"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

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Music Interlude - Bach

From the website of Helene Schulthess


Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 for Organ by J. S. Bach.

Composition date unknown. There are some suggestions that the piece wasn't written for organ...and that it wasn't written by Bach at all. No original manuscripts have been found.

See Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565

🎡🎢🎡

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

It's All About Growth

LOSING

One of my favorite bloggers, Peter Greene, is on his second set of children...his older children are in their thirties and he is the father of twin babies. It's normal, I think, that we look back at our lives with a certain amount of nostalgia and Greene does this in a beautiful and thoughtful way in his post, Parenting Is All About Losing.
My wife asked me the other day, "Is it always like this?" We had turned around and had one of those moments when you realize that your baby looks like a small child, an undersized person, but not an infant any more. It's a truly mixed moment emotionally, one part pride and joy at how big your child has grown, and one part sadness and loss because there was an infant just here a moment ago and now that tiniest person is gone forever.
There are conflicting emotions accompanying our children's growth...
Not that it's all loss and sadness. Every stage of my older children's lives was the best so far, the best until the next new stage revealed itself to be even better. They get stronger and wiser and more terribly beautiful each time. It would never be enough to try to hold them back, to trade the unnatural prolonging of one stage for an unrealized better stage to come. Not that some parents don't panic and try some emotional equivalent of binding their children's legs so they won't learn to walk or run. It never works. Children were born to grow, and grow they will, with or without our help.
So, he acknowledges that the emotions are conflicted and there are some good aspects to those changes, yet he titles his piece Parenting Is All About Losing, perhaps unconsciously emphasizing the negative.

I'd like to, respectfully, turn that around, and focus on the positive. Parenting is all about growing...for the parent and the child.

GROWING AND THE CIRCLE

My first thoughts on reading his post brought me to Joni Mitchell's The Circle Game.
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
We can't go back, but we can watch our children grow. One stage is over and the next one appears without fanfare until we realize we're seeing a new version of our child (and, I would add, ourselves). We never noticed the change until it was upon us.

There's some comfort that we're repeating the growth that our own parents experienced as we watch our children grow from childhood to adulthood. Greene recognizes this when he thinks about his own adult children.
...it is an unspeakably great big warm ball of blasting sunshine to experience your children as grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world.
At this point, however, he returns to "the losing."

I wouldn't. As I have seen my own children become "grown humans, fully themselves and making their way in the world" I would prefer to reflect on the ways we have grown together. They have, without doubt, taught me as much as I have taught them. I have grown as much as they have. There's nostalgia in the past, but as Joni Mitchell put it,
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
Before the last revolving year is through
The positive side is that things can get better and there are plenty of new dreams, no matter how old I get. Some of those new dreams are trivial, like seeing the latest season of Star Trek, and hoping that the Cubs will win another World Series in less than 108 years. Other dreams, though, are profound...and remarkable, like hearing my great-grandchild learn to talk, and seeing my children and grandchildren work to make a better world.

GROWING AS TEACHERS

As educators, we see the same pattern. Greene writes,
Teachers go through the cycle of loss, too...
I always experienced a sense of sadness at the end of the school year and I had to say goodbye to my students -- even the difficult-to-teach ones. When teachers look back at a year filled with 20 - 30 human children we see the growth they made and feel that same sort of nostalgic joy and sorrow. We see a different version in June of the child who entered our class the previous fall.

Spending six-plus hours a day together, for five days a week, and thirty-six weeks is an intense experience that non-teachers might not be aware of. The relationship between a teacher and her students is more than just an adult exchanging information with a child. It's more than just teach and test. There's a relationship which develops that goes both ways...a deep understanding of who the person is on the other end of the pencil. (If you don't understand this relationship or have never experienced it, read through Beverly Cleary's classic Ramona the Pest. The relationship between Ramona and her teacher, Miss Binney, should be explanation enough.)

Our growth as teachers, though, should be positive, too. Yes, it's sometimes sad and hard to watch students move on with their lives...and often we never know how their lives progressed. Still, we have to trust that the growth is positive...for us and for them.

A few years ago I wrote a post about meeting a former student. We talked about the experiences we shared when she was eight and nine years old. I wrote,
She didn't thank me for helping her learn to read. She didn't thank me for helping her pass the achievement test. She didn't thank me for helping her learn her math facts. She thanked me for being a kind and caring adult who helped her during a difficult time.

There is so much more to education than tests and standards. Children learn much more than can ever be put on a standardized test. Teachers – living, breathing, actual human beings – make the learning process part of life. One of the most important aspects of the education of our children is the relationship between teacher and child.

No test can ever measure that.
Teachers don't always know how they affect a student's life. I have been lucky to meet a few former students and learn that I had a positive impact on their lives, but that doesn't always happen. We have to do our best and hope that we provide more positive than negative. Building good relationships helps ensure that the balance will lean more toward the positive. In the process of building those relationships, the positive impact will land upon the teacher as well. Teachers and their students, both, are part of each other's circle game...


⚾️🌎🍩

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Ten Thoughts on Teacher Appreciation

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πŸ‘©‍πŸ«πŸšŒπŸ‘¨‍🏫

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 Medley #9

Pre-School, Vouchers and Low Test Scores,
Billionaires Aren't Helping,
DeVos Funds Charters,
Teacher Career Penalty, Praying in Safety


INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Two reports endorse investment in early childhood education

Truthfully, neither of these reports tells us anything new (see also Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness: Insights for Policymakers). What they do tell us, however, is that states aren't investing in early childhood education the way they should...too many tax breaks for the wealthy and for corporations ("Corporations are people, my friend.") to be able to afford any investment in something so lacking in a quick return on investment as early childhood education.

The supermajority in Indiana still hasn't been able to figure out how to help their friends profit from the state's pilot program in pre-school...a "pilot" now in its sixth year.
A pair of reports released this week offered supporting arguments for one of Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities: increasing investment in early childhood education.

Both reports, one by a group of law enforcement officials and another by leading business executives, use data from the Illinois State Department of Education that shows roughly three-fourths of all students entering kindergarten in Illinois lack necessary school readiness skills in at least one of three critical areas – social-emotional development, literacy or math. Only about a quarter of all new kindergarteners demonstrate school readiness in all three categories.

What Preschool Isn’t: Waterford UPSTART and Any Other Online Program!

Yes...we're trying this in Indiana, too. Indiana is nothing if not consistent. We'll try anything which will spend public dollars on privately run "schools," especially high-tech corporate run virtual schools. Even virtual schools for pre-schoolers.

Does it even matter to them that the research on screen time shows that too much is detrimental to children?

Ask any early childhood expert about the purpose of pre-school and she will tell you that learning letters, sitting at a computer, and getting a leg up on academics are only a small part of what makes a good pre-school. Physical, social, and emotional development should be part of the curriculum. There should also be room for the child's creativity to develop...for the child to play, freely, without adult interference. The emphasis should be on PRE-, not school (see Six Principles to Guide Policy).

Any tax money that goes to "virtual pre-schools" is worse than a waste of money.
I wonder if these individuals don’t understand early childhood education. Have they read the research?

Sitting young children in front of screens to learn will likely have bad long-term repercussions. We already know that more screen time doesn’t help older children in school. We also understand that teens are too glued to screens and with social media have become increasingly depressed and anxious.

So there’s little doubt that pushing preschoolers to do their learning on computers is a huge mistake.


VOUCHERS -- STILL FAILING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Do voucher students’ scores bounce back after initial declines? New research says no

Another favorite of the privatization crowd is vouchers...a simple plan to divert public tax dollars into private religious schools.

First, they said that vouchers were necessary to help poor children of color "escape" "failing" public schools. Once they learned that vouchers wouldn't solve the deeper societal problems of poverty they changed the purpose of vouchers to "choice." Now, Indiana's voucher system is a private school entitlement for white middle-class families.

Schools that accept vouchers are no better than public schools and they drain tax dollars from the public treasury for the support of religious organizations.

Your tax dollars are going...
...instead of going to support your underfunded neighborhood public school.
New research on a closely watched school voucher program finds that it hurts students’ math test scores — and that those scores don’t bounce back, even years later.

That’s the grim conclusion of the latest study, released Tuesday, looking at Louisiana students who used a voucher to attend a private school. It echoes research out of IndianaOhio, and Washington, D.C. showing that vouchers reduce students’ math test scores and keep them down for two years or more.

Together, they rebut some initial research suggesting that the declines in test scores would be short-lived, diminishing a common talking point for voucher proponents.


BILLIONAIRE INTERFERENCE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION: UNDEMOCRATIC

Who Should Pay for Public Education?

The Gates Familly Foundation dumps millions of dollars into public education trying experiment after experiment using public school students as the guinea pigs. Is this based on Bill Gates's vast experience as an educator? Is it based on research done by a university's education department under the leadership of Melinda Gates? No. It's because they have money. Money, according to the Gates Foundation, gives them the knowledge and the right to turn public education into philanthropist-based education.

Do Bill and Melinda Gates have ulterior motives for spending their dollars on public schools? I can't answer that. Perhaps their motives are sincere and they really do want to improve public schools. No matter what their motives, however, that's not how public education should function in a democracy. Our elected representatives on local school boards should determine the curriculum for our schools. If Bill and Melinda Gates and their billionaire peers want to help improve public education they should pay their taxes.
So yes, we should propose raising taxes to more adequately fund public schools, so they don’t have to apply for grants from foundations that will want control over aspects of their core work. Underfunding public education (and the rise of the Billionaire Social Entrepreneur Class) have pushed many public schools into a corner: they need more money to accomplish the things they want to be doing. The things they know will help their students flourish.

Schools can become dependent on grants. Teachers these days are often forced to Donors-Choose even basic supplies. We have abandoned truly adequate public education funding in favor of piecemeal begging and co-opting our principles for much-needed money. Public institutions, from roads, fire-fighting, hospitals and libraries to the military, need public funding. Because we all depend on them.

DEAR CHARTERS, HERE'S MONEY. LOVE BETSY

Charter networks KIPP and IDEA win big federal grants to fund ambitious growth plans

Betsy DeVos, who purchased her cabinet position from American politicians, has directed her U.S. Education Department to spend millions on charter schools. A charter school advocate said of the gift...

“In many states and cities, it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive...”

Maybe that's because the local community doesn't need, want, or isn't willing to pay for another school.
“The U.S. Department of Education has not, in our opinion, been a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars in regard to its management of the Charter Schools Program,” wrote Carol Burris and Jeff Bryant, the Network for Public Education report’s authors.

“If there are any instances of waste, fraud or abuse, the Department will certainly address them, but this so-called study was funded and promoted by those who have a political agenda against charters and its ‘results’ need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Liz Hill, a Department of Education spokesperson, said in an email.

Nina Rees, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said federal grants are a crucial source of funding for start-up schools and that closures of ineffective schools are signs that the charter model is working.

“In many states and cities it’s potentially the only source of start-up dollars that schools receive,” she said. “When you first open a school, unless you come into the work with your own money, you don’t have any way of paying for certain things.”


THE PENALTY FOR CHOOSING TO TEACH

The teacher weekly wage penalty hit 21.4 percent in 2018, a record high

Let's admit it. Many of America's teachers make enough money to live on. The average teacher's salary in Indiana is more than $50,000. When adjusted for local cost of living it's even higher. Any minimum wage worker in the U.S. would love to have a job at even half that rate, so what are teachers complaining about?

First, that's just an average, and the average is dropping. One reason it's dropping is that Indiana no longer allows salary schedules for teachers. If you start your school teaching career at about $38,000 you'll stay at that salary until your school system can find money to give you a raise. In Indiana, the cost of living has increased faster than the increases in funding by the General Assembly. Since 1999 Indiana adjusted teacher salaries have dropped more than 15%.

Second, while teachers don't go into education expecting to become rich, they also expect to earn more than minimum wage. How much do teachers make compared to other workers with the same training? According to this article, it's about 20% less nationwide, even higher in Indiana. Where will we find people to teach in our public school classrooms if we don't pay them a competitive wage?
A shortage of teachers harms students, teachers, and the public education system as a whole. Lack of sufficient, qualified teachers and staff instability threaten students’ ability to learn and reduce teachers’ effectiveness, and high teacher turnover consumes economic resources that could be better deployed elsewhere. The teacher shortage makes it more difficult to build a solid reputation for teaching and to professionalize it, which further contributes to perpetuating the shortage. In addition, the fact that the shortage is distributed so unevenly among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds challenges the U.S. education system’s goal of providing a sound education equitably to all children.


(((DISINTEGRATING BEFORE OUR EYES)))

Once We Were Free: Mourning the era of American Jewish freedom
I...want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes.
This isn't about public education. It's about the increase in religious and racial violence in the United States.

Jewish baby boomers have grown up in a nation (nearly) free from religious persecution. Many of our grandparents and parents had to leave their homes in Europe to escape pogroms and mass murder. Many faced discrimination when they came to the U.S. in housing and jobs, but over the years, and generations, things improved for us.

Growing up in liberal Jewish America I learned about centuries of discrimination and persecution, yet I was assured that the Jewish people had now found a safe haven in America.

The last six months have brought an abrupt end to the image of America as being a safe-haven for its Jewish citizens. What follows are the thoughts of one mother who mourns the loss of Jewish safety in America.
I know some readers never experienced freedom in America. I know there are people who grew up in an America that enslaved their ancestors, an America that brought their community smallpox and genocide, an America that put their grandmothers in internment camps, that deported their parents. An America that stole from them, hurt them, killed them. They ask me: How can you complain? Why should we care that you once knew freedom and lost it, when we have never been free. To those readers: I stand with you unequivocally. I know you never had the America I once did. I will fight beside you to build an America where all of us had the freedom I once had. None of our children should pray behind armed guards. All of us, all of our kids should be safe, prosperous, and free. I want to hear all of your stories, all the ways America hurt you and took freedom from you. But I also want you to understand how it felt to find a safe harbor after thousands of years and build lives and generations there—and then watch it begin to disintegrate before our eyes. All of our voices should be heard. All of us deserve a new era of freedom, prosperity, and safety. I hope what we build in the coming years makes us freer than all of our grandmothers’ wildest dreams. I believe we must come together and fight for the America that seemed so close we could taste it just a few years ago. We must fight for all of us, for every American to have lives so free we can’t even begin to imagine them yet. Hope still lives here, somewhere, even if it feels far away today.


⛪️πŸ’²πŸšŒ

Monday, April 22, 2019

Republican Teachers: Tell legislators to support public education

Indiana's Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, was careful to speak in non-partisan terms when she visited Fort Wayne last week. She didn't call out one specific party for its anti-public education legislation, even though everyone in Indiana knows that the Republicans are doing their best to privatize and skimp on funding for public education.

McCormick is a Republican.

McCormick's predecessor, Glenda Ritz, was also a Republican before she ran for the Superintendent's position in 2012. She took office, however, as a Democrat...and ran into the wall of the Republican Supermajority for everything she wanted to do for public schools in Indiana.

In the 2016 election, Ritz and McCormick had similar platforms. McCormick, however, said that she could get things done because she was a Republican. She could talk to the members of her own party and get them to understand what public schools and public school teachers needed. She tried, but she was also stopped by the Republican legislators.

It doesn't take the logic of Spock to deduce that the Republicans in the Indiana legislature are against public education. For the last dozen years the Republicans in the Indiana House and Senate have introduced and passed legislation aimed at funding vouchers and charters, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and starving public education.

But Glenda Ritz was a Republican before she was a Democrat, and she supported public education...and Jennifer McCormick is a Republican and she supports public education. Obviously not all Republicans, then, want to privatize the public schools.


REPUBLICAN TEACHERS

As a retired teacher in northeast Indiana, it's been clear to me that many, if not most, of my former colleagues, have been Republicans. As public school educators, I assume that the vast majority of those same colleagues have been supporters of public education. For them to be otherwise would indicate a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

Are Republican public school teachers the only party members who support public education? Again, I'm doubtful of that. Many of my students' parents were also Republicans and they were, on the whole, very supportive of their children's schools.

Perhaps it's only those Republicans who have no connection to public schools who support the legislators who are so intent on funding vouchers and charters at the expense of the constitutionally mandated public schools.

Or maybe it's something else...maybe it's money.

FULL DISCLOSURE

I'm not a Republican. Nor am I a Democrat. I'm an ardent and enthusiastic Independent Education Voter. I understand that Democrats can be just as dangerous to public education as can Republicans.

Rahm Emanual in Chicago has worked hard during his tenure to privatize public education.

President Obama and his Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued the punishment of public education started by Bush II and No Child Left Behind. In some ways, Duncan was worse than current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

There is little doubt that campaign donations from pro-privatization organizations would transform at least some currently pro-public education Democrats into pro-privatization Democrats.

Because there's a lot of evidence that it's the money.


FOLLOW THE MONEY

Hoosiers for Quality Education (H4QE), formerly Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is a pro-privatization group in Indiana. H4QE is funded by the DeVos family (American Federation for Children), Alice Walton (of the Walmart billions), and the Freedom Partners (The Koch Brothers). They support School Choice Indiana (aka The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, now known as EdChoice) (For more information on this convoluted set of relationships see Hoosier School Heist by Doug Martin). Suffice it to say -- H4QE supports school privatization.

And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.

H4QE donated $88,750 to Republicans on the House Education Committee

The Republican members of the House Education Committee received approximately $88,750 in 2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Bob Behning received $3000 and Chuck Goodrich got the largest donation, $36,000.

H4QE donated $99,500 to Republicans on the Senate Education and Career Development Committee

The members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee received approximately $99,500 in 2016/2018 campaign contributions from H4QE. Committee chair Jeff Raatz pocketed a $9,000 donation. Member Linda Rogers accepted a whopping $50,000.

(On the other side, Democratic members of the House and Senate committees also received approximately $10,600 and $17,300 respectively from Indiana teachers' unions, ISTA and IFT, a small amount compared to the privatizers.)

Republican members of those committees also received contributions from other groups such as Stand for Children, funded by the pro-privatization Walton Family and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations.

Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb

Eric Holcomb, Governor of Indiana, also received 2016 contributions from privatizers...most notably the DeVos family. Holcomb received $15,000 from each of the following for a total of $90,000: American Federation for Children, Richard DeVos, Richard DeVos Jr (Betsy), Doug DeVos, Daniel DeVos, and Cheri DeVos-Vanderweide. Holcomb also received $50,000 from charter school operator Christel Dehaan, $100,000 from Jim Walton (of the Walton Family), and $20,000 from Walmart.

Is it possible that Republican politicians feel obligated to support privatization -- vouchers and charters -- because of the amount of money donated to their campaign coffers by pro-privatization groups and individuals?

One only has to look at the nomination and confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see how a billionaire donor can have an impact on the way politicians vote on issues.

WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?

When our local representative, Dave Heine, ran for the first time, he came to talk to our public education advocacy group, Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education. He was a Republican, but seemed very receptive to listening to us and agreed with us on many aspects of supporting public schools. In 2018, however, he joined ALEC, and received a $1000 campaign donation from H4QE. He votes in line with the Republican supermajority on public education legislation.

Would Rep. Heine have voted with the pro-privatization forces in the legislature if he had not gotten any campaign donations from privatizers? Which came first, the donation which has obligated him to support the positions of H4QE, or his willingness to defund public schools and deprofessionalize public school teachers?

In my corner of the state, the nine Republican House members and the five Republican Senators received 2016/2018 campaign contributions of $48,100 from H4QE.


HOW CAN WE FIGHT THE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS GOING TO PRIVATIZATION?

Millions statewide, that is...billions nationwide.

Public schools don't have the resources to donate thousands of campaign dollars to compete with billionaire-funded organizations like H4QE, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and the DeVos family. Neither do teachers' unions. Neither do public school parents.

So what can Republican teachers, who still want to support the Republican party and vote for Republican candidates do? What should you do if you don't want to vote for the Democratic candidate -- assuming there even is one?

Become an Education voter. Learn the education positions of your candidates. If they support private school vouchers and charters, tell them your position...and tell them you expect them to support public schools if they're elected.

Just because you vote for someone doesn't mean that you have to accept everything they do.

Get to know your local legislators. Invite them into your classroom and let them see how public education works. Some Republican legislators have never set foot in a public school...never attended public school...never sent their children to public school. Tell them the stories from your school. Tell them how much you donate to your own classroom each year to help your students learn. Be an advocate for your students, your classroom, and your school.

Follow bills in the legislature. Pay attention to how your local Representatives and Senators vote. Let them know if you disapprove. Thank them when they support public education.

Support for public education doesn't have to be partisan. Jennifer McCormick has proven that a Republican can support public schools. We need Republican citizens to support their public schools as well. We can change the balance if we work together.


🚌🐘🚌

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Climate Change - The Facts

After one of the hottest years on record, Sir David Attenborough looks at the science of climate change and potential solutions to this global threat. Interviews with some of the world’s leading climate scientists explore recent extreme weather conditions such as unprecedented storms and catastrophic wildfires. They also reveal what dangerous levels of climate change could mean for both human populations and the natural world in the future.


🌍🌎

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

2019 Medley #8

Grade Level, Student Achievement,
Society's Mirror, Teacher Shortages,
Charter Accountability,
Disenfranchising the Voters


CHILDREN DON'T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

This post isn't about reading, but Mitchell Robinson brings up important information we should remember.

Last month, third graders in Indiana took the IREAD-3, a reading achievement test. Those who fail to achieve the arbitrarily designated cut score must take the test again during the summer. Those who fail it again must repeat third grade.

The concept of grade level should be flexible, not based on an arbitrary cut score. It should reflect the average reading level of a child in a particular grade instead of a goal for every child to achieve on a given test day. We should teach children at their zone of proximal development -- the level just beyond the child's independent level, not at the level the test insists upon.

Would we like all children to be above average? Of course, but we can't ignore the math which renders that impossible. Additionally, we can't ignore the detrimental impact of poverty on school achievement. Our job, as teachers, is to analyze a child's achievement and make our plans based on what will help him progress as quickly as possible. That means starting where the child is...not at some vague "grade-level" determined by an outside source.

By setting a cut score on a test, and using the test to determine grade placement, the state is ignoring this basic concept of academic achievement and development, usurping the professional judgment of the classroom teacher, and ignoring the best interests of children in a misguided quest to get a number with which to label teachers, schools and school districts.

I agree with Robinson when he says that we can set "goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students." We do that by understanding the reading process and observing our students. [emphasis in original]
Children don’t “read on grade level” anymore than they “eat on grade level” or “care about their friends on grade level.” Anyone who has actually helped a child learn how to read, or play a music instrument, or ride a bike, knows that kids will accomplish these goals “when they are ready.” Not by “grade level.”

So, kids will read when they have a need to read, and when what they are reading is relevant to their lives. Not when they are supposed to read as measured by their grade level. Can we set our own goals as teachers for when we introduce various literacy concepts to our students? Sure. And teachers do that, every day in every public school in the nation.

But the only thing that measuring reading by “grade level” does is make a lot of kids–and teachers–feel dumb when they are not, and turn reading into drudgery instead of the life-long pursuit of joy, knowledge, and enjoyment it’s meant to be.


FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps

What's this? Students learn better when they are well fed? Go figure!
...scores were highest around three weeks after families received benefits, and lowest at the beginning and end of that cycle. The differences were modest, but statistically significant.

It’s not fully clear why scores spike around that three-week mark, but the researchers suggest that the academic benefits of better access to food, like improved nutrition and reduced stress, take some time to accrue.

“Students with peak test performance (who received SNAP around two weeks prior to their test date) may have benefited from access to sufficient food resources and lowered stress not only on the day of the test but for the previous two weeks,” Gassman-Pines and Bellows write.
Source: Food Instability and Academic Achievement: A Quasi-Experiment Using SNAP Benefit Timing

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

'As society goes, school goes:’ New report details toll on schools in President Trump’s America

Children learn what they live. Guess what happens when they live in a society filled with hatred and bigotry...in a society where truth has no meaning...in a society where disagreements are solved by shooting those who you disagree with...
John Rogers and his colleagues (Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera) at UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 500 public high school principals from across the country and found this:

* 89 percent reported that “incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community.”

* 83 percent of principals note these tensions are fueled by “untrustworthy or disputed information,” and over 90 percent report students sharing “hateful posts on social media.”

* Almost all principals rate the threat of gun violence as a major concern, and one in three principals report that their school received in the previous year threats of mass shooting or bombing or both.

There’s more: In schools with a sizable immigrant population, principals report the significant negative effects that federal immigration policy and its associated anti-immigrant rhetoric have on student performance and family stability.

And schools that are in the areas of the country hardest hit by the opioid crisis are directly affected by addiction, overdose, and family devastation.
Source: School and Society in the Age of Trump


TOMORROW'S TEACHERS

The teacher shortage is real, large and growing, and worse than we thought

The right-wing war on the teaching profession is succeeding. Fewer young people are going into education. The number of uncertified teachers is increasing. Class sizes will increase.

As might be expected, this has the greatest impact on high-poverty schools.

What can we do? Who will be tomorrow's teachers? Will there still be a well staffed, local public school for our children and grandchildren?
Schools struggle to find and retain highly qualified individuals to teach, and this struggle is tougher in high-poverty schools...

Low teacher pay is reducing the attractiveness of teaching jobs, and is an even bigger problem in high-poverty schools...

The tough school environment is demoralizing to teachers, especially so in high-poverty schools...

Teachers—especially in high-poverty schools—aren’t getting the training, early career support, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed and this too is keeping them, or driving them, out of the profession...


THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

In the Public Interest's weekly privatization report for April 8, 2019, is all about charter schools. Fully ten of the fifteen education articles have to do with charters failing to do the job that taxpayers were giving them money to do. Charters should not be allowed to open in areas where an additional school isn't needed. Charters must be fiscally and academically accountable, just like real public schools.
Louisiana officials are recommending to close a charter school amid allegations of financial mismanagement and a failure to provide proper special education services to the roughly 40 percent of enrolled students with disabilities.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

What does it say about a political party which wins elections by preventing citizens from voting...by arranging districts so that politicians choose their voters, not the other way around...and by going against the will of the voters to divert money from public institutions to privatization?

Republicans in Indiana tried this during the 2019 legislative session and didn't get away with it. I don't doubt that they will try again.
Pinellas County voters reapproved a special property tax in 2016 to improve teacher salaries and arts programs, not to subsidize charter schools. Miami-Dade voters approved a property tax increase last year to raise teacher salaries and hire more school resource officers, not to subsidize charter schools. Yet now Republicans in the Florida Legislature want to change the rules and force local school districts to share money from local tax increases with privately operated charter schools. Their efforts to undermine traditional public schools and ignore the intent of the voters know no boundaries.


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

For the last two decades, the Indiana General Assembly has done its best to hurt Indiana's public schools and public school teachers. This year is no different. But before we look at this year, let's take a quick trip back to the past to see what the General Assembly has done to hurt public education in general, and public school teachers in particular.

2011 was the watershed mark for public education in Indiana. We had all been suffering through No Child Left Behind with all its onerous requirements. Then Governor Mitch Daniels (now President of Purdue University) with his sidekick, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Bennett, worked diligently with the Republican supermajority in the legislature and the Republican-leaning State Board of Education, to make things as difficult for public education and public educators as they could. Subsequent Governors Pence and Holcomb have continued down the same path. Governor Pence, especially, was blatant in his support for private schools over public (see For Further Reading at the end of this post).


Here are a few things that the Daniels-, Pence-, and Holcomb-led supermajority has done to public schools and public school teachers in Indiana

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

The collective bargaining process has been gutted. Just like other anti-union Republicans, the legislature has passed legislation to restrict collective bargaining to only money and benefits. No longer is it required that school boards negotiate work-related conditions such as class size, preparation time and hours of work. For years, politicians said that all teachers were interested in was "their wallets." The new collective bargaining law prohibits teachers from negotiating anything else.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

When I started teaching in 1975, Indiana teachers were required to have or work towards a master's degree. Once the advanced degree was achieved teachers were moved to a higher salary schedule which recognized and rewarded advanced education. Teachers are no longer required to get an advanced degree but are still required to participate in "continuing education" in order to keep their license current. However, an advanced degree or hours above the bachelor's degree are no longer automatically rewarded; the salary schedules are gone. The educational experience of teachers apparently no longer matters. Testing counts, of course, so Indiana still "rewards" teachers whose students achieve high test scores. Years of experience and advanced education? Not so much.

REPA III

Politicians and pundits will often talk about how we only want the best-qualified teachers in our classrooms. So it's easy to be confused about the rules that allow untrained educators to walk into a high school classroom on the first day of school. If you have a degree in a high school subject, biology for example, and you have worked in the field for a minimum number of years, say as a sales rep for a laboratory, you can walk into a high school class on the first day of the school year and "teach" biology. Education/pedagogical training is required, but not right away. You can start with no experience or understanding of child/adolescent development, classroom management, or understanding of the learning process. So much for the best qualified.

DUE PROCESS

For years teachers were protected from arbitrary dismissals by the requirement that the administration prove incompetence or other reasons for dismissal through due process. An impartial arbitrator would listen to both sides and make a judgment. A principal who didn't like a teacher couldn't just fire a teacher without just cause. That's no longer the case. The only recourse a teacher has now for an unfair firing is to request a meeting with the Superintendent or the local school board, neither of which would be considered impartial.


FUNDING

Public school funding was cut by $300 million during the Daniels Administration. This money has never been replaced.

Vouchers, which began in 2011, have siphoned more than $800 million from public education. Charter schools, including virtual charters, have also taken money once designated for the public good and put it into private pockets.

CURRENTLY

The bills and amendments discussed below have not yet passed the legislature. They still give an indication of the way in which Indiana public educators are disrespected.

School Safety

School safety has been an important issue especially with the frequency of school shootings and the number of children killed by gun violence every day. Many schools have initiated "active school shooter" training so that the staff would be prepared for an emergency.

Indiana made the national news in March when a local school district allowed the Sheriff's department in their community to shoot plastic pellets at teachers in order to make the training "more realistic." Teachers, some of whom sustained injuries, were told to keep the training procedure a secret.

A current amendment to a bill (HB1253) allows this to continue.

Do teachers need to be shot in order to understand the need for school safety? Are teachers unaware of the dangers of gun violence? One teacher who was shot with pellets commented,
“It hurt really bad,” said the woman, who said she was left with bruises, welts and bleeding cuts that took almost two weeks to heal. “You don’t know who you are shooting and what types of experience those individuals had in the past, whether they had PTSD or anything else. And we didn’t know what we were going into.”

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

“What makes it more outrageous is they thought we would need to have that experience of being shot to take this seriously,” she said. “When I thought about it that way, I really started to get angry. Like we are not professionals. It felt belittling.”
Great. So let's pass a bill which allows people to do that again.

Teacher Pay

Governor Holcomb has called for an increase in teacher pay this year.

Because of a constitutional cap on property taxes, the state legislature is charged with the responsibility of making sure schools have enough funds to operate. So much for "local control."

Indiana teachers' real wages have dropped by 15% since 1999. We are well behind the increases in pay given to teachers in surrounding states. The legislature, in order to increase teacher pay, has proposed to increase funding for education by 2.1%. Last year's inflation rate was 1.9%. The proposed 2.1% will also be used to pay for increases in support of vouchers and charter schools. How much will be left for public school teacher raises?

The legislature, trying to act like a state school board, suggested that school systems be required to use 85% of their state money for teacher salaries. So much for "local control."


Collective Bargaining

There's an amendment to a bill (SB390) which will require that a maximum of three collective bargaining meetings between school boards and local teachers associations be private. All the rest of the meetings must be held publicly.

The only reason I can see for this amendment is to make things more difficult for the teachers union. There's no research to support the idea that schools with open negotiations meetings save more money than schools which negotiate in private. There's no research to support the idea that this will help teachers teach better, or improve student performance. There is no reason to do this other than to make things more difficult for teachers.

Where is the corresponding legislation to require the same public meeting policy for administrators' salaries? legislature staff salaries? state department of health workers salaries?

UPDATE April 11, 7 PM ET: This afternoon the Indiana House of Representatives passed this bill into law. My state representative voted for it.

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don't hate public schools and public school teachers.

One would think we'd be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this...

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

A telling story of school 'reform' in Mike Pence's home state, Indiana

What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here's A Look

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

The basics of everything: Your guide to education issues in Indiana

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Friday, April 5, 2019

2019 Medley #7: Things I didn't get to edition

Accountability, School Time,
How to Teach Reading, Management,
30 Years of Charters

I often bookmark an article that I'd like to use as a basis for a blog entry...and then a week later, it seems like there are more important things I have to do so it gets pushed down the list until I forget about it completely. So today I'd like to look back at some still-relevant articles from the last few months that I found interesting, but got buried by other things on my to-do list.


HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE

Politicians Forget that Cut Scores on Standardized Tests Are Not Grounded in Science

The Every Child Succeeds Act still requires states to test every child every year. There are no longer federal consequences to "failure," but the federal government still requires the states to tell them what the state-level consequences for low scoring schools are.

Here's an idea...we know that test scores "correlate with family and neighborhood income" so why should all accountability be dumped on teachers and students? Why should third-graders who fail IREAD3 in Indiana be forced to repeat third grade when it's possible that the child's academic struggles are caused by the effects of poverty?

So how about if we put the accountability and consequences where they belong...on state and national politicians and legislators.

As John Kuhn wrote a few years ago...
...where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”?
Politicians and legislatures are "failing" when poverty is unaddressed or when progress towards easing poverty isn't enough to qualify as "adequate yearly progress."

Politicians and legislatures are "failing" when they don't spend enough on public education or waste money on mismanaged private schools (charter or voucher).

Politicians and legislatures are "failing" when they sign or pass laws such as third-grade retention laws, or laws which misuse standardized tests, which force educators into doing things that are educationally questionable.

It's time to attach sanctions to states which allow their public schools to suffer while wasting billions of dollars on misused standardized tests, on vouchers, and on charters.

It's time to attach sanctions to states which spend more money on wealthy schools that poor schools.

It's time that we stop blaming teachers for things outside of their control and hold accountable those who can help change things...but don't.
Decades of research show that, in the aggregate, standardized test scores correlate with family and neighborhood income. In a country where segregation by race and poverty continues to grow, it is now recognized among experts and researchers that rating and ranking schools and districts by their aggregate test scores merely brands the poorest schools as failing. When sanctions are attached, political regimes of test-based accountability merely punish the schools and the teachers and the students in the poorest places.



School Accountability Begins With the People Who Make the Rules: A Code of Conduct for Politicians and Test Makers

A code of conduct for the people making pronouncements on education...good idea.
-In fact, you know what? Don’t use standardized tests at all to assess student learning – especially not connected to high stakes. Instead rely on classroom grades and teacher observations for student assessment. Use indexes and audits of school resources to determine whether they are doing their best to teach students and whether lawmakers have done enough to ensure they are receiving fair and equitable resources.

TIME FOR SCHOOL

Squeezing the Clock

Blogger Peter Greene has retired from teaching and recently discovered that time in school is different than time outside of school.

As an elementary teacher, I had to learn how to use time to my advantage. The biggest problems were daily interruptions. One year I had to keep a list of where and at what time I had to send students out of the room.

Student A was diabetic and had to go to the nurse three times a day to have his blood sugar checked.

Student B had to go to occupational therapy three days a week and speech twice a week.

Students C, D, E, F, and G had to go to speech at a different time and different days than student B.

Students D, F, G, and H went to the reading specialist three times a week.

...and so on. In addition, I had to get my students to Phys. Ed on Tuesdays at 9:47, Music on Thursdays at 9:47, and Art on Fridays at 10:02. Library was on Mondays at 9:47, and lunch was every day at 11:20.

I also had to make sure that I picked my students up from their classes on time. The Art teacher had my students from 10:02-10:42 and another class at 10:45, which gave him three minutes between the time my students left and his next class arrived. Time to go to the bathroom? Not likely.

I had to arrange my in-class schedule so that Students A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H, didn't miss anything important when they were at speech, occupational therapy, the nurse, or the reading specialist. And I had to make sure that when they came back -- all at different times -- I was ready for them.

Our days were scheduled down to the minute...
This is one of the things about teaching that non-teachers just don't get. If you have an office job and someone says, "Hey, I want you to work in this little project some time this week-- it should just take a half an hour or so," then nobody gets excited because, hey, you can always find a spare thirty minutes here or there. But teachers are desperately sick to death of all the politicians, policy makers, administrators, and public spirited folks who propose, "Here's a worthwhile thing to do-- let's just have teachers add it to their classroom. It won't take much time out of their day." If teachers are feeling polite or restrained (or just resigned) they'll smile and say, "Sure. Sure. Just send me the materials." If they're feeling undiplomatic they will say, "Sure. Please tell me exactly what you want me to cut, because every damn second of my day between now and July is spoken for." And we're not talking about blocks of "an hour or so." Teacher time is measured out in minutes. It is one of those things that you just don't get if you haven't been there.


HOW DO YOU TEACH READING?

Reading Instruction, The Attack on Teachers, and Two Areas of Concern

Do teachers not know how to teach reading? Are schools of education at fault for not teaching education students how to teach reading?

It's my opinion that the one, proven "scientific" way of teaching reading, which works for every child, doesn't exist. We don't understand enough about how the brain works when it comes to reading and therefore it's difficult, if not impossible, to develop a way to teach reading that works for every single child. The word "dyslexia" refers to "trouble with reading." It's not any more specific than saying "upper respiratory illness." In other words, we know something is wrong, and we have seen this difficulty before, but we don't really understand the exact source or a way to treat it that works for every student.

There are a host of variables which can come into play when a child learns to read; ability, environment, personality, temperament, socio-economic status, experiences, interests. Perhaps the best method for teaching reading is the "try this..." approach which is simply defined as, "Try this. If it doesn't work, try something else. Repeat."

What's most important, however, is that the teacher is familiar with different ways of approaching the teaching of reading and familiar with her students.

The ability to teach reading consists of acquiring the understanding of a large number of ideas, techniques, and concepts related to the reading process, and the ability to choose the correct path at the right time, with specific students.
Almost every day there’s another report attacking teachers for how they teach reading. It divides parents and teachers. It’s also dangerous at a time when there’s a teacher shortage and teachers are banding together to try to save not only their profession, but public education.

I don’t like to see my profession criticized so harshly by those who don’t teach and who have never taught. I fear that with this animosity towards teachers, those with minimal teacher preparation will end up in classrooms pretending to be teachers.

However, I also know parents with children who have dyslexia or reading and writing difficulties. Having taught students with such disabilities in middle and high school, I understand how frustrating it is for young people to struggle with reading and writing.

But everyone focuses on phonics while there are many other variables that could be problematic for children when it comes to reading instruction.

TEACHER MANAGEMENT

Why You Can't Fire Your Way To Excellence

"Reformers" love to complain about bad teachers and how the union " protects" bad teachers, yet teachers don't hire or retain other teachers. Administrators do that.
An administration's number one job is to make sure that the district's teachers are working in the conditions that make it possible for them to do their best work. Every bad teacher represents a failure by a principal and a superintendent. That teacher you want to fire is a sign that either your hiring process or your teacher management process is broken.


THIRTY YEARS OF CHARTERS ARE ENOUGH

Can charter schools be reformed? Should they be?

As Diane Ravitch recently said,
There’s only one pot of State money for K-12 schools. Dividing it three ways makes all sectors suffer.
Charter schools are not public schools. They are private schools which get funding directly from the state. A public school implies public oversight. In too many cases, charter schools miss that feature.
It is time to acknowledge that what may have begun as a sincere attempt to promote innovation has given rise to fraud, discrimination and the depletion of public school funding. Thirty years of charters have resulted in an increase in profiteering far more than it has resulted in innovation. Democratic governance is disappearing.
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Friday, March 29, 2019

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

FLORIDA'S THIRD GRADE READING LAW IS JUST LIKE THE OTHERS

Florida has a third-grade retention law, just like Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, fifteen other states and the District of Columbia. Learning to read by third grade is so important, according to The National Council of State Legislators, that some states find it necessary to retain children who can't read.


Learning to read by third grade is important because
Research has demonstrated that students not reading proficiently at the end of third grade are four times more likely to not finish high school. Further, the levels of reading proficiency for third graders are linked to specific long-term outcomes: 23 percent of below-basic readers fail to finish high school, compared to 9 percent of basic-scoring readers and 4 percent of proficient readers.
...not to mention the fact that...
Researchers have pointed out that unintended consequences of retention can include increased costs for school districts (national average of $10,700 per retained student).
So it's an economic issue, too. [I would agree with that, although the problem is the economic status of the children.] And it's almost as an afterthought that NCSL mentions that retention-in-grade can have detrimental academic results, as well.
Additionally, retention can negatively impact students' long-term achievement (i.e. high school graduation rates).
The source for the statement that retention can have a negative impact on graduation rates is titled, New research suggests repeating elementary school grades — even kindergarten — is harmful. The authors of this 2014 article claim that the research on retention-in-grade is "muddied" and the research they report on makes it even "muddier."

Is that true? Is the research "muddied?"

Not much.


RETENTION HAS QUESTIONABLE VALUE

Research going back decades is consistent that the long term impact of retention-in-grade is negative.

The National Council of State Legislatures has a concern about third graders going on to fourth grade without sufficient reading skills and they are ok with the assumption that retention-in-grade will help kids "catch up." That assumption isn't supported by research.

Third-grade Reading Legislation
To encourage local schools and districts to take this milestone seriously, several states have enacted legislation that requires students not reading proficiently by the end of third grade to be retained.
Note that third-grade retention states punish 8 and 9-year-olds as an incentive to get them to read better. Furthermore, the implication is that punishing children will "encourage" schools and districts to take the third-grade reading challenge seriously.

Why?
  • ...because schools and districts don't really worry when third graders can't read unless they're given some incentive?
  • Are teachers and schools somehow "holding back" their best effort to teach children to read until the state steps in and "encourages" them to teach better by threatening to punish their students with retention?
  • Are the children not learning to read because they aren't given the incentive of "not flunking?" Will the threat of retention spur the students to learn more?
The answers to those questions and assumptions are the same. NO!

Teachers are doing their best to help children. Retention does not motivate children. Reading is a complicated process that can't be improved by "incentives" or threats.

Do you want children to read better? Institute early interventions for children who are having difficulties in kindergarten and first grade. Establish high-quality pre-schools for all children. Pay for these improvements by eliminating the third-grade standardized reading tests used for placement decision. Retention-in-grade is a waste of time, money, and causes real emotional damage.


FLORIDA'S THIRD-GRADE PUNISHMENT LAW DOESN'T WORK EITHER

The Florida third-grade punishment law has yielded another study showing that holding kids back in third grade is not only not helpful, but downright damaging.

The Effects of Mandated 3rd Grade Retention: An Analysis of Florida's A+ Plan
  • 93% of the retained group in the study remained below a level 3 on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. In addition, 67% remained at a level one on the Grade 10 Reading FCAT. 
  • 41% of the retained students did not graduate with a standard high school diploma.

  • The non-retained group were 14.7% more likely to graduate with a standard diploma than the retained group.

  • Between 2003-2013, it cost Florida tax payers approximately $587 million FTE funding for the retained students.
  • Approximately 6% of white students were retained while 20% of nonwhite students were retained. Of the students retained in 2003-2004, 69.8% were on free or reduced price lunch.
  • There was a statistically significant difference between retained students and nonretained students regarding Grade 10 Reading FCAT mean scale scores (.000). There was also a statistically significant difference between ethnicity and Grade 10 Reading FCAT scores (.003).
(See the full report HERE.)

JUST STOP IT

Can we just stop flunking kids, and use the money we save from repeating a grade and foolish third-grade retention tests to give them the support they need in the years leading up to third grade?

For more of my rants against retention-in-grade, including lots of references, click HERE.

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