreated, or incorrectly treated.

Are all mental health diagnoses quackery? Absolutely not.

We can't just deny that something exists because people screw up in their diagnosis. Medicine, like education, is not an exact science (there is no such thing as an exact science!), and the medicine of the brain is no different. We do the best we can with the knowledge we currently have, but we have to use that knowledge correctly.

JUMP TO HARVARD STUDY 2018

Harvard study: Children who start school early more likely to get ADHD diagnosis — even if they don’t have it
Harvard University researchers have found that children who start school up to a year sooner than many of their peers are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD — even if they don’t really have the condition. As a result, large numbers of children may be improperly labeled with the disorder when, instead, they are just immature.
In other words, those younger children were misdiagnosed with ADHD. That doesn't mean ADHD doesn't exist...or is "alleged."

WHAT IF...

What would my experiences in school have been if I hadn't started kindergarten at the age of four

Would I still have been diagnosed with ADHD (Minimal Brain Damage) as a child and then rediagnosed with the same as an adult?

Would I still have felt inclined to work with children who were struggling in class?

Would I have had a completely different career?
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers looked at the records of more than 407,000 children from every state and found that younger children in the same grouping of students had a 30 percent higher risk for an ADHD diagnosis than older students.


Was I part of that 30%?

A 30% higher risk does not mean that everyone diagnosed with ADHD who has a summer birthday has been misdiagnosed.

ADHD does exist...and some people live with it even if they didn't start school at four years old. My lifelong experiences with the side effects and comorbid conditions related to ADHD suggest that I would have had the diagnosis anyway.

But the claim that ADHD is overdiagnosed is not new. Neither is the claim that ADHD is underdiagnosed. The truth is somewhere in between; ADHD is often misdiagnosed.

MISDIAGNOSIS

Schools and teachers shouldn't diagnose ADHD, a medical condition. However, a classroom teacher is often the first to notice a problem with the behaviors associated with ADHD. Primary Care Physicians are also not necessarily qualified to diagnose ADHD and many of those who do, often do not follow the diagnostic guidelines in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Misdiagnoses and overdiagnoses are caused by poor medical practices -- either by non-medical lay people (educators), slipshod work by untrained or overworked physicians, or mistakes by fallible, though well-meaning human beings.

That's why I wrote, above, and would like to emphasize...
Medicine, like education, is not an exact science, and the medicine of the brain is no different. We do the best we can with the knowledge we currently have, but we have to use that knowledge correctly.

The DSM has specific criteria which must be followed if ADHD is to be diagnosed. In order for a condition to be considered ADHD, the symptoms must occur...
...to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities...
and are present
...in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
Misplacing your keys does not mean you have ADHD.

Occasional daydreaming does not mean your child has ADHD.

Excitability and clumsiness are normal human traits and do not mean that you or your child has ADHD.

ADHD in children is only ADHD if the suspected behaviors are "inconsistent with developmental level," have a serious negative impact on the child's life, and are present in more than one setting...otherwise, it's just "childhood."


WHAT TO DO...

Don't automatically enroll a child with a late-summer birthday in kindergarten the moment they become eligible. The later in the year a child is born, the more parents ought to consider preschool instead of Kindergarten.

A teacher should not be relied on to diagnose ADHD. If you're a teacher, remember that the youngest children in your classroom might have different behaviors than the older ones. It's also important to note that other conditions might "look like ADHD" such as childhood depression, some learning disabilities, oppositional defiant disorder, and bipolar disorder. Leave the medical diagnoses to medical professionals.

Perhaps it's time to let go of age-based grade grouping. No matter where we place the cutoff date for entrance into Kindergarten, there will be some children who are almost a year younger than the others. How about multi-age classrooms? Do the positive benefits of multi-age classrooms outweigh the negative?

Finally, it's essential that we end the trend towards curriculum push down. Developmentally appropriate practice is needed for our preschools and elementary schools. Children, even gifted children, are not just small adults. Physical and emotional development have an important part to play in learning. Children will not learn before they are ready and we can't depend on all students in a class learning the same thing at the same time.

In the meantime, we need to be responsible and use the best knowledge that we have to identify the problems and conditions of children in order to prevent misdiagnoses.

~~~

Links to articles dealing with the science of ADHD:

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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Listen to This

Recent quotes and comments...

IT'S POVERTY

Public schools didn't cause poverty, but policymakers expect schools to overcome all the out-of-school factors related to living in poverty. When was the last time legislators were graded A-F by the state government?

The Columbus Dispatch
Some might argue that poverty and family problems aren’t the province of public schools. But they most certainly are the burdens of public schools, and schools won’t get better without addressing them. -- The Columbus Dispatch

Stephen Krashen
Until poverty is eliminated, school must protect students from poverty’s impact by investing more in food programs, health care, and libraries. -- sdkrashen.com

Steven Singer
Living in poverty means less access to healthcare, neonatal care, pre-kindergarten, and fewer books in the home. It often means fewer educated family members to serve as a model. And it often means suffering from malnutrition and psychological trauma. Impoverished parents usually have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and thus have less time to help with homework or see to their children. All of this has a direct impact on education. -- Gadflyonthewallblog


SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Schools still segregated even after Brown vs. Board of Education? Here's why...

Nikole Hannah-Jones
“Schools are segregated because white people want them that way. ... We won't fix this problem until we really wrestle with that fact.” -- Vox.com

Nikole Hannah-Jones at NPE 2017.

WE ALL MUST BE READING TEACHERS

If every teacher gave this article to their personal doctor...

The Hechinger Report
Nearly four years ago, a baby boy named Anselmo Santos sat in his doctor’s office in Oakland, California, chewing on a cardboard children’s book. The book came from a specially designed tote bag of literacy tools that Anselmo’s doctor had just handed his mother. While the chubby infant chewed, Dr. Dayna Long explained the importance of talking, reading and singing with young children to encourage healthy brain development. -- Hechinger Report

EDUCATION BASED ON WHAT'S IMPORTANT

What's the most valuable resource in the U.S.?

Valerie Strauss
After World War II, the Finns realized their human beings are their most valuable resource. Their budget reflects this belief. In spite of having three major political parties, all factions agree that human development is paramount, and the educational program has had consistent attention over decades...

When you think your people are important, it shows. -- The Answer Sheet

INEQUITY IN EDUCATION

UNICEF
What can be done to reduce educational inequalities?...

• Reduce the impact of socio-economic inequalities – Through a combination of family allowances and public services, rich countries can ensure that all children are able to enjoy learning, develop varied interests and achieve their full potential. Reducing the segregation of children with different family backgrounds into different schools can also help to ensure that all children have equal opportunities. -- An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children's Education in Rich Countries

SAVE THE ECONOMY - ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE

Which are you more concerned about - the U.S. economy or climate change? Hint: They're the same.

The U.S. Government
Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century. -- U.S. Global Change Research Program


EDUTOURISTS

Teaching is - or should be - a job for professionals...not for privileged Ivy League graduates as a resume booster on their way to the boardrooms or law offices of corporate America.

Mitchell Robinson
I now refer to the people that go the TfA route as “edutourists”–because they think playing at being a teacher will be fun, and look good on their resumes when they apply to business school, or law school, or for an internship on Capitol Hill. The vast majority of TfA edutourists have no intention of remaining in the classroom for more than a year or two, and have “bought in” to the notion that TfA experience is best seen as a “stepping stone” to other, “more important” career choices. That’s simply not how teachers view teaching. -- Eclectablog

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Hoosier Superintendents tell it like it is

THE WAR ON TEACHERS IS WINNING

Local superintendents in Indiana had the chance to speak out against "Indiana's war on teachers" and it's just in time.


I understand that there's turnover in superintendent positions, but are any of these school leaders the same ones who, in the early to mid-2000s told legislators and State Board of Education members to - and I'm paraphrasing here - "do something about the damn teachers union"?

It was just too big a hassle, apparently, to negotiate with local teachers. The ISTA backed locals asked for crazy things like due process in firing, a decent wage, time to prepare for classes, and a manageable number of students. Negotiating was just too hard to do.

So now we come to 2018. The dismantling of Indiana's teaching profession by the General Assembly and State Board of Ed continues without pause. ISTA is so decimated that they're joining with anti-public education groups who have targeted teachers and unions to try to get a few more dollars for public schools out of the stingy, anti-tax, pro-reform General Assembly.

It's nice to see that superintendents are finally with us.

‘Indiana’s war on teachers is winning’: Here’s what superintendents say is causing teacher shortages
In a survey this year, Indiana State University researchers asked Indiana school superintendents if they faced a teacher shortage — and how bad the problem was.

“It’s killing us,” one respondent wrote.

“This situation is getting worse each year,” another said. “Scares me!”

“Indiana’s war on teachers is winning,” a superintendent commented.


TEACHERS KNEW

Teachers already knew what was happening in the early 2000s when the "ed-reformers" were working their hurt on public schools in the form of privatization of public education.

We knew that one of the goals of the "reformers" was to damage the teaching profession and their union...to hurt those people who were on the front lines of advocating for the children of Indiana. Weaken the advocates and you weaken the schools. Weaken the schools and you open the door to privatization...vouchers, charter schools, loss of local control (see Gary and Muncie). Privatization would make all that tax money available for corporate profits.

Teachers knew in 2011 when the Indiana General Assembly stripped teachers of most of their collective bargaining rights, eliminated teacher pay scales, and ended incentives for advanced degrees.

We knew when teachers in Indiana went through years and years of stagnant salaries, loss of seniority rights, and lack of public support.

We knew when money earmarked for public schools was diverted to private and privately run schools.

We knew when test scores, which reflect economics more than academics, were used to bully and guilt teachers. We knew when the legislature decided to slap a label on schools and blame schools (and teachers) as "failing" when their test scores reflected the economic condition of the community.

We knew when teacher preparation programs were denounced yet REPA III said that you didn't need any education training to teach high school.


Now, thankfully, local superintendents have acknowledged that they know, too.
• "There is absolutely no incentive to stay in teaching or for that matter to pursue a degree in education. The pay is ridiculous. The demands are excessive. Teachers don’t really teach anymore, just test and retest. All the data-driven requirements are not successful in helping a student learn. Yes, we should have some testing but the sheer amount is ridiculous. I think we should go back to letting teachers teach. Let them be the professionals they were hired to be."

• “We are teachers because we care about our students, but many of the laws being made are not done by those who have been educators themselves. An idea can look good in theory, but not fit in the classroom as you may think. Educating our children is our future, and our state needs to take a hard look at how we can take a new approach, starting with Kindergarten.”

• “I believe the teacher shortage is due to the climate of education and the lack of government support as well as district support for teachers. Teachers have not been listened to or given the respect necessary to want to pursue careers. In our particular district, the constant negativity has caused a rift between campuses, and the negativity has created a hostile climate in which to work.”
I'm glad that superintendents are speaking out...I hope they get a bit louder!

Superintendents, if the war on teachers is winning, then your students are losing.

Join with your teachers as the political voice for your students.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

2018 Medley #24

Online Preschool, Children's Screen Time,
Religion in School, Segregation,
Diverting Public Money to Privatization

 
ONLINE PRESCHOOL - AN OXYMORON

Should Your Three-Year-Old Attend Online School?

If you read only one blog entry from this medley, it should be this one.

The latest "reform" insanity is online preschool.

By preschool, I mean a developmentally appropriate environment where young children can experience social interaction, develop an understanding of literature by being read to, and have direct contact with the real world.

Developmentally appropriate does not mean that three- and four-year-olds do so-called "academic" work on worksheets or computers. It means approaching instruction based on research into how children develop and grow. Preschoolers need clay and water-tables, not worksheets. They need blocks, watercolors, and dress up clothes, not tablets and calculators. They need climbers, sandboxes, and slides, not standardized tests and "performance assessments." They need to experience the world with their whole bodies and all of their senses.

Why then, would anyone think that young children would benefit from something called an "online preschool?"

We have tried it in Indiana. The legislature wasted $1 million for an online preschool...the same legislature that is filled with lawyers, businessmen, and career politicians who know nothing about early childhood education.

Peter Greene takes on online preschools in this post...including UPSTART, the program in use in Indiana.
Never mind that everything we know says this approach is wrong. Much research says that early academic gains are lost by third grade; some research says that pre-school academics actually make for worse long term results. If most of your 5-year-olds are not ready for kindergarten, the problem is with your kindergarten, not your 5-year-olds.

Turning to technology does not help. A study released earlier this year by the School of Education at the University of California, Irvine, found that most "educational" apps aimed at children five and younger were developmentally inappropriate, ignoring what we know about how littles actually learn.


CHILD DEVELOPMENT AND TECHNOLOGY

“Disruption” Using Technology is Dangerous to Child Development and Public Education

Nancy Bailey discusses "disruption," technology, and how "reformers" are finding new ways to damage the learning process.
Early childhood teachers express concern that tech is invading preschool education. We know that free play is the heart of learning.

But programs, like Waterford Early Learning, advertise online instruction including assessment for K-2. Their Upstart program advertises, At-home, online kindergarten readiness program that gives 4- and 5-year-old children early reading, math, and science lessons.

Technology is directed towards babies too! What will it mean to a child’s development if they stare at screens instead of picture books?

Defending the Early Years recently introduced a toolkit to help parents of young children navigate the use of technology with children. “Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide,” written by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Ed.D., describes the kinds of learning experiences that will help them develop to be curious, engaged learners...


SOLVING THE SCREEN TIME PROBLEM FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE

Young Children in the Digital Age: A Parent’s Guide

Nancy Carlsson-Paige, senior advisor to Defending the Early Years, has written a guide for parents who are struggling with technology issues for their children. The Parent's Guide is an easy to read summary of what young children need and how much screen time is appropriate. It includes tips on how to put the concepts into practice.
Many parents find it hard to make decisions about screen time for their kids because advice comes from different directions and often conflicts. In the field of child development, we have decades of theory and research that can be very helpful as a guide for screen and digital device use with young kids. These ideas can be a resource for you to depend on when you are trying to figure out about any screen, app, or digital device your child might want to use.


READING, NOT RELIGION, IN SCHOOL

Counterpoint: Don’t preach, teach

We live in a pluralistic society...and the founders decided that every citizen has the right to their own religious beliefs. The nation's judicial system, charged with interpreting the Constitution, has taught us that government must remain neutral in religious questions. To that end, public schools are not allowed to indoctrinate children in a particular religion. Some teachers and administrators try, but, while they believe they are doing "the work of the Lord" they are actually breaking the law of the land.

While teaching about religion is allowed, and beneficial, there are places for religious preaching in American life...the home...the church, not the public school.
The reason for this becomes clear when you stop and think about the mandate of public education in a pluralistic society. Public schools should give all kids an equal sense of belonging and respect their rights. In the United States, where religious freedom is woven into our cultural and historical DNA, thousands of religions have flourished — and a growing number of Americans choose no faith at all. School boards, principals and teachers must embrace this reality, and this means they must not be in the business of deciding which religious beliefs matter for students, and which don’t. Decisions about when, where, how and if we pray are among the most intimate and personal ones we make. They are for families and individuals to decide.


SEGREGATION YESTERDAY. SEGREGATION TODAY...

We can draw school zones to make classrooms less segregated. This is how well your district does.

This is a long, but fascinating look at why and how our schools are still so segregated. You can even use the interactive chart to see how segregated your local school system is.

Will humans ever lose the "us" vs. "them" attitude. Americans haven't lost it yet. People still move their families in order to get away from, and reduce the fear of "the other." Sadly, we're not yet mature enough to understand that we are all one people...on one planet.
Once you look at the school attendance zones this way, it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout — mainly wealthier, whiter communities — have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools.

We see this in city after city, state after state.

And often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in.

The result is that schools today are re-segregating. In fact, schools in the South are as segregated now as they were about 50 years ago, not long after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.


INDIANA, GET OUT OF THE PRIVATE SCHOOL BUSINESS

Public schools' struggle correlates directly to state voucher support

Thanks to Tony Lux, former local superintendent in Indiana, for this list of ways Indiana has neglected its public schools, and how the state's voucher program has damaged public education.
• Since 2010, the total state budget has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the consumer price index (cost of living) has risen 17 percent.

• Since 2010, the education budget has only risen 10 percent.

• Vouchers cost $150 million a year, and the cost is diverted from public school funding, resulting in an actual 7 percent increase in public school funding. (More than half the Indiana voucher recipients never attended public schools.)

• Without vouchers, every public school would get an additional $150 per student.

• Property tax caps have resulted in millions of dollars lost for many school districts.

• Public schools in poor communities annually experience a 10 percent to 60 percent property tax shortfall, equaling tens of millions of lost dollars for some.

• Remedies for lost revenue are no longer provided by the state. Districts now depend on local referendums.

• Lost property taxes that pay for school debt, construction and transportation must be replaced from state dollars intended for student instruction.

• A portion of state tuition support called the “complexity index” provides special funding to meet the needs of the poorest students. Not only has the complexity index dollar amount been decreased to “equalize” the dollars per student among all schools, but the state has decreased the number of students qualifying – for some schools – by half.

• Forbes magazine points out that Indiana is ill advisedly attempting to fund three systems of schools – traditional public, charters and vouchers – with the same budget it once used for only traditional public schools.

• The “money follows the student” mantra for charter school students creates a loss of school funding that is significantly and disproportionately more damaging than the simple sum of the dollars. If a district loses 100 students, the loss can be spread over 12 grades. A classroom still needs a teacher if it has 25 students instead of 30, but the district has lost $600,000 in funding.

• Of the 20 schools or districts receiving the highest per-pupil funding, 18 are charter schools, none of which are required to report profit taking.

• Since 2010, teacher salaries have dropped 16 percent.

There needs to be an end to the expectation that the only solution for schools, especially those in the poorest communities, in response to uncontrollable losses of revenue, is to cut, cut, cut programs, teachers, support staff and salaries regardless of the negative effect on students.


INTERESTING EXTRAS FROM THE WORLD OF SCIENCE

Kindergarten difficulties may predict academic achievement across primary grades
Identifying factors that predict academic difficulties during elementary school should help inform efforts to help children who may be at risk. New research suggests that children's executive functions may be a particularly important risk factor for such difficulties.

Humpback whale songs undergo a ‘cultural revolution’ every few years
Like any fad, the songs of humpback whales don’t stick around for long. Every few years, males swap their chorus of squeaks and groans for a brand new one. Now, scientists have figured out how these “cultural revolutions” take place.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸšŒπŸŒŽ

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.


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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.


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