"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

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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Monday, October 22, 2018

ISTA: Lying Down With Dogs

LYING DOWN WITH DOGS

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


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

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

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

GERM

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

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

IPS is being privatized. Stand for Children is helping.

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

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



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

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Friday, October 19, 2018

A Direct Threat to Every Country on the Planet

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch...



WILL YOU BE HERE IN 20 YEARS?

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

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


For more information, see

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

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Education is NOT an Expense

INVESTMENTS

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC EDUCATION - WHERE IS ACCOUNTABILITY FOR REPUBLICANS?

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

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

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

We can change those percentages on November 6.


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Friday, October 5, 2018

2018 Medley #23

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

PUBLIC EDUCATION: FOR KIDS, NOT FOR PROFIT

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

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


STATE SUPER CALLS FOR CHARTER AND PRIVATE SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY

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

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

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


TEACHER EVALUATIONS

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

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

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


HIGH INCOME - HIGH SCORES

ISTEP results are a non-story

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

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


THE READING WARS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



VOTE FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

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

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

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


DEVOS DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW

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

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

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

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


OCTOBER IS ADHD AWARENESS MONTH

7 Facts You Need To Know About ADHD

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

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


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