"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, May 30, 2018

Prevent Summer Learning Slide

Summer vacation has started...swimming, mosquitos, summer learning loss. Here are some ways to prevent summer learning loss and be an intelligent parent to your kids 24/7.

LEARNING SLIDE

Check out these web sites with ideas for preventing summer learning slide:


KEEPING MINDS ACTIVE WITH READ-ALOUDS

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


PARENTING

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

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


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

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Play Safe This Summer

Summer vacation has started...swimming, mosquitos, summer learning loss. Here's a reminder about summer safety.

DROWNING DOESN'T LOOK LIKE DROWNING


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

The American Academy of Pediatrics has two pages of safety information. Print them, become familiar with them, and save them...

Summer safety tips...(and en EspaΓ±ol).
  • Fireworks safety
  • Bug safety
  • Playground safety
  • Bicycle safety
  • Skateboard, scooter, in-line skating and heelys safety
  • All-terrain vehicles
  • Lawn mower safety
and Sun and Water Safety Tips (also en EspaΓ±ol)
  • Fun in the sun
  • Heat stress in exercising chidlren
  • Pool safety
  • Boating Safety
  • Open water swimming
Learn more about water safety for kids at Mom Loves Best

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Friday, May 25, 2018

The NFL, The Bill of Rights, and Limits to Freedom

TAKE A KNEE

The owners of NFL football teams have agreed to require players to either stand during the singing of the national anthem, or stay in the clubhouse. Teams will face fines for any infractions of the new rule. Kudos to Jets owner, Christopher Johnson, who announced that he would pay his team's fine if any players chose to kneel rather than stand.

Is this a free speech issue? Possibly...but it's under debate because freedom of speech is not absolute in the United States. We have the First Amendment which guarantees free speech (among other things), but there are restrictions that most reasonable people would agree with. Furthermore, with free speech comes responsibility and consequences. You can't just say anything you want without accepting the consequences of your words. Colin Kaepernick understands and (mostly) accepts that his gesture of protest against racism and police violence in the United States has consequences (though he is fighting some of the consequences). In other words, there are limits to the First Amendment.


FIRST AMENDMENT AND RESTRICTIONS

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment
...an overview of the major exceptions to the First Amendment—of the ways that the Supreme Court has interpreted the guarantee of freedom of speech and press to provide no protection or only limited protection for some types of speech. For example, the Court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection for obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes what has become widely known as “fighting words.” The Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television (as opposed to speech transmitted via cable or the Internet), and public employees’ speech.
How much can your employer restrict your free speech? The answer, in a nutshell, is "a lot" if you're a government employee..."not as much" if you're not.


Can The NFL Really Fire Players For Kneeling During The National Anthem?
Employee freedom of speech depends on many different laws...

NFL teams are probably private actors, which would mean players do not have constitutional free speech rights in this situation; however, there are some bona fide arguments to the contrary...

As an individual, when you're not at work, you have the full rights to free speech (with restrictions and consequences as noted above). As an employee, however, when you are essentially representing your employer, there are more restrictions and that's where the complications come into play.

On the other hand, those opposed to the protests don't seem to grasp the irony of heaping scorn upon individuals who are exercising the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. President Trump, who rarely lets pass an opportunity to whip up nationalist fervor, said this about the NFL players who exercise their First Amendment rights by kneeling during the national anthem...
You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe they shouldn’t be in the country...
To give him the benefit of the doubt, the President apparently doesn't understand the First Amendment. American citizens have the right to do or say things which are offensive (again, with certain restrictions). It's fine if he wants to disagree, but that doesn't mean that they should be fired, deported, or exiled.


DO STUDENTS HAVE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS?

The protests have moved from the world of professional sports to high schools and colleges. Students around the country are exercising their first amendment rights and kneeling in support of the professional athletes and in protest against the depth of racism in America.

Is this legal? Can high school and college students do the same thing or do they "leave their rights at the schoolhouse door?"
AURORA, Colo. — Vicqari Horton dropped a knee to the grass. The varsity choir piped out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And in the bleachers at a sun-soaked football stadium here on Saturday, parents clenched their teeth in anger or raised their fists in support.

“You can’t continue to slap people in the face and not expect them to stand up,” said Mr. Horton, a junior tight end at Aurora Central High School who is black and began kneeling during the national anthem at games in mid-September. “When Kaepernick kneeled, he gave us an outlet. He gave us something to do.”
Texas high school football players thrown off team for kneeling during anthem
Two Texas high school football players were thrown off their team literally moments after kneeling in protest during the national anthem before a game on Friday.

The two teens from Victory and Praise Christian Academy in Crosby, Texas planned the protest in advance -- and even told their coach -- who immediately asked his players to take off their uniforms and booted them off the team...


LIMITS TO FREEDOM

Freedom of Speech is not the only First Amendment right given limits by the country's courts. Here are two links to articles dealing with limitations of other First Amendment freedoms...
And the First Amendment is not the only one with limits...

Limits to the Fourth Amendment

Limits to the Eighth Amendment

Many of those who are arguing that the First Amendment rights of Kaepernick and others be restricted while they are in their football uniform are the same ones who claim the Second Amendment is not subject to any restrictions.

The limits of the Second Amendment
In short, every right has its limits. And that's exactly what the Supreme Court suggested on Monday, when it declined to hear an appeal of a suit against a law in Highland Park, Illinois, that banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the town. Not only did the court hand gun rights advocates a loss, the vote was 7-2, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom had voted in 2008 to create an individual right to own guns for the first time in American history.
What everybody needs to know about our Constitution and gun control
Even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia acknowledged this in his opinion to Heller. He wrote that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” and is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
Does it make sense to adopt reasonable limits to free speech, but not to gun ownership? Can you pick and choose which amendments should be restricted and which ones shouldn't?

[Note: As I was writing this another school shooting was being reported...in Noblesville, IN]

Are those people who are calling for NFL players to "stand up for the national anthem or leave the country," willing to fight for similar restrictions to gun ownership?


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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Listen to This #3

Here are a few of last week's interesting quotes and comments...

SCHOOL FUNDING, TEACHER PAY

Teacher pay is a problem in Indiana, too

Teachers have marched in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky and North Carolina. They marched for more funding for education...only partly for higher pay. In Indiana, teachers pay has dropped 15% since 2000. Class sizes have grown due to loss of funding as well as from funding redirected to charter and voucher schools.

Former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Glenda Ritz, warned Indiana lawmakers to "take steps" to avoid and "impending education crisis." I don't expect the Republicans, with an 80% majority in the State Senate and a 70% majority in the State House, to ease up on school "reform." It will be up to teachers to make their voices heard.

Will Indiana teachers step up for their students like teachers in other red states have?

From Glenda Ritz in IBJ (Indianapolis Business Journal).
Support for our students is really the most important issue for educators in the field. The protests around the nation are about teachers—and parents—making their voices heard about the decline in public education spending used to provide students with the learning environments, resources and opportunities that they deserve.


Indiana schools might struggle to hire teachers, but there’s no shortage of ways to become one

Indiana politicians are scrambling trying to find ways to lower the requirements for teachers in order to offset the teacher shortage. In truth, the shortage is a result of years of anti-public education legislation making the teaching profession less and less desirable to young people entering or graduating from college.

Each year the super-majority in the legislature passes laws against public education. They have nearly eliminated collective bargaining for teachers, diverted needed funds to charter and voucher schools, adopted a flawed grading system for schools, and insisted on using student test scores to evaluate teachers. The current and past Republican leadership in Indiana has made the teaching profession more difficult and less attractive. It's disingenuous for them to complain about a teacher shortage they created. It's an insult to all the public school teachers in the state who were actually trained in education.

From Shaina Cavazos in Chalkbeat
Controversial policies paring down licensure requirements have spawned debates about how to balance a teacher’s education and preparation with a school’s need to fill jobs. State legislators and policymakers have argued for years now that relaxed rules will encourage more people to become teachers — but the data shows that so far, relatively few are taking advantage of those opportunities.


Opinion | Don’t punish schools because Johnny can’t read. Invest in them instead.

Public schools in many states, like Indiana, punish students and their schools for their learning difficulties. Third grade retention laws require students to repeat third grade, a misguided plan which is contradicted by both current and past research.

We need to provide services to students, not label them as failures. Politicians may respond "...we don't have enough money." To that, I say, quit cutting taxes on corporations and people who can pay more.

From Nancy Flanagan
Michigan’s third grade mandatory retention legislation is a dramatic but useless remedy to the problem of children who struggle to read when they’re eight or nine years old. We're not doing kids favors by flunking them. Says educational psychologist David Berliner, regents professor of education at Arizona State University:

"It seems like legislators are absolutely ignorant of the research, and the research is amazingly consistent that holding kids back is detrimental."


How Unequal School Funding Punishes Poor Kids
  • We have a much higher rate of child poverty than other advanced nations.
Our short-sighted attitude towards our children and their education does not bode well for our future strength as a nation.

From Michelle Chen in The Nation
In 17 states, including relatively affluent Connecticut and Maine, the school systems “provide less funding to their higher poverty school districts, even though students in these districts require more resources to achieve.” In many states, including Michigan and Arizona, poor kids are priced out of educational equity: “only the lowest-poverty districts have sufficient funding to reach national average student achievement outcomes.”


A Guide to the Corporations that are De-Funding Public Education and Opposing Striking Teachers

Our representative democracy has sold itself to the small number of citizens with the most money. We have become an oligarchy where the ultra-wealthy buy candidates for political office or buy the office for themselves.

From Molly Gott and Derek Seidman in Little Sis
The austerity and privatization agenda for education goes something like this: impose big tax cuts for corporations and the .01% and then use declining tax revenue as a rationale to cut funding for state-funded services like public schools. Because they are underfunded, public schools cannot provide the quality education kids deserve. Then, the right wing criticizes public schools and teachers, saying there is a crisis in education. Finally, the right wing uses this as an opportunity to make changes to the education system that benefit them – including offering privatization as a solution that solves the crisis of underfunding.


ON THE 64th ANNIVERSARY OF BROWN

In today's America, schools are more segregated than before the 1954 landmark decision, Brown v. Board of Education.

From Nikole Hannah-Jones


ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING

This Is School in America Now

A government which does nothing when the nation's school children are being shot in their classrooms, does not deserve your vote. #RememberinNovember.

From James Poniewozik
You send your kids to school, and one of the things they learn is how not to die. 


WHAT ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION?

With Trump Impeachment at Stake, Will Evangelical Voters Show up for the Midterm Elections?

In the following quote, Evangelical leader David Lane indicated his preference for establishing a theocracy in the U.S.  There are millions of non-evangelicals living in the U.S. who wouldn't vote to be ruled by the Religious Right. In addition the Constitution stands in the way.

First, theocracies generally expect the leaders of the government to be part of the ruling religion. Article VI creates a problem with that, since...
...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Second, the First Amendment clearly states that
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...
By definition, establishing a biblically-based culture, establishing a religion.

It's strange how the Religious Right (which now owns the Executive Branch) ignores the founders' desire to create a secular society.

From Evangelical leader, David Lane
We are really clear about what we are doing," Lane tells CBN News. "There is no hidden agenda about it. We're trying to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a biblically-based culture in America.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

DeVos Gets it Wrong – Again

In a recent address to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos attacks the very concept of public education. Her inability to understanding the “Public Good” is proof of her lack of qualifications for the office she purchased. America’s children deserve better.

THE MYTH OF AMERICA'S FAILING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

In her remarks DeVos denounced public schools for low scores on the most recent PISA test, yet ignored, or is ignorant of the fact that the low achievement averages of our children are the result of America's high rate of child poverty. When poverty is taken into account, America's scores are among the highest in the world.

More than half of America's public school children live in low income homes. The effects of poverty on achievement are well known, but DeVos doesn't know or care about that. She is pathetically ignorant of how children learn and how public schools work.

THE FALSE CHOICE OF SCHOOL CHOICE

As we knew she would, she turned her attention to the lie of so-called "school choice," and claimed that "choice" is the answer to our children's low achievement. According to her, the addition of the Blaine amendments to state constitutions, those amendments which forbid the usage of public money for sectarian purposes, was a "bigoted" attempt to "force" the government to control the lives of children.

Wrong.

In the interest of the "Public Good" children are required to attend school. The choice is available for anyone to attend a private school or to be schooled at home, but it is in the interest of the state for all its citizens to be educated. In the past - before vouchers - parents worked with parish councils and churches to help pay for a parochial education for their children if that's what they wanted.

An educated populace, is necessary to a free society. President Jefferson wrote,
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.
Public education serves everyone and is available for everyone. Public education provides the means to eliminate the ignorance of the entire populace. We only need to support our public schools and give them the means to do their job. Tax dollars should be reserved for public schools. We can't afford to support two school systems – one public and the other private.

President (John) Adams wrote [emphasis added],
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.
Meanwhile, the private and religious schools that DeVos claims parents want to "choose" do not give a "choice" to parents. It is these same private schools, which take tax dollars in the form of vouchers, who are free to "choose" to reject the behavior problems, the learning problems, and the insufficiently pious.

In her remarks, DeVos refers to America's "ugly history of unjust laws" which prevent tax dollars from going to parochial interests. She's got it wrong. The ugly history associated with American education is the state sponsored segregation of children of color – despite Brown vs. Board of Education – into enclaves of neglect.

The "choice" needed by the parents of America's children, is the "choice" of a fully funded, professionally staffed, and well maintained public school in every neighborhood.

DeVos is woefully ignorant of what public schools are for, what public schools do, and what public schools need. She doesn't belong in the office she holds.


Prepared Remarks by Secretary DeVos to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation
Our country has an ugly history of unjust laws that force families to violate their consciences or that disrespect their preferences. In the late 1800s, anti-Catholics tried to amend the U.S. Constitution. They failed at the federal level, but they maneuvered to enact the amendment in state constitutions throughout the country. 

These Blaine provisions prohibit taxpayer funding of “sectarian” – a euphemism at that time for “Catholic” – activities, even when they serve the public good. Activities like addiction recovery, hospice care, or -- the amendments’ primary target -- parochial education. 

These amendments are still on the books in 37 states. They were bigoted then, and they still are today. 


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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Appreciation? Not From the Legislature...


Teacher appreciation week has ended for another year, so now politicians and privatizers can go back to trying to undermine the work and livelihood of our nation's public school educators.

In my last post I quoted Corinne Driscoll of Syracuse who, in 2012 wrote about politicians statements during Teachers Appreciation Week,
All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these "leaders" have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation's children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.
Not much has changed in the last 6 years since that was written except perhaps, that the role of public school educator has gotten more difficult, with more restrictions and barriers placed in our way by those who would destroy public education.

Despite the change in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2015 (ESSA), students are still forced to spend too much of their school career testing. Here in Indiana the legislative supermajority has taken the flexibility offered to the states by ESSA and doubled down on testing. Teachers and schools are still being punished for enrolling students of poverty. Teachers are still being evaluated by unreliable student test scores, and schools are still being closed, privatized through charters, or taken over by the state instead of being helped and supported.


POLITICIANS MAKE THE RULES...

Driscoll continued...
They cut budgets, eliminate classroom positions, overload classrooms, remove supports, choose ineffective and downright useless instructional tools, set up barriers to providing academic assistance, and then very quickly stand up and point fingers at teachers, blaming them for every failure of American society, and washing their own hands of any blame.
Indiana's public schools are trying to survive while sharing their funding with charters and voucher schools. Some are doing well, especially those in wealthier areas. Some, however, are losing the battle.

For example, in two days (May 14, 2018) the state legislature will vote to take over two school systems because of fiscal mismanagement. The school systems obviously need some help, and already have the benefit of emergency managers. In the past, the state legislature has provided loans to charter schools and then forgiven those loans – to the tune of $90 million. But, instead of simply providing loans to these two distressed school systems along with the emergency managers, the one-party ruled state legislature is poised to allow a take-over of the schools, silencing the local school boards and by extension, the voters. The bill, HB1315, also eliminates transparency and excuses one of the two systems from following hundreds of regulations required of other public schools


...THEN BLAME THE TEACHERS

The bill rewards [sic] teachers for their hard work in the classroom with the loss of collective bargaining rights, and gives the emergency manager the right to lay off 5% of their numbers in the middle of the school year (the latter applies to any emergency manager, in any school system in the state). Teachers, then, are being held responsible for the condition of the school system's finances!

And some of these same legislators wonder why young people don't want to go into teaching!

In other words, policy makers have made the rules, restrictions, and requirements for education in this state, and then blame teachers when things don't work.

So much for appreciation.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

2018 Medley #12

The Common Good,
(Lack of) Teacher Appreciation Week,
The Cost of Charters,
How Would You Change Public Education?

"THE TREADMILL AND THE POOR LAW ARE IN FULL VIGOUR, THEN?" - Ebenezer Scrooge

Republicans are paying for teacher raises with taxes and fees that hit working- and middle-class taxpayers

Ebenezer Scrooge believed that the poor should be sent to prison or poor houses paid for by the state. He believed that he had his fortune, and others could, if they were able, get their own. On the other hand, even Scrooge, at least according to Dickens, paid taxes to support facilities for the poor...

Most people are willing to pay more in taxes to support their public education systems so it makes sense for states to raise more funds to pay for public schools.

Politicians in Arizona have found a way to increase funding for schools without raising taxes on their wealthy donors. As punishment for teachers daring to ask for more money for themselves and their students, Gov. Ducey and his cronies are raising the money through regressive taxation which disproportionately impacts the poor and middle class. For example, one of the new taxes is a new $18 registration fee for cars, which represents a larger percentage of annual income for low wage earners.

There will also be a change in how the state pays for desegregation of public schools, paid for by higher property taxes in low-income school districts.

Similar types of revenue plans are on the table in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Corporate taxes are untouched, with the poor and middle classes carrying the load for the increased spending.

The concept of the "public good" is lost on these people.
Arizona teachers returned to class on May 4 after ending a six-day strike that closed nearly all of the state’s 2,000-plus schools. Educators returned to work after the state legislature gave them a 20 percent salary raise over three years and some extra funding for public education.

But there’s a catch: Lawmakers are going to make them and other middle- and working-class Arizonans pay for the raise.


(LACK OF) TEACHER APPRECIATION WEEK

A school is not a factory; teaching is a process

This letter, written during Teacher Appreciation Week of 2012, is still current. Politicians and pundits talk a good game, but when it comes to actually appreciating what teachers do, they come up short.

The Indiana legislature, for example, is set to take over two public school systems. Included in the law which takes away the right of the people to elect their local school boards, are provisions rescinding rights for teachers.
This week is the annual celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Politicians of every stripe and school superintendents everywhere will write letters and make proclamations stating how much they value the service and dedication of teachers everywhere. All of these words are empty and merely paying lip service to something they do not believe. By their actions, these ''leaders'' have made it obvious that they neither appreciate, admire, respect nor comprehend the jobs of the people who spend their days with the nation's children. Nor do they understand the first thing about the children in those classrooms.


Finn's Trouble with Teacher Strikes

How dare teachers ask for decent working conditions, up-to-date materials, and a professional salary. Just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week, Chester Finn wishes teachers were more compliant.
Finn's argument against the strikes range from the creatively misguided to old-school insulting. He has, of course, completely ignored the part of this that is flummoxing many conservatives-- the strikes are not simply about teacher wages but about teaching conditions. When you say teachers should suck it up and teach classes of forty kids, you are saying that parents should be happy to put their kids in forty-student classes. When you argue that teachers should stop whining about moldy rooms, you are saying that students should gladly sit in those rooms as well. When you argue that teachers should not get fussy about forty-year-old textbooks, you are saying that students should be happy with those books as well. Teachers work conditions really are student learning conditions, and when those conditions have been deliberately degraded by people who want to save a buck or leaders who want to drive more families into charter schools-- in short, when those lousy conditions are the result of deliberate bad choices made by legislators, then all the teacher shaming in the world isn't really going to help.

Finn says that if we want to ameliorate these conditions, "a great many things need to change in very big ways." He's correct, but those many things are less about teachers being uppity and more about state leaders actually committing to support public education.


CHARTERS – GREED IS NOT GOOD FOR CHILDREN

Are charter schools private? In Texas courts, it depends why you're asking

When it comes to taking public tax money, charter school operators shout, "Charter schools are public schools!" On the other hand, if there are requirements required of public schools that charter operators don't like, then charter schools are "private companies."

It's not just Texas, either. See here, here, here, and here.
In 2006, in Dallas, a construction company sued a charter school, alleging that the school stiffed workers on a building contract to the tune of a couple hundred thousand dollars.

Eight years later, in Houston, a third grade teacher sued the charter school where she worked, alleging that it had falsified test scores, that it failed to properly provide for students with disabilities and that mold in her classroom had made her sick.

Their claims did not make it very far.

The teacher couldn’t sue the charter because, the Texas Supreme Court said, it’s not a government entity. The construction company couldn’t sue, the same court said years earlier, because it was.


Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

How exactly do charter schools drain money from public schools? In the Public Interest has a report.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, In the Public Interest has found that public school students in three California school districts are bearing the cost of the unchecked expansion of privately managed charter schools.

The report, Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts, calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.
  • Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school.
  • The annual cost of charter schools to the San Diego Unified is $65.9 million.
  • In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.


FUND OUR FUTURE

If You Could Make ONE change….

John Merrow asks, "If YOU had the power to make ONE major change in American public education immediately, what would you choose to do?"

Unfortunately, ONE change won't fix the problems associated with public schools since they reflect the society in which they exist. Schools need funding for more than simply one important resource. They need...
  • a well rounded curriculum including physical education and the arts
  • support services including school nurses, social workers, counselors, psychologists, transportation, and academic specialists
  • early childhood education
  • special education
  • bilingual education
  • a stable, diverse, well-trained teaching force
  • teaching assistants
  • well maintained school facilities
In other words, all schools need the resources given to wealthy students, like those who attend Scarsdale Union Free School District, New York, or Weston School District, Connecticut.

The choices made by Merrow and his dinner companions were important, but only two of them acknowledged that the key to any change that stood a chance of having an impact on students was money. To his credit, Merrow's suggestion, eliminating standardized testing, was the only suggestion of the five which would be free, and in fact save money. I would agree that, among other things, eliminating the waste that is the standardized testing program in the U.S. would be a benefit for all public school students and teachers.

Nothing will change, however, until the United States decides that its children are as important as, for example, its military.
“More money is a great idea, and so are equity and universal pre-school,” he said, “But I would want to do something that would make society commit to quality education.” He paused. “If I had the power, I would require every state to pledge to support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it states that education is a fundamental human right. That would move the needle.”

Later that evening I looked up the 1948 document, which has been translated into more than 500 languages. Sure enough, Article 26 states:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

At that point everyone turned to me, and, even though I am much more comfortable asking questions than answering them, I plunged ahead. “I would eliminate standardized testing.”


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Saturday, May 5, 2018

What's Bugging Me Today: Things Heard by an ADHD Kid

STOP THE ROUNDABOUT, I WANT TO GET OFF

A roundabout (aka traffic circle, road circle, rotary, rotunda or island) is a good metaphor for an ADHD life. When you approach a roundabout you need to note the entire traffic pattern in one glance. You must pay attention to all sides of the circle, watch for cars already in the circle and those which haven't yet entered the circle. You also must make sure that you're in the correct lane to exit the circle.

In life, as in a roundabout, events, objects, and people come at you randomly from all different directions at the same time and you must decide which ones to notice...which ones to pay attention to...which ones to listen to...and which ones to act upon. If you can't navigate entering the roundabout of life, or can't figure out how to get off, your stress level will rise, your ability to function decreases, and you get stuck. That's life in the ADHD world.


As an example, let's look at a discussion I had with my insurance company a few years ago about ADHD medications.

ADHD is considered a childhood disorder. This is changing slowly, but when this particular conversation took place most insurance providers balked at covering treatment for adults with ADHD. Therapy had to be described as treatment for depression or anxiety and medication was difficult to get since stimulants were rarely prescribed for any other medical problems. The latter issue was the basis of the problems with my insurance company.

My doctor had prescribed an ADHD medication for me and my insurance company required that he inform them of my diagnosis every six months in order to continue the medication. At one point, I tried to refill my prescription only to be told that it wasn't covered. I called my insurance company.

ME: I tried to refill my prescription for [ADHD medication] and was told it wasn't covered. I don't understand. It was covered last month.

INSURANCE INDUSTRY: You must remember to have your doctor send us an update every six months to keep your prescription current.

ME: If I could remember that, I wouldn't need the [ADHD medication]!

Similarly, many children and adults with ADHD have difficulty remembering to take their medication (assuming they can get it). This difficulty is a common symptom of ADHD...and would be alleviated if they took their medication...

Round and round and round...


FAILURE SHAME LOW SELF-ESTEEM ➔ FAILURE...

Academics is an area where the impact of ADHD is often felt the strongest.

The trigger for this post was the following story. It is representative of the experiences of many, if not most, children and adults with ADHD.

Uniquely Different
In 3rd grade, my mother was once again called to the school to speak with my teacher who told her “Buddy should be removed from normal class and maybe put into special education. He’s quite stupid and I don’t think he has the mental capacity to learn.”

That did it!

Needless to say, my mother lost her temper with the teacher. A school psychologist was called in and I was rigorously tested for the next 3 months.

I was given reading tests, writing tests, interest assessments, personality tests, IQ testing, and weekly visits for counseling.

When it was all said and done, the psychologist called a meeting with me, my teacher, and my mother.

Not only …

He told them “You’re right that Buddy should be pulled from your class, but not because he can’t learn. Your class probably bores him.”

Then he informed them that I was reading at a high school level, I was registering 136 on his IQ testing (which apparently meant something), and that I was a visual/active learner that would always have issues with memorizing things that I didn’t find interesting.

More negative

In typical fashion, my teacher’s commentary changed at that point from “He’s stupid” to “He is just not applying himself”. I was given the opportunity to participate in some advanced activities, but I was still required to learn the things that I was struggling with at the start. No one at that time ever mentioned ADD or ADHD and there was no talk of medication.
After reading this story, especially the final paragraph, I thought about two of my teachers...

Mrs H, my eighth grade math teacher who frequently and publicly shamed me for my failure to pay attention and achieve. When I started my own teaching career I vowed never to be anything like her. I met with mixed success on that...much to my own disappointment.

Mrs. G, my high school English teacher who recognized that I had, at least some ability, but kept harping on the fact that I didn't try hard enough. I've often wanted to find her and talk to her...to tell her, "See, I was successful and it had nothing to do with not trying hard enough." Sadly, I waited too long and she passed away last year.


NEGATIVE VOICES...FAILURE TO LIVE UP TO EXTERNAL EXPECTATIONS

Throughout their years of growing up, children with ADHD are fed constant negative messages: sit still, pay attention, you're just not applying yourself, you just don't give a damn.

Those negative messages are reinforced throughout our lives and feed a pattern of failure and shame in a vicious circle – a roundabout – of frustration.
...this negative chatter, the inner critic, that voice inside our head that creates doubts and worries, saying things like "you'll never be able to complete this", "this isn't good enough", "you aren't smart enough". However, the inner critic may be stronger in people with ADHD due to childhood struggles.
If you grew up with ADHD you probably grew up with negative messages like these...
You’re lazy.
You’re not good enough or smart enough.
You’re stubborn.
You can’t do anything right.

You also probably grew up with many hardships, including a poor academic record, parental disapproval and frequent punishments
I heard them all...and others like...
What were you thinking?
You'd lose your head if it wasn't screwed on!
You could do better if only you would try harder.


TRY HARDER

The advice to "try harder" is understandable. If you don't have trouble with ADHD symptoms, then it seems like it's only a matter of effort to keep you focused, keep you awake when you're supposed to be studying, and keep you sitting still when you're in class.

But it takes more than just effort, and the constant negativity, the constant feelings of failure, the constant inability to measure up, takes its emotional toll. As a result, ADHD is often accompanied by other mental health issues like depression or anxiety disorders. The difficulty of overcoming the emotional and social deficits caused by ADHD and it's accompanying problems makes the suggestion to "try harder" seem silly at best...insensitive and cruel at worst.

A child with ADHD might sit down to do homework and find themselves distracted by various visual or auditory stimuli or they might fall asleep while working only to awake hours later with the work undone.

A child with ADHD might enter their classroom promising themselves to pay attention and then find their mind wandering to the sound of the teacher's voice, the light from the sun reflecting off of passing cars outside the classroom, the noise of shuffling feet, or the hum of the fluorescent lights above their head.

Trying harder isn't the problem. Saying "pay attention" won't help. Shaming the child for "drifting away" only adds to the roundabout of failure.


OVERCOMING THE NEGATIVE VOICES

For some children - and adults - the only way to learn to navigate entrance and exit from the roundabout is with treatment, either with therapy, medication, or both.

ADHD is like any other condition, but because it is unseen and hard to diagnose...because it's a neurological disorder, there's a tendency to feel embarrassment and to deny that it exists.

But denying that ADHD is a real disorder can be as damaging as it would be to deny that a vision or hearing impairment exists...as damaging as ignoring a diagnosis of diabetes or  kidney failure.

Parents of ADHD children should get treatment for their children.

Teachers of ADHD children should educate themselves about the disorder, practice patience and understanding, and treat children with ADHD the same as they would any child with a condition affecting their learning.

Adults with ADHD need to get treatment and learn how to overcome the voices of criticism and shame.

Most of all, anyone who is, or works with a person with ADHD, would do well to heed the advice of Terry Matlen, a psychotherapist specializing in ADHD.
“Surround yourself with people who celebrate who you are, and let go of toxic relationships,” Matlen said. Initially, you might’ve picked people who tear you down, because that’s what you thought you deserved, she said. Again, remember ADHD is not a deep-seated flaw, but a real neurobiological disorder. “[F]ind a team of professionals, a group of loving, caring individuals who want to see you succeed.”
Once people with ADHD get the support they need from medical and mental-health professionals, family, and friends, they can learn to navigate the ins and outs of life's roundabout.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Sabotage and Hypocrisy

We have two awards to present today. First, a positive one for language usage.

WHAT'S ACTUALLY HAPPENING AWARD

It’s NOT Education Reform – It’s School Sabotage

Steven Singer (Gadflyonthewall Blog) has found the perfect label to describe what's happening to America's public education system. So-called "reformers" aren't reforming anything. They're destroying public education through starvation. Singer's title, "School Sabotage" is perfect.

Here's an internet definition of sabotage. It reads,
n. Destruction of property or obstruction of normal operations, as by civilians or enemy agents in time of war.
n. Treacherous action to defeat or hinder a cause or an endeavor; deliberate subversion.
v. To commit sabotage against.
The second meaning is the one that's most apropos for what's happening to public education. It's deliberate and treacherous. It's aim is to destroy public education.

The saboteurs of public education
  • claim that public schools are failing and that teachers are at fault.
  • then, use the false narrative of failing public schools to pass laws which damage public education further and make the teaching profession less attractive.
  • then, because of the resulting teacher shortage, lower the qualifications for teachers in order to find enough bodies to fill classroom positions.
  • then, redirect tax dollars from public schools to private and privately run schools, further starving public schools.
  • then, support tax cuts which benefit the wealthy and reduce the amount of money available for public services, like public education.
  • then, blame the decimated and demoralized teaching force for not increasing student achievement in underfunded and under-resourced schools.
"...Education Sabotage – because that's really what it is."

From Steven Singer
Henceforth, “Education Reform” shall be Education Sabotage – because that’s really what it is.

It is about deliberately obstructing goods and services that otherwise would help kids learn and repurposing them for corporate benefit.

Likewise, I propose we stop using the term “School choice.” Instead, call it what it is – School Privatization.


HYPOCRISY AWARD

The second award goes to the NRA...for flagrant and unadulterated hypocrisy.

NRA Convention Bans Guns To Protect Mike Pence. Parkland Survivors’ Jaws Drop: Parkland teens are calling out the gun group for hypocrisy.

The NRA Convention, set to convene this week in Dallas, has gone along with the Secret Service requirement to ban weapons during Vice President Pence's visit.

The teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have called them out for their hypocrisy.
Teens who survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 people were killed, are wondering why the NRA fiercely resists extending the same safety considerations to other areas to safeguard children. The NRA wants “guns everywhere” when it comes to kids, tweeted Matt Deitsch, a Parkland student who helped organize the March for Our Lives rally for stricter gun laws in Washington.
Arming teachers seems to be the most popular NRA-backed "solution" to mass school shootings. The Trump administration wants to "harden school security" with
"rigorous" firearms training for "specially qualified" school personnel
The NRA blames mass shootings on the media and thinks that armed school personnel is the answer to school shootings. As Wayne LaPierre has so famously said,
The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.
Did anyone in the NRA notice that they're not allowed to take guns into their own convention? The children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School noticed.


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