"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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Extinction is the rule, Survival is the exception.

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

For Carl Sagan Day...exercise your critical thinking skills with this collection of quotes.

ON CRITICAL THINKING

Broca's Brain Book, 1986
Both Barnum and H. L. Mencken are said to have made the depressing observation that no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. The remark has worldwide application. But the lack is not in intelligence, which is in plentiful supply; rather, the scarce commodity is systematic training in critical thinking.

Carl Sagan's Last Interview Television, 1996
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.

It's a thing that Jefferson lay great stress on. It wasn't enough, he said, to enshrine some rights in a constitution or a bill of rights. The people had to be educated and they had to practice their skepticism and their education. Otherwise we don't run the government. The government runs us.


ON THE EARTH'S CLIMATE

Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Book, 1997
Those who are skeptical about carbon dioxide greenhouse warming might profitably note the massive greenhouse effect on Venus. No one proposes that Venus's greenhouse effect derives from imprudent Venusians who burned too much coal, drove fuel-inefficient autos, and cut down their forests. My point is different. The climatological history of our planetary neighbor, an otherwise Earthlike planet on which the surface became hot enough to melt tin or lead, is worth considering — especially by those who say that the increasing greenhouse effect on Earth will be self-correcting, that we don't really have to worry about it, or (you can see this in the publications of some groups that call themselves conservative) that the greenhouse effect is a "hoax".

Cosmos Television series, 1980. Book (revised), 2013
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished.

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Book, 1997
If we keep on with business as usual, the Earth will be warmed more every year; drought and floods will be endemic; many more cities, provinces, and whole nations will be submerged beneath the waves — unless heroic worldwide engineering countermeasures are taken. In the longer run, still more dire consequences may follow, including the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the inundation of almost all the coastal cities on the planet.

Wonder And Skepticism Article, 1995
In fact, the thickness of the Earth's atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That's the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth, that protects us from deadly ultraviolet light from the sun, that through the greenhouse effect brings the surface temperature above the freezing point. (Without the greenhouse effect, the entire Earth would plunge below the freezing point of water and we'd all be dead.) Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. We are pumping all kinds of stuff into it. You know about the concern that chlorofluorocarbons are depleting the ozone layer; and that carbon dioxide and methane and other greenhouse gases are producing global warming, a steady trend amidst fluctuations produced by volcanic eruptions and other sources. Who knows what other challenges we are posing to this vulnerable layer of air that we haven't been wise enough to foresee?

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF (TEACHING AND) LEARNING SCIENCE

Why We Need To Understand Science Article, 1990
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Book, 1997
We've arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements — transportation, communications, and all other industries; agriculture, medicine, education, entertainment, protecting the environment; and even the key democratic institution of voting, profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.


ON HUMAN SURVIVAL

Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium Book, 1997
The Earth is an anomaly. In all the Solar System, it is, so far as we know, the only inhabited planet. We humans are one amongst millions of separate species who live in a world burgeoning, overflowing with life. And yet, most species that ever were are no more. After flourishing for 180 million years, the dinosaurs were extinguished. Every last one. There are none left. No species is guaranteed its tenure on this planet. And we’ve been here for only about a million years, we, the first species that has devised means for its self-destruction. We are rare and precious because we are alive, because we can think as well as we can. We are privileged to influence and perhaps control our future. I believe we have an obligation to fight for life on Earth—not just for ourselves, but for all those, humans and others, who came before us, and to whom we are beholden, and for all those who, if we are wise enough, will come after. There is no cause more urgent, no dedication more fitting than to protect the future of our species.


The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God Book, 2006
Because it is clear from the fossil record that almost every species that has ever existed is extinct; extinction is the rule, survival is the exception.

πŸ“‘πŸ”­⚗️πŸ”¬

Thursday, October 31, 2019

2019 Medley #21

Retention-in-grade, Low Test Scores,
Reading wars, Charters and Choice,
Mississippi Strategy,
Vouchers and Discrimination, Poisoning Children

RETENTION HURTS CHILDREN

The Haunted Third Grade Classrooms Children Fear: Enter and… Stay Forever!

It's time again for another article dealing with retention...complete with references.

In-grade retention doesn't work. More often than not it harms students psychologically and emotionally, increases the chances of students dropping out, and doesn't improve achievement. Yet we continue to do it in order to appease the gods of "test and punish."

I've also collected dozens of articles, research articles, blog posts, and position papers on retention-in-grade, the vast majority of which document the damage done by this outdated and abusive practice.
Students who have academic struggles, but who move on, do better in the long run. Students who are retained might seem to do better at first, but they drop back to having difficulties later. Many students who are retained go on to drop out of school.


THE MYTH OF AMERICA'S FAILING SCHOOLS - LOW TEST SCORES

While I Wasn’t Paying Attention……

In a long, rambling blog post, John Merrow touches on a variety of topics. I disagree with one area he discussed in which he talks about how American students score poorly on the PISA test. Our students don't "underperform their peers in most other countries". We have a higher rate of child poverty, which lowers our average.

As I wrote in March of 2017,
American public schools accept everyone and test everyone. Not all countries do that. We don't weed out our poor and low-achieving students as they get older, so everyone gets tested...

The fact is that students who come from backgrounds of poverty don't achieve as well as students from wealthier backgrounds. And we, in the U.S. are (nearly) Number One in child poverty...

Children from American schools where less than 25% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score high on the PISA test. In fact, they would rank first in reading and science and third in math among OECD nations.

On the other hand, American students from schools where more than 75% of the students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch, score much lower. Because the U.S. has a much higher percentage of students in poverty than nearly all the other OECD nations, the overall U.S. average score is below the median.
Other topics covered by Merrow are...
  • How do you teach appropriate behaviors when the current President role models bullying and vulgarity?
  • the Secretary of Education's assault on public education
  • What should we measure in our schools? We approach measurement the wrong way.
  • the value of play in education
  • the cost of testing
  • the poor quality of our standardized tests and our undemanding curriculum
A sampling...
A social studies teacher right now is a modern-day Hamlet. Should he or she embrace the chaos and encourage students to debate the morality of the flood of demonstrable lies coming from the Oval Office on a daily basis, knowing that doing so is guaranteed to incur the wrath of some parents, and perhaps some administrators as well? Or should the teacher studiously avoid controversy, knowing full well that doing that sends a powerful value-laden message? To teach, or not to teach, that is the question…..

Or suppose you were an elementary school teacher trying to model appropriate behavior for your impressionable students. How do you respond when one of your kids asks you why the President said Joe Biden was kissing Barack Obama’s ass? Or why Trump can say ‘bullshit’ but kids get punished for swearing?

...We have to learn to Measure What We Value, instead of simply Valuing What We Measure.

...Ironically, the PISA results revealed that American kids score high in ‘confidence in mathematical ability,’ despite underperforming their peers in most other countries...


NRP AND THE READING WARS

Problematic “Scientific Based” Phonics: The Flawed National Reading Panel

The "reading wars" have heated up again and the report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) is being hauled out as proof that we need to dump current methods of teaching reading (balanced literacy) and teach "systematic phonics." However, the NRP didn't actually find that "systematic phonics" worked better than other methods of teaching reading.
Metcalf mentions educational researchers who raised questions concerning the National Reading Panel.

Elaine Garan an education professor and author was one.
She believes there are wide discrepancies between what was reported to the public and what the panel actually found. Most blatantly, the summary proclaimed that “systematic phonics instruction produces significant benefits for students in kindergarten through sixth grade,” while the report itself said, “There were insufficient data to draw any conclusions about the effects of phonics instruction with normally developing readers above first grade.” [emphasis added]


CHARTER SCHOOLS AND CHOICE

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 1: The “I Didn’t Do It!” Excuse

Charter Schools Cherry Pick Students & Call it Choice – PART 2: The “EVERYONE’S DOING IT!” Excuse

An excellent summary of the problem with charter schools in two blog posts by Steven Singer.
It takes a certain kind of hypocrite to be a charter school champion.

You have to deny any wrongdoing one minute. And then admit you’re guilty but explain it away with the excuse “Everyone’s doing it!” the next.

Take cherry picking – one of the most common admonishments leveled against the school privatization industry.

Detractors claim that charter schools keep enrollment low and then out of those who apply, they pick and choose which students to accept.

Charters are run by private enterprise but funded with public tax dollars. So they are supposed to accept all comers just like the authentic public schools in the same neighborhoods.

But charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as authentic public schools. They pretty much just have to abide by whatever was agreed upon in their charter contracts. Even then states rarely check up on them to make sure they’re in compliance.

So critics say many of these institutions are circumventing enrollment procedures. They’re welcoming the easiest kids to teach and dissuading others from enrolling – even to the extent of kicking out hard to teach children or pretending that an “unbiased” selection process just so happened to pick only the most motivated students.


WORKERS OR EDUCATED CITIZENS?

Indiana’s “Mississippi Strategy” for Education Will Bear Bitter Fruit

Should we raise and educate our children to supply the economy with workers (the Mississippi strategy) or should we teach our children to be educated citizens? Our goal should be towards citizens who think, rather than workers for a corporate state. In The demon-haunted world: science as a candle in the dark, Carl Sagan wrote,
If we can't think for ourselves, if we're unwilling to question authority, then we're just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness.
In this post, Doug Masson agrees...
I think there is a fundamental difference between policymakers with respect to whether they see people as liabilities or assets. When we see people as liabilities, then the goal of government is to spend as few resources on them as possible, getting them from cradle to grave with as little fuss as possible. When we see people as assets, then the goal of government is to maximize their potential as efficiently as possible, knowing that the return on that investment will exceed the expenditure as the children become productive, well-rounded citizens contributing to the community. The Mississippi Strategy takes the former approach.


FREE EXERCISE VS. ESTABLISHMENT

Vouchers And Federally-Supported Discrimination

The free exercise clause of the First Amendment gives religious groups the right to hire and fire at will even if they choose to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. However, when the religious group takes government money, then they ought to follow the secular laws of the nation as required by the establishment clause.
...in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural address said, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs.

There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.


POISONING OUR CHILDREN

NC got an ‘F’ for unsafe school drinking water. Activists want the lead out of schools.

North Carolina got an "F" when it comes to protecting its children against lead poisoning.
Environmental activists have launched a new campaign to protect children from drinking lead-contaminated water in schools following a national report that gave North Carolina a failing grade for safe school drinking water.

North Carolina was among 22 states that got an “F” grade for not getting rid of lead from school drinking water, according to Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. This week, Environment North Carolina released a back-to-school toolkit that gives the public information on how to get the lead out of schools.

“There is no safe level of lead for our citizens but especially for our children,” Krista Early, clean water advocate for Environment NC, said at a news conference at Moore Square. “North Carolina does not currently require testing of drinking water in our children’s schools.
Indiana also got an "F".

There is no safe level of lead for children. Lead in the environment damages children...permanently. It lowers their school achievement, causes behavior and growth problems, and can increase criminal behavior.

We're still discussing the damage that lead poisoning does to our children...and we're still blaming the low achievement of lead-damaged children on schools, teachers, and parents through our reliance on test scores and our underfunding of those schools serving children who need the most help.

Are we doing enough to eliminate lead from the environment? Not according to this article. We spend billions on testing, but apparently can't afford to keep our children safe from poisoning. The problem is that most of those who are affected by environmental toxins like lead are poor children of color. Chances are if we had lead poisoning in areas where wealthy white people lived, it would be taken care of immediately.


πŸ“–πŸšŒπŸ“š

Sunday, October 27, 2019

A Message to Leaf-Burners

AUTUMN

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


Answer: Anyone with lungs!

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

BUT IT'S JUST ONE LITTLE FIRE

What damage can one little fire cause?

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

And, about those lungs...
Besides being an irritant, leaf smoke contains many hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and benzo (a) pyrene. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the bloodstream and thus reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. So carbon monoxide can be very dangerous for young children with immature lungs, smokers, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases. Benzo (a) pyrene is known to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and coal tar as well as leaf smoke.
Need more?
These toxic fumes can aggravate allergies, trigger asthma attacks, corrode metal siding and paint, and release dioxin that causes cancer. A study from the American Lung Association found that a pound of burning leaves produces significantly more air pollution than a pound of coal burned in a plant.
More air pollution than coal!

Full disclosure: The above paragraphs are about me. Burning leaves make me sick. I have lung issues and, while I hate to use the term elderly when talking about myself, I'm getting up there...assuming I last through the leaf-burning season! It's also about your children and their immature lungs...and your neighborhood children...and your grandchildren...and your grandparents...and your parents. In short, everyone.

KEEP YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN INSIDE

That benzo (a) pyrene stuff is a big deal. It can negatively affect your nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, it messes with your DNA, and it's a carcinogen.

Why would anyone do that to themselves and their families...not to mention the little children who live next door or two houses down...or the old folks on the corner...or everyone else in the neighborhood?

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

INSTEAD OF BURNING

If you live in the woods like I do, what do you do with all the leaves?

Some cities (such as Fort Wayne) provide curbside pickup of leaves. Pay attention and make sure you get them to the curb in time for pickup. If you live within the Fort Wayne city limits you've already paid for the service with your taxes...not to mention that there's a city ordinance against burning leaves that will result in a fine.

If you live outside of a city or town, or your municipality doesn't have curbside leaf pickup, you still shouldn't burn your leaves. Instead of setting them on fire, follow the recommendations of Rosie Lerner of the Purdue Extension Service.
You could compost those leaves yourself. Dry leaves alone will break down slowly over time, but you can speed that process by mixing the leaves with green plant materials, such as grass clippings, garden discards and produce scraps. Or you could add a source of nitrogen, such as livestock manure or commercial fertilizer. Mix (turn) the pile occasionally to keep a good supply of air in the compost. A good-sized compost pile should be a minimum of 3 cubic feet. The compost will be ready to use as a soil conditioner in several weeks to several months, depending on size and management techniques.

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

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

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

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

My lungs thank you.

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

πŸ‚πŸπŸ‚

Friday, October 18, 2019

Stop the Misuse of Tests

Chalkbeat, whose sponsors include such pro-privatization groups as the Gates Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, ran this piece about Indiana's ILEARN test was.

Schools were quick to downplay ILEARN results, but experts stand by the test. Here’s why.
While school leaders and lawmakers were quick to reason away concerns over shockingly low ILEARN scores, some testing experts and state education leaders are standing by Indiana’s new exam.

Calls to shield schools and teachers from any negative consequences of the low ILEARN scores were swift, after it was revealed that only one-third of students in grades 3-8 passed both the math and English portions of the exam. But when detangled from the question of accountability, experts say the results provide a valid measure of what students know.

Low 2019 scores weren’t a sign of a faulty exam, said Ed Roeber, Michigan’s former testing director and a consultant on Indiana’s technical advisory committee for assessments, said. Rather, Roeber said, it’s a reflection of “what instruction is or is not taking place in our schools.”

“I’m not discouraged by low performance,” he said. “I think it could be a real rallying cry for Indiana schools to evaluate what they are teaching and what students are learning.”


The experts said that the test was "a valid measure of what students know." If experts said that, they were not using precise language and were promoting invalid uses of tests. Actual tests and measurements experts ought to know better.

VALIDITY: WHETHER OR NOT A TEST MEASURES WHAT IT CLAIMS TO MEASURE

What might actually be true is that ILEARN was a valid measure of how much of the test content students knew...because that's what a test measures. A test can be a valid and reliable measure of its content, but that's as far as it goes. Student standardized achievement tests don't measure everything students need to learn.

But you say the test covered Indiana's State Standards? Even if it covered all of the standards, that's still not everything children should learn in school.

Tests don't measure what managers want from their employees, such as honesty, enthusiasm, growth, or the ability to work collaboratively in a group. They don't measure creativity or loyalty or perseverance.

In fact, our standardized tests measure only a fraction of what we send our children to school for.

One important reason for not holding schools and teachers responsible for ILEARN is because ILEARN is a student achievement test, not a test of school or teacher effectiveness. Using a student achievement test to measure school or teacher effectiveness is like using a teaspoon to measure temperature. ILEARN wasn't made to measure anything other than a student's knowledge of its content. Using the test for anything else is invalid.


ACHIEVEMENT GAPS
In an op-ed for IndyStar, Brandon Brown, CEO of The Mind Trust, said the results show persistent racial gaps. While 43% of white students statewide passed both portions of ILEARN, 15% of black students did the same.
We know that poverty has an impact on student achievement and test scores. Could the fact that 42% of Indiana's black children live in poor families have anything to do with the "achievement gap?" Maybe we ought to hold legislators and policymakers (looking at you, Governors Daniels, Pence, and Holcomb) accountable for not providing equal education and employment opportunities or sufficient resources for all of the state's public schools.

A VALID USE OF TESTS

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association said that we ought to use the test as a baseline. We ought to use the test to "plan a course" for our students.
“The results from that should be a baseline,” said Indiana State Teachers Association president Keith Gambill. “It is time now for educators to sit down with the results from that, now knowing how the test operates and how to best plan a course for students moving forward so in years to come the results are a true reflection of the growth of that student.”
That's exactly what standardized tests should be used for...to "plan a course" for students. Standardized tests should be used as instructional guides while keeping in mind that their results are skewed by student poverty and racial bias.

They should not be used to grade or punish communities, school systems, schools, teachers, and students. We ought to stop misusing standardized tests instead of just shielding "schools and teachers from negative consequences."

Until we stop the misuse and overuse of standardized tests we're throwing our tax dollars away. We're wasting student and teacher time better used for something with actual value, like recess, fine arts, and physical education.


πŸ“πŸšŒπŸ“

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Random Numbers

October 16, 2019

POLITICAL
  • Day 1000 of the current U.S. presidential administration. Time to register to vote!

GENERAL WORLDWIDE


EDUCATION IN THE U.S. AND INDIANA

Testing

Privatization

Population
  • 56.6 million - The number of students attending elementary, middle, and high schools across the US.

Poverty
15% (168,028) of white children live in poor families.
42% (69,537) of black children live in poor families.
35% (56,560) of Hispanic children live in poor families.
17% (5,237) of Asian children live in poor families.


Homelessness

Graduation
Overall Poverty rate 20.56%
Overall Poverty rate 11.98%
Overall Poverty rate 14.56%

Lead


###

Monday, October 14, 2019

Let the Children Play

Pasi Sahlberg came to the U.S. as a visiting professor at Harvard to help American educators learn how the Finnish school system became the world's best. William Doyle won a Fulbright scholarship to move to Finland to study the Finnish system. Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is the result of the collaboration they formed.


THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY

Let the Children Play begins with a discussion of the research into play and its benefit for children. Groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control agree that play and physical activity are of critical importance to growing children, and are beneficial to their academics, and future skills.

Despite the science, however, play is disappearing from school due to so-called "education reform."
Despite this strong medical and scientific consensus that play is a foundation of children’s lives and education, play is an increasingly endangered experience for many of the world’s children.

Why is play dying in our schools? There are many social and cultural factors, and one major political reason is “GERM,” or the “Global Education Reform Movement,” a term that co-author Pasi Sahlberg has coined to describe an intellectual school reform paradigm that places academic performance as measured by standardized tests before children’s engagement, well-being, and play in schools.
The authors discuss and analyze Finnish schools. What makes them so successful? How can we learn from them? How have they used play to help their children achieve?

FINLAND

The Finnish philosphy of education, which is based on American educational research (see Finnish Lessons, by Pasi Sahlberg), is child-centered, something we in the U.S. have learned, but rarely practice.
In Finland, the main question isn’t “Is the child ready for the school?” but “Is the school ready for every child, and ready to accommodate each child’s differences?”


The child-centered school adapts to the child, not the other way around...and play is important. The seat-work style of American education is rejected. Children aren't required to start formal instruction until they're seven years old, and there are no standardized tests until the end of high school. What assessment there is, is also child-centered. During her visit to Finnish schools, Erika Christakis, author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, said,
I’ve found it impossible to remain unmoved by the example of preschools where the learning environment is assessed, rather than the children in it.
For several years, even without regular standardized tests, Finland led the world in student achievement as measured by the PISA tests. In recent years, however, their rankings have started to slip. Since they understand the limitations of tests, they didn't panic. They didn't start teaching to the test. They didn't label and retain students as "failing." They didn't fire or punish teachers. They didn't close schools or shame them with "F" ratings. Instead, they doubled-down on child-centered education.
In many other countries, politicians and bureaucrats would have pushed the panic button and declared a state of emergency. Common remedies would most likely have included teachers being penalized more for inferior standardized test data, and more academic pressure on children. But Finland didn’t do this. Instead, educators and government officials did something almost unheard of in the world of education reform. They talked to children. They then realized that one of the big overall problems was a lack of student engagement in schools and the fact that children feel their voices are not heard when it comes to their own learning and lives in school.


Throughout it all, there is play. Children in Finland aren't sitting at desks all day listening to their teacher or doing seat-work. Recess has all but disappeared in the United States, but the successful Finns, on the other hand, give their children fifteen minutes of unstructured free play time every hour because...
...learning takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
Academic kindergartens and virtual preschools aren't the best way to build academic success for our children. Current research supports previous research. Play is children's work. Children learn through play. Worksheets in preschool and kindergarten, whether they're made of paper or on a computer screen, are inappropriate. Cooking stations, dress-up boxes, and building toys are what we need for our littlest learners. Bring back recess, blocks, and doll buggies. Teach young children through read-aloud, finger play, and singing. Give our youngest children time to play without adult interference.

Older children also benefit from unstructured free time.
In play, children gradually develop concepts of casual relationships, the power to discriminate, to make judgments, to analyze and synthesize, to imagine and to formulate. Children become absorbed in their play, and the satisfaction of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion fixes habits of concentration which can be transferred to other learning.
OTHER IDEAS

Other good ideas from Let the Children Play...

On preparation for school
The lesson: If you want to get your young child ready for school, read to them—and play with them!
On ed-tech in the classroom


On data
School policy should be “data informed,” not “data driven.”
On standardized tests
...standardized tests alone don’t provide the correct, complete information needed to judge school quality—because they don’t fully account for income, family background, learning history, peer effects, access to proper out-of-school nutrition and intellectual enrichment, emotional life, conditions in the home, and a host of other factors that affect a child’s learning, development, and growth.
FIVE STARS

Let the Children Play: How more play will save our schools and help children thrive is not just for teachers of primary grades. Parents, upper grade teachers, secondary teachers, administrators, and everyone else interested in American education, will benefit from the information it contains.

✭✭✭✭✭
⛹🏻‍♀️🌎🀸🏽‍♂️

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Short on teachers? Import them.

The war on America's teachers has created an opportunity for teachers from other countries to come here on work visas to teach our children.

Desperate to fill teacher shortages, US schools are hiring teachers from overseas
When Joevie Alvarado became a teacher, she never expected to teach American students 7,600 miles away.

But a dire shortage of US teachers means some schools are taking drastic measures -- like hiring teachers from half a world away.
Alverado is from the Philippines...and is teaching in Arizona on a five-year J-1 visa. She makes more money here than back home...

The J-1 Teacher Program was meant to be a cultural exchange, but now it's being used because there aren't enough American teachers to fill all the spots available.


TEACHERS SALARIES: LOWER THAN OTHER COLLEGE GRADS, HIGHER THAN IN SOME OTHER COUNTRIES

The war on American teachers has made the job of teaching less desirable and a job that Americans are turning their backs on. Experienced teachers are leaving. Young people are choosing other careers.

So some states, like Arizona, are importing teachers from other countries.

In the U.S. teachers are paid less than other college graduates. They work long hours, at least as long as those other college graduates, often with little support. But the salaries of American teachers are higher than in other countries, so foreign teachers, hoping to earn more money, are willing to come here to teach our kids for 3-5 years.
"The average starting pay (for teachers) in Arizona is about $36,300."

While that salary may seem paltry for many Americans, Filipino teachers like Noel Que say their jobs in the US are much more lucrative, allowing them to live better.

A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.

It's a temporary fix, however. The Learning Policy Institute estimates that by 2020 the United States will need about 300,000 new teachers per year. They estimate the 2020 supply of new teachers from teacher training programs to be under 200,000. Meanwhile, between 2009 and 2014 teacher education enrollments dropped by 35%.
Between 2009 and 2014, the most recent years of data available, teacher education enrollments dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction. This amounts to a decrease of almost 240,000 professionals on their way to the classroom in the year 2014, as compared to 2009.
It's clear that we aren't going to have enough teachers. We can't import hundreds of thousands of teachers each year.


EXODUS, WALKOUT, OR SHORTAGE?

Tim Slekar, Dean Of The School Of Education At Edgewood College in Wisconsin says that there's a teacher exodus, not a shortage.
When we have a shortage, say of nurses, pay goes up, conditions get better and enrollment in nursing programs skyrockets. So if we have a teacher shortage, pay would go up. It's not. Conditions would get better. They're not. And enrollment in teacher education would go up. It's declining. That can't be a shortage then.

When you talk about the fact that nobody wants to do this job, that parents are telling their kids right in front of me in my office that they don't support their child becoming a teacher, this is a real issue that needs to be talked about quite differently and that's why exodus is much better because you have to ask why are they leaving and why aren't they coming.

Peter Greene, a retired high school teacher who blogs at Curmudgucation and Forbes, also denies that we have a teacher shortage. Instead it's a...
...slow motion walkout, an open-ended strike that's hard to see because teachers are walking off the job one at a time.

There are plenty of people who are qualified to fill the positions, plenty of people who could enter a teacher prep program and join the profession if they were so inclined. I'm surprised to see that there's no good count of all the teacher licenses sitting unused, but simple math tells us that it is the number of people who have left, plus the number of people who gave up before they got a job, plus the people who graduated with a certificate but took another job and never came back, plus all the people who just decided not to even start down that path. Undoubtedly some of those people were ill-suited for the classroom and we are better off without them. But that can't be every person whose teacher papers sit gathering dust.

What can we do about the need for teachers besides importing them from other countries? Linda Darling-Hammond and her colleagues at the Learning Policy Institute have some ideas.

First, offer teachers competitive and equitable salary packages. This must include incentives which make working at high-needs districts attractive. As long as teacher evaluations are tied to student achievement, and given the relationship between poverty and student achievement, then fewer teachers will want to teach in high-poverty districts. Giving teachers bonuses for high test scores, like we do in Indiana, isn't helpful.

Second, entice young people to become teachers. High salaries alone won't be enough. Things like housing subsidies, loan forgiveness, and student debt forgiveness will help. One of the most interesting ideas from the Learning Policy Insititute is a Grow Your Own program.
Create career pathways and “Grow Your Own” programs to prepare committed individuals from urban and rural school districts.
Third, improve teacher retention by improving working conditions including administrative support as well as a well maintained physical environment. This means that policymakers and legislatures must fully fund public education...as is required by the state Constitution...and end the drain of public funds to private (parochial) and privately run (charter) schools. We can't afford to fund three school systems.


SYSTEMIC IMPROVEMENT

Public schools need a systemic improvement in order to stem the teacher exodus and improve student learning.

The Chicago Teachers Union discusses this kind of school improvement in it's publication, The Schools Chicago Students Deserve 2.0.
The problem, as shown by decades of educational research, was not the teachers. The problems in education were the result of too-large class sizes, limited curricula, inadequate facilities, not enough support personnel, and lack of adequate funding.

All stakeholders must accept responsibility for school improvement. That includes federal, state, and local policymakers and legislators who control the flow of school resources.

Schools don't exist in a vacuum. Societal problems have an impact on our children, and our children bring those problems with them to school. Schools can't cure all of society's ills alone.


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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

2019 Medley #20: Poverty and Testing

Poverty and Testing


IT'S POVERTY, STUPID

The connection between family income and school achievement has been well documented (see the links at the end of this post ) yet policymakers and the media continue to blame schools, teachers, and the students themselves for low achievement.

David Berliner notes that there are out-of-school factors to student achievement including medical care, food insecurity, family and community characteristics, and environmental pollutants. Included among the latter is lead poisoning, which contributes to low achievement levels and is more damaging to children of poverty.

Policymakers, however, have a vested interest in deflecting the blame for low achievement onto schools, teachers, and students. If poverty and its side effects are ignored, then those who are tasked with helping reduce poverty and, by extension, its side effects, are not to blame.

The articles in this post discuss the effects of poverty on student achievement. Achievement, in nearly all the articles, is measured solely by standardized test scores. Standardized test scores, aside from keeping testing companies in business, "measure what matters least." Alfie Kohn wrote,
What generally passes for a test of reading comprehension is a series of separate questions about short passages on random topics. These questions "rarely examine how students interrelate parts of the text and do not require justifications that support the interpretations"; indeed, the whole point is the "quick finding of answers rather than reflective interpretation."

In mathematics, the story is much the same. An analysis of the most widely used standardized math rests found that only 3 percent of the questions required "high level conceptual knowledge" and only 5 percent tested "high level thinking skills such as problem solving and reasoning." Typically the rests aim to make sure that students have memorized a series of procedures, not that they understand what they are doing.
It's been nearly two decades since the US Congress passed No Child Left Behind, yet we're still overusing and misusing standardized tests.

New Reports Confirm Persistent Child Poverty While Policymakers Blame Educators and Fail to Address Core Problem

Core problems of poverty and underemployment are also discussed in this post...as well as how the federal share of funding for education has declined.
The correlation of academic achievement with family income has been demonstrated now for half a century, but policymakers, like those in the Ohio legislature who are debating punitive school district takeovers, prefer to blame public school teachers and administrators instead of using the resources of government to assist struggling families who need better access to healthcare, quality childcare, better jobs, and food assistance.

...child poverty affects academic achievement. Policy makers, however, in the spirit of test-based, sanctions-based school accountability, are instead determined to impose punishments on the school districts serving poor children. They imagine that if they shift the blame onto teachers, nobody will notice that they are themselves failing to invest the resources and power of government in programs to support the needs of America’s poorest children.


STANDARDIZED TESTING 101

New Test, Same Results: ILEARN Reflects Family Income

Indiana's new ILEARN test yields results similar to the old tests -- poor students score lower than more affluent students. The scatter-plot graph included shows the tendency towards high achievement and higher socioeconomic status.

The big news about ILEARN has been that local schools and teachers should not be held accountable for the low test scores. Implied by this is the assumption that schools and teachers, under different circumstances, should be held accountable for ILEARN test scores.

Student test scores should be used diagnostically -- to drive instruction. But because out-of-school factors have an impact on test scores, teachers should not be held solely accountable for student test scores. Because of those same out-of-school factors, schools should not be held solely accountable either. There are just too many outside variables that impact student test scores. Some of those variables, by the way, are the responsibility of policymakers. For example, are teachers responsible for the effect of lead on their students' learning because then-governor Mike Pence ignored lead contamination affecting East Chicago's children?

Additionally, student achievement tests have not been developed to evaluate schools and teachers. Doing so is an invalid use of the tests. The assumption that student test scores are the sole result of teacher or school quality is simply mistaken.

Among the [many] things that Indiana policymakers need to fix when it comes to our schools are 1), they need to assume their own share of responsibility for out-of-school factors affecting Indiana students' school achievement, and 2), they need to end the misuse and overuse of standardized tests.
Indiana’s new standardized test, ILEARN, may be new and even “computer adaptive,” but it has at least one thing in common with its predecessor ISTEP+. Scores on ILEARN correspond to socioeconomic status. Put simply: The poorer the families served by your school, the poorer your school will perform on the test. Shocking, we know.

Some news reports about the test talk just about the overall low scores. Others go skin deep by comparing the 
average scores of schools and districts  But scratch the surface, and you’ll find that this test—despite its price tag of $45 million—delivers more of the same. 


GAPS

Proficiency gaps deserve a look

How much money do we spend on our schools? Is there a difference between how much is spent on schools filled with black, Asian, multiracial, or Hispanic students? How much segregation is there in Indiana schools?
The disparities are stark. Statewide, 43.3% of white students were proficient on both the ILEARN math and English/language arts assessments compared to 14.8% of black students. Proficiency rates were 56.7% for Asian students, 31.8% for multiracial students and 24.2% for Hispanic students.

And yes, poverty matters. Just 22.9% of students who qualified by family income for free or reduced-price meals scored proficient, compared to 50.9% of students who didn’t qualify. (Gaps are similar, overall, for public, private and charter schools, according to my calculations).


Achievement gaps in schools driven by poverty, study finds

"If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps, you have to take on segregation." -- Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
They found that the gaps were “completely accounted for” by poverty, with students in high-poverty schools performing worse than those from schools with children from wealthier families.

“Racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools,” concluded the paper by academics, led by Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

...because race and poverty are so closely related, the only way to close the gap is to racially integrate schools. He pointed to those who advocate that schools think less about integration and instead try to improve all schools. That hasn’t worked, he said.

“If you want to be serious about decreasing achievement gaps,” he said, “you have to take on segregation.”


MIT STUDY

Study links brain anatomy, academic achievement, and family income

I've included this 2015 report on an MIT study showing that poverty has an impact on children's brain development...which might account for a portion of the economic test score gap.
A new study led by researchers at MIT and Harvard University offers another dimension to this so-called “achievement gap”: After imaging the brains of high- and low-income students, they found that the higher-income students had thicker brain cortex in areas associated with visual perception and knowledge accumulation. Furthermore, these differences also correlated with one measure of academic achievement — performance on standardized tests.

“Just as you would expect, there’s a real cost to not living in a supportive environment. We can see it not only in test scores, in educational attainment, but within the brains of these children,” says MIT’s John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and one of the study’s authors. “To me, it’s a call to action. You want to boost the opportunities for those for whom it doesn’t come easily in their environment.”

Relationship between SES and Academic Achievement

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Monday, September 23, 2019

"...you are still not mature enough..."

ADULTS GET A SCOLDING

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded the world's adults today at the U.N. Climate Action Summit.

Unfortunately, the American President didn't listen to Ms. Thunberg's speech. He dropped by the summit...but didn't stay. He also hasn't read the 2015 Department of Defense report on the national security risks caused by climate change. Instead, the current occupant of the White House has spent the last two and a half years dismantling the nation's environmental protections.

I doubt he would have understood why she was upset since he believes that "...the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese..."

MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AGO?

In her speech, Thunberg said that it's been more than thirty years since the science became "crystal clear." In 1971, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called, The End. In it, he wrote about the inevitable damage to the Earth from the use of fossil fuels.
If the present carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere were merely to double, the average temperature of the Earth would increase by 3.6° C. We might be able to stand the warmer summers and the milder winters but what of the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica?

At the higher temperatures, the ice caps would lose more ice in the summer than they would regain in the winter. They would begin to melt year by year at an accelerating pace and the sea level would inexorably rise. By the time all the ice caps were melted, the sea level would be at least 200 feet higher than it is and the ocean, at low tide, would lap about the twentieth floor of the Empire State Building. All the lowlands of Earth, containing it's most desirable farmland and its densest load of population would be covered by rolling waters.

At the rate at which fossil fuels are being increasingly used now, the ice caps will be melting rapidly about a century from now...
It didn't take a century...the ice caps are melting now...less than fifty years later.

Thirty years ago -- in 1989 -- Asimov again warned us about the Greenhouse Effect. This time he said there was a need for the world to cooperate and work together to solve what he saw as a threat to our civilization.

We didn't listen to the science in the 70s and 80s. We continued to play with our toys fueled by coal and oil. Now we have to face the consequences of our actions...the consequences our children and grandchildren will be forced to live with after we're gone. Are we mature enough yet to solve the problem?

SPEECH TO THE U.N. BY GRETA THUNBERG



This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just 'business as usual' and some technical solutions? With today's emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Thank you.

ASIMOV ON THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT



🌍☀️🌎

Thursday, September 19, 2019

2019 Medley #19

GERM in Canada, Third Grade Retention,
the Common Good, ILEARN, Vouchers,
the Teacher Exodus


ET TU CANADA?

Schools aren’t failing our kids, our government is.

Since 2012 Grant Frost has been writing about the GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) infection of Canada. Sadly, the story is similar to what's been happening here in the US. Outside factors affect school achievement, yet solutions to societal problems seem to fall to the schools.

In 2011, Texas Superintendent John Kuhn asked,
Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet?
Schools can't do it alone...and schools can't solve the problems caused by, in the case of the US, decades of neglect, racism, and economic inequity. State (and Provincial) governments must accept their share of responsibility...not by punishing high need schools with school takeovers and inadequate funding, but with real programs aimed at healing the problems of poverty and systemic racism.

To paraphrase Frost, "The reality of our situation in Indiana is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is."
What struck me so soundly as I read through the report, beyond my obvious alarm, was the way in which so many of these issues, or more particularly, the finding of solutions for them, has so often been downloaded by governments onto the public school system. In an attempt to lower obesity rates, schools are encouraged to provide more activity time. In an attempt to lower suicide rates, students get lessons on warning signs and prevention measures. Discrimination (risk nine) is countered with “respect for all” campaigns. Bullying (risk ten) is tackled head on in classroom. Food insecurity (breakfast programs). Infant mortality (Parenting courses). Lack of immunization (Immunization programs.) For almost every indicator of risk to our children that was on the list, governments have turned to public schools and the people who staff them to provide solutions.

...Child poverty can not be addressed in our classrooms. That particular risk factor can only be addressed in Province House. The reality of our situation in Nova Scotia is not that our schools are failing our kids; our government is.

RETENTION

Third Grade Reading Retention Does Not Work (Example #6,288,347)

Retention in grade continues to damage thousands of Indiana children. The latest statistics I was able to find were those for the 2016-2017 school year. At that time about 7% (nearly 76,000) of Indiana's 1.14 million students between the ages of 6 and 17 had been retained at least once since they entered kindergarten.

Indiana is one of the states with third-grade retention laws so many of those students are retained in third grade. Our students are required to pass a standardized reading test in third grade or repeat the grade.

Research spanning more than 100 years has consistently shown that retention in grade is not helpful and is, in many cases, harmful. Often children will improve their academic achievement during their repeated year grade, but after three to four years most gains have disappeared. Grade retention is an intervention teachers and schools will attempt because they don't know what else to do and believe that "we have to do something."

With more and more states requiring retention in third grade for students who cannot pass the state-mandated standardized reading test, there will continue to be a large number of students retained in grade.

At the end of this linked piece, Peter Greene wrote,
...third grade reading retention does not work, plus it's expensive and damaging to students, so maybe we can just knock it off right now.
Unfortunately, I don't think that will happen any time soon.
What the more reliable research appears to show is that third grade is a good year for taking a student's reading temperature, and their ability to read at the third grade level seems to be a good predictor of future scholastic success. That seems to be a valid correlation but-- say it with me now, nice and loud for the folks in the back-- correlation does not equal causation.

Nevertheless, many states have instituted a plan by which students are not allowed to exit third grade until they can show sufficient reading skills (or at least sufficient standardized read test taking skills). This is dumb.

This would be the equivalent of, say, noting that students who are more than four and a half feet tall in third grade are mostly over six feet tall when they graduate from high school. Therefor, in our desire to make graduates taller, we will not let anyone progress beyond third grade until they are at least four and a half feet tall.

The most likely reading of the third grade reading correlation is that some factors are contributing to a poor reading level, and those same factors, exacerbated by reading difficulties, will be obstacles to future success. Third grade reading level is a canary in the coalmine, and you don't fix things by repeatedly sending canaries down there. But canaries are cheap, and fixing coal mines is hard and expensive. Addressing all the problems that hold a small child back-- well, that's complicated and expensive and difficult and it puts a lot of responsibility on the government. It's simpler to just threaten the kid and the teacher and make it their problem.


WE SERVE ALL CHILDREN

Embracing Public Schools as the Very Definition of the Common Good

America's public schools are a "common good." Jan Resseger eloquently describes how we all benefit from public education. If you need to respond to those who don't understand how public schools help individuals, communities, and the entire society, here is an excellent source.
...public schools are required by law to serve the needs and protect the rights of all children: “(T)here is one thing that our American public schools do better than any other schools in the country or even in the world: our public schools commit to addressing the needs of every single child. Our public schools are open to ALL children, without prejudice or pause. Our schools attempt to educate EVERYBODY. American students are students who are gifted, students with disabilities, students who need advanced placement, students who have experienced trauma, students who are learning English, students who are hungry, affluent students, students who live in poverty, students who are anxious, and students who are curious.”

TESTING IN INDIANA

ILEARN another blow to state's education efforts

How much time is spent by adults and children in your local school on our state tests? What might be a better use of that time?
Indiana students, teachers and local communities have endured years of changing school accountability systems, each focused on exhaustive standardized test-taking negatively affecting student well-being, teacher compensation and school letter grades, causing parent confusion and anxiety in the local community.

From ISTEP to ISTEP+ to ILEARN, children in Indiana have suffered years of changing expectations through standardized testing schemes designed to determine the number of students who fail only after the test is given. No good teacher uses assessments in this manner.

Set the standards, work toward learning the standards, assess the standards through multiple means, determine those meeting or not yet meeting the standards, all without crushing teaching and learning through excessive standardized testing.

To the detriment of today's school culture, students and teachers have been reduced to test takers and test preparers unable to take advantage of the ebb and flow of inquiry learning, creative and independent thinking, or problem-solving through logic.

Instead, too much precious time and money has been spent over the years on accountability systems focused solely on test results directly correlated with student socioeconomic status.


Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy writes about how Indiana's tests...from ISTEP to ILEARN have been misused as a tool to damage public education.
The widespread misuse of what should be a diagnostic tool is just one more example of our depressing American tendency to apply bumper sticker solutions to complex issues requiring more nuanced approaches.

Are we concerned about the quality of our public schools? Easy. Let’s just give out vouchers allowing parents to send their children to mostly religious schools that may or may not teach science or civics or accurate history, and are turning out graduates with lower test scores in math and English.

For the 90% of children who still attend our public schools, let’s spend lots of tax dollars on standardized tests that we can then use as a blunt weapon to pigeonhole the kids and penalize their teachers.

Those approaches are so much easier than acting on the basis of in-depth analyses of both strengths and shortcomings, giving our public schools and public school teachers the resources–and the respect– they need, and properly evaluating the results.

VOUCHERS

Indiana’s School Voucher Program–The Back Story

A second article by Sheila Kennedy...this one on the history of Indiana's voucher program.

As governor, Mike Pence did his best to use the voucher program to enrich parochial schools, but it was Mitch Daniels who was the brains behind diverting public funds to religious and private pockets.

Kennedy's blog post is based on an article in the Answer Sheet by Valerie Strauss A telling story of school ‘reform’ in Mike Pence’s home state, Indiana. The Answer Sheet is behind the Washington Posts' paywall, however, Kennedy includes a link to a pdf file of the article.
...Mitch Daniels is a highly intelligent man. He is also thoroughly political and ideological. My guess is that he drank deeply from the well of GOP dogma, and believes–with an almost religious fervor, evidence be damned– that the private sector is always superior to the public sector. (Why so many people who clearly believe this nevertheless spend their professional lives in the public sector is an enduring mystery.)

So here we are. Vouchers have increased religious and racial segregation without improving academic performance. Meanwhile, public schools are struggling to perform without adequate resources, and the state’s underpaid teachers are leaving in droves.

Did Indiana’s schools need improvement? Absolutely. Were vouchers an appropriate or effective remedy? Absolutely not.

That’s what happens when ideology trumps evidence.


TEACHER SHORTAGE EXODUS

How to stop the teacher exodus

It's not a teacher shortage. It's a teacher exodus from classrooms and from teacher training programs. Fewer young people are going into education...and those teachers who are leaving the field -- whether through an early exit or retirement -- are not being replaced in sufficient numbers. Who will teach the next generation of American children? Who will prepare tomorrow's citizens for our nation's future success?
...test-based accountability has destroyed the profession of teaching and caused a mass demoralization and exodus from public school classrooms. And let’s not forget about the thousands of hours of lost instruction time in the sciences, social studies, arts, music and anything else that doesn’t conform to basic literacy and numeracy skills.

It really is an insanity driven by the hatred of public schools and the greed of powerful individuals to use the false narrative of failing schools and bad teachers to drain schools of public tax dollars. Nothing done over the last 35 years in the name of accountability—Nothing! — has done anything positive for the children stuck at the bottom of the achievement gap. The problem was never failing schools and bad teachers. The problem has always been poverty born out of systemic racism. 

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