"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, March 23, 2019

2019 Medley #6: WTF Edition

Dear Life: WTF, Shooting Teachers as PD, Children are Trying to Save the Planet, Intelligence: Not a Plus for Presidential Candidates

WTF! Some days are like that.


DEAR LIFE: WTF

A lifelong teacher

Everyone who knows me or reads this blog knows by now that our BFD of NEIFPE, Phyllis Bush, passed away last week. Last year Phyllis gave me a tee shirt that said, "DEAR LIFE: WTF."

I agree. The children of Indiana have lost a champion in the fight to save public education.

You can read some of the many tributes to Phyllis HERE.
“Whether it is taking a kid to the zoo or to Zesto for ice cream, whether it is writing a letter to your legislators, whether it is running for office, whether it is supporting your favorite charity, DO IT! Monday morning quarterbacks are of little use to anyone. Whatever you do, live your life to the fullest. Do what matters to you.”

Godspeed, Phyllis. You were a teacher. You did what matters.

SHOOTING TEACHERS AS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: WTF

Teachers were ‘shot’ with fake bullets ‘execution style’ during active shooter training, ISTA says

There aren't enough WTF's for this news. The idea that teachers need to "learn" how terrifying it is to be in an active shooter situation is just WTF insane.

The problem is not that teachers (and students) don't know how to react in an "active shooter" situation...the problem is that there are too many f#%@ing weapons in the hands of lunatics.
During active shooter training, some Indiana teachers were “shot execution style” with “projectiles” that caused welts and blood, according to the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA).

The ISTA addressed their concerns about these drills in a series of tweets on Wednesday as members of the association testified in front of the Senate Education Committee.

“The teachers were terrified but were told not to tell anyone what happened. Teachers waiting outside that heard the screaming were brought into the room four at a time, and the shooting process was repeated,” the ISTA said.

Teachers Union: No Teacher Should Be Shot at As Part of Training

This comment should not have to be said...WTF is wrong with people?
"Our view is that no teacher, no educator should be put in a small room and shot at as part of a training process for active shooter training," said Dan Holub, executive director of the ISTA, talking to WISH-TV.


THE CURRENT WORLDWIDE EXTINCTION: WTF

Let the children strike as a lesson to all who live on this planet

Instead of ignoring nearly all the scientists in the world and continuing to do damage to the only home in the universe humans can inhabit, one would think that an entire species of intelligent beings would understand that fouling your own home is simply stupid.

The children who marched last week -- all over the world -- trying to get the adults in their lives to pay attention are the ones who are going to have to pay the price.
...young people enjoy similar rights and freedoms as we all do. Therefore, we should listen to children carefully when they speak to us about their lives. In fact, increased depression and anxiety that have led to dramatic erosion of children’s mental health and well-being around the world is, at least partly, due to their worries about the state of our planet. Active citizenship means having a voice about things that affect their lives.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. science spending

WTF!
At the Environmental Protection Agency, the administration is again proposing to take an ax to climate and research programs. Overall, the agency’s budget would shrink by nearly one-third, from about $8.8 billion to $6.1 billion. Its science and technology programs would be funded at about $440 million, nearly 40% below the current level of $718 million. The budget line for air and energy research, which includes climate change science, would drop by more than $60 million, from about $95 million to $32 million. Congress has repeatedly rejected such proposed cuts.

FYI

The Constitution of the United States
Article. I. Section. 8.
The Congress shall have Power...To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts...


ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM IN ACTION

Pete Buttigieg is smart, but if you like him you won’t dwell on it

Ok...so when there is someone who is intelligent we need to pretend that he's not so smart because intelligence will lose him votes! WTF!
...I cringed a bit when I saw a tweet making the rounds talking about how he’d learned Norwegian to read more books by a Norwegian author for whom he could not find translations. I mean, that’s obviously very impressive, but talking about how smart he is doesn’t do him any political favors.

In a blog post about him I wrote about nine years ago when he was running for Treasurer, I mentioned, “we have an anti-intellectual streak a mile wide in this country where we want politicians to go with their gut and not any silly book-learnin’.”

...I suppose it’s some sort of progress that I think his educational achievements are likely to cost him more votes than the fact that he’s gay.

❗️❗️❗️

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Opposing Mediocre Minds: Einstein on Education

Today, March 14 is Pi day (3.14) and the birthday (#140) of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein is remembered as the physicist who developed the theories of special, and general relativity.
the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers...

...that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity.

He came to the U.S. in the early thirties and, with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and the accompanying anti-semitism, he decided to stay (after short stays in both Belgium and England). He was already internationally known, having won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921 for his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.

Princeton offered him a job and he became a U.S. citizen in 1940 (while also retaining his Swiss citizenship).

MORE THAN PHYSICS

Einstein was more than a world famous scientist. He was also someone who examined philosophy, religion, and politics and much of his writing has applications for students and teachers.

The quotes below (from Wikiquote) reflect the universality of Einstein's thought and apply to education and learning.

THE SUPPORT FOR SCIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE

It is ironic that the first quote I've listed here is one on the value of science institutions to nations. This week I read that our current administration has requested deep cuts in science funding.

Trump once again requests deep cuts in U.S. funding for science.

The administration is asking for...
  • a 13% cut for the National Institute of Health.
  • an 8% cut for NASA
  • a 12% cut to the National Science Foundation
  • 17% less for the Office of Science in the Department of Energy
  • A cut of 1/3 for the EPA overall and cuts of 40% for science and technical programs and 66% for air and energy research (climate change)
It would be nice if someone would stop the war against knowledge.
Science is international but its success is based on institutions, which are owned by nations. If therefore, we wish to promote culture we have to combine and to organize institutions with our own power and means.

As long as we're looking at the behavior of our current government, here are a couple of things Einstein said that are important to our current national atmosphere.
Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind.
Force always attracts men of low morality.


TESTING ISN'T LEARNING

Here are three thoughts from Einstein that relate directly to our overuse and misuse of testing. He understood that testing isn't learning. Schools ought to be places where opportunities are provided for learners to explore the wonders of personal and intellectual growth, not the learning of facts for a test.
I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
One had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year.
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.

ON TEACHERS, TEACHING, AND LEARNING

Einstein's experience reinforces the fact that relationships in education are as important as the content.
School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn't worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave...I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement.

After reading the following quote I thought it would be nice to be able to gather all my former students together in one place and apologize (on behalf of myself and the state's curriculum) for not letting them have more personal involvement in their growth.
It gives me great pleasure, indeed, to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed.


Teachers want to be paid enough to live on, but for the most part, we follow our career in order to help the next generation through the life-bumps on the way to adulthood. I don't like the word "calling" when it comes to teaching, mostly because this gives legislators the idea that we don't care about getting paid enough to live on. But teachers are, for the most part, "called" to do their work because they love children and learning.
Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.

The beauty of science is that, not only does it begin in wonder, it also ends in wonder. Often non-science teachers are afraid to teach science. This is, in part, becuase their own sense of wonder has been lost...and that is too bad.
All of science is nothing more than the refinement of everyday thinking.

It's often said that children become less curious as they go through school. Is that because we teachers do something to stifle their curiosity?
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.

WHY IS THERE SCHOOL?

What is the very purpose of schooling? Do we teach students so they can "grow up to be something" or so they can grow as human beings?
It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he—with his specialized knowledge—more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person.

ON BALANCE
If A is success in life, then A = x + y + z. Work is x, play is y and z is keeping your mouth shut.


🔬📚⚗️

Saturday, March 9, 2019

2019 Medley #5: Privatization


VOUCHERS

The Cost of Choice

Choice numbers

School privatization is once again on the block for the Indiana General Assembly. The House Budget bill includes increases for both charter schools and vouchers.

The "choice" for vouchers, as this article explains, belongs to the school, not necessarily the parent. If a private school chooses not to take your child because he is a behavior problem, she is not the right religion, or your family is not "the right fit," then the school can "choose" not to accept your voucher.

The cost of school vouchers affects all schools in Indiana, not just the schools whose students go to voucher-accepting private schools. As Southwest Allen County Superintendent Phil Downs explains it,
The voucher money is not taken from the local school, it is taken out of the Tuition Support budget, (there is not a simple transfer of funds between the two schools) thereby decreasing the dollars for all public schools.
From a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial...
“The (Department of Education) continues to be diligent in compiling and reviewing the trend data as it relates to the Choice Scholarship Program,” [Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick] told The Journal Gazette in an email statement. “Knowing the K-12 budget proposals are inadequate and given the House budget proposal adds an additional $18 million to the Choice Program, we are committed to the full transparency of data to better inform communities and policymakers. Our travels across Indiana have revealed a lot of confusion and questions from taxpayers regarding the intent, expense and impact of the program as it relates to our most vulnerable students.”

“This program continues to be a choice not for students, but for the schools receiving them,” said Krista Stockman, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Community Schools. “If a (voucher) school doesn't feel like accepting a student for whatever reason, they don't have to. Oftentimes, that means students who are in need of special education services or special discipline aren't welcome there. Often those families turn to us, and we're happy to take them – because they are our children. Not all schools feel that way.”

DeVos: Let's Voucherize the Nation

Betsy DeVos Backs $5 Billion in Tax Credits for School Choice

There are people who disagree with the Madison/Jefferson concept of the separation of church and state. They want your tax money to spend on their churches.

[I wonder how pro-voucher folks would handle a voucher for a school sponsored by the Church of Satan, a Jedi Church school, or a school run by Pastafarians?]

They believe that since they pay taxes they should be able to put their tax money anywhere they choose.

They can't.

We don't give taxpayers a voucher to use at Barnes and Noble if they don't want to go to the public library. We don't give taxpayers a voucher for the local country club because they don't want to mix with the "riff-raff" at the public park. You can't get a voucher for a private police force for your gated community. You can't get a voucher simply because you choose to drive and not use public transportation. We don't give vouchers for any other form of public service...just education.

Secretary DeVos is fond of calling vouchers a parental "choice." That's not always the case. It's not the parents' "choice," because when a student doesn't fit the criteria required by the private school (race, religion, achievement level, the cost to educate, the ability to pay extra for the difference between the voucher and tuition, to provide transportation, to pay for the uniforms), it's the school that makes the choice.
While the program is meant to offer a more politically palatable alternative to budgetary proposals by the Trump administration to create a national voucher program by diverting federal funding from public schools, public school advocates denounced it as a backdoor way to generate voucher dollars if states choose to primarily use the program for private school tuition scholarships.

JoAnn Bartoletti, the executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, called the proposal “particularly tone deaf” as school leaders across the country struggle to retain teachers who are fed up with low pay and declining work conditions.

“Mobilizing behind a scheme to further starve public schools and nine in 10 American students of the resources they need is not only unresponsive but insulting, and it reflects this administration’s persistent disdain for public education,” she said.


Vouchers as Entitlement

Voucher program serves the top 20 percent

In 2011, Mitch Daniels, Tony Bennett, and other voucher supporters told us that vouchers were needed to help "save" poor children who were "trapped" in so-called "failing" schools. Indiana's voucher plan is now, however, an entitlement for the middle class.
Over 1,300 households that participate in Indiana’s school voucher program have incomes over $100,000, according to the 2018-19 voucher report from the Indiana Department of Education.

That puts them in the top 20 percent of Hoosier households by income. So much for the argument that the voucher program, created in 2011, exists to help poor children “trapped” in low-performing schools.

Like previous state reports on the voucher program, the current report paints a picture of a program that primarily promotes religious education and serves tens of thousands of families that could afford private school tuition without help from the taxpayers.

School Vouchers are not to help “poor kids escape failing schools”

Indiana blogger Doug Masson comments on Indiana blogger Steve Hinnefeld post (above). The voucher plan wasn't about saving poor children after all...[emphasis in original]
...the real intention of voucher supporters was and is: 1) hurt teacher’s unions; 2) subsidize religious education; and 3) redirect public education money to friends and well-wishers of voucher supporters. Also, a reminder: vouchers do not improve educational outcomes. I get so worked up about this because the traditional public school is an important part of what ties a community together — part of what turns a collection of individuals into a community. And community feels a little tough to come by these days. We shouldn’t be actively eroding it.


The Fight Over States' Private School Voucher Proposals Is Heating Up

Legislatures bring up vouchers every year.
Private school vouchers are bad public policy for so many reasons, including the fact that they funnel desperately needed funds away from public schools to private, primarily religious education. Taxpayer dollars should fund public schools – which 90 percent of students in America attend – not unaccountable private schools that can limit who attends them. Nonetheless, there have been 121 bills filed this year in states across the country to expand or create new voucher programs. So far these bills have seen mixed results.

PRISONS AND SCHOOLS

Privatizing Public Services | Prisons and Schools

Published on the Knowing Better YouTube channel.

An interesting discussion on the privatization of prisons and (mostly charter) schools. If you don't want to watch the entire video, the section on schools starts at 9:15.
Privatizing public services has rarely ever worked out for the taxpayer. We've looked at prisons, infrastructure, emergency services, and now schools, and it's the same story every time. But every time we seem to think that this will be the one where it works.

You can only benefit from competition when you're able to increase demand. which you're not able to do for schools and I would hope you wouldn't want to do for prisons, though they seem to find a way.

So the next time a politician tells you that "this time it'll work, I promise," hopefully now, you'll know better.



CHARTERS

The Wild, Wild West of Charters

Ohio charter schools want more tax dollars

Charter school operators find out eventually that low student performance has more to do with the social, physical, economic, and political effects of poverty than it does with bad teachers and poor teaching. Years of neglect by municipal and state governments can't be overcome by a few changes in technique and curricula. That's why "a third of charter schools close their doors before they are a decade old." Education is harder than they think...and it's even harder when they are in it for the profit.

Ohio is home to some of the weakest charter laws in the country...and they're asking for more money.

If there is no need for an additional school in a neighborhood, then there won't be enough students to support one (see the video above). States can't afford to support two parallel school systems when only one is needed.
...supporters of school districts, who often view themselves as competing with charters for students and dollars, scoff at that argument. The whole original justification for charter schools, they note, was that privately-run schools would get better results at less cost.

“It seems like the charter schools have figured out that it’s harder than they thought,” said Howard Fleeter, who analyzes finances and school funding for Ohio’s school, boards, school administrators and school business officials. “Now they want every last dime that school districts get.”

There’s also an accountability issue. The state has been fighting with several charter schools the last few years over what it calls overstated attendance counts, which then lead to more money going to schools than should. The battle over ECOT’s attendance and funding was the most public, though several fights with smaller schools are still ongoing.

The state also has a reputation nationally of having too few controls over charters and allowing profiteering managers to fill their pockets by offering low-quality schools. A few years ago, a national charter official referred to Ohio as the “Wild, Wild West” of the charter school world.

And four years ago, Stanford researchers found that Ohio’s charters performed far worse than traditional public schools, showing less academic growth than similar students in districts.


ICYMI: The Cost of Charter Schools

Report: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts

Charters are often called "public schools." But, they don't follow the same rules as public schools...they don't have to accept all students...they don't have the same requirements for teachers...and they aren't run by publicly accountable school boards.

They also drain money from the local school districts. This report describes what happens when charters move into the neighborhood.
Reasonable people may disagree about education policy. What reasonable people should not do, however, is pretend that unregulated charter school expansion comes at no cost. For public officials to plan for community education needs in a rational manner, two policy innovations are critical:

  • First, each school district should produce an annual Economic Impact report assessing the cost of charter expansion in its community, and more targeted analyses should be a required component in the evaluation of new charter applications.
  • Secondly, public officials at both the local and state levels must be able to take these findings into account when deciding whether to authorize additional charter schools. Thus the state’s charter authorization law must be amended to empower elected officials to act as effective stewards of the community’s education budget in balancing the potential value of charter schools against the needs of traditional public school students.

FIGHTING BACK

The Oakland Teachers Strike Isn’t Just a Walk Out—It’s a Direct Challenge to Neoliberalism

The recent teachers strike in Oakland was about more than teacher salaries. It focused on the damage done to public education through privatization, underfunding, and school closures.
Yet press briefings by the Oakland Education Association (OEA)—the union representing the teachers—and a website created by a community supporter, show an extraordinary shift: a fusion of attention to racial and gender justice alongside labor’s mission to defend the dignity of work and workers. “It’s really, really exciting—a movement that is connecting the dots” observed Pauline Lipman, whose research on the racial significance of neoliberal school reform in Chicago helped inform the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) widely-adopted template for union demands: “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

The Oakland school district, like the Chicago Public Schools and urban school systems in most blue states are, as CTU researcher Pavlyn Jankov explains, “broke on purpose.” Local and state politicians, in conjunction with the corporate elite, have refused to pursue progressive taxation for public services and public employee pensions. In Oakland, these actors have trapped the city and its school system in the pattern Jankov identifies as “a cycle of broken budgets and a dependence on financial instruments” that exploit residents.

💰⛪️📓

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Thinking Strike

TEACHER STRIKES

They went on strike in West Virginia and Oklahoma. They went on strike in Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oakland...in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Arizona.

All over the country teachers are standing up and walking out. Sure, it's about salaries, but it's also about class size, wrap-around services, and pensions. It's also about teachers' students and their own children.

The strikes are in response to years of neglect. Teachers are tired of being disrespected. They're tired of seeing their students left behind by shrinking budgets. Teachers are tired of seeing funds meant for their schools and their students being used for private, religious, and privately run charter schools. Scores of teachers are leaving their profession in frustration. Those who have stayed are standing up and fighting back.


INDIANA

States aren't able -- or willing -- to invest the money needed to fully fund their public education systems. Indiana, for example, has yet to see its school funding reach the level it was at before the 2008 recession. Indiana teachers earn almost 16 percent less than they did in the 1999-2000 school year when adjusted for inflation. The state's Republican majority began the 2019 legislative year calling for teacher raises, but the Republican-dominated Indiana House sent a budget bill to the (also Republican-dominated) Senate which offers schools a scant 2.1% increase...only slightly more than 2018's inflation rate of 1.9%. At that rate, it will take decades for teachers to reach salaries equivalent to those in 1999-2000. There seems to be, on the other hand, plenty of money for the privatization of education. Hoosier legislators have had no trouble increasing the amount of money for charter and voucher schools each year.

Why haven't Indiana teachers walked out? Former state senator Tim Skinner thinks they ought to.

Former Senator: Teachers should think strike
[Skinner] believes that public education has been the target of the Republican Party for the past 15 years and refers to "senseless budget cuts, expansion of vouchers and crippling regulations."

Furthermore, he doesn't believe the Indiana State Teachers Association is taking a strong enough stand in response.

In an interview with the Tribune-Star on Feb. 22, ISTA president Teresa Meredith noted that many teachers across the state are calling for a walkout to raise awareness about the need to improve public school funding and teacher pay.

But she also stated, "I really want to avoid that." She believes other options must be used first, including a rally at the Statehouse March 9.

Skinner believes Meredith "is exactly wrong about what teachers should be doing. Teachers have been turning the other cheek for the last 15 years, and the ISTA still doesn't realize that they are getting the hell beat out of them," he wrote in an email to the Tribune-Star.

PDK-GALLUP POLL

According to the 2018 PDK-Gallup poll the public supports teachers and their right to strike. Two-thirds of Americans agree that teachers deserve a raise. Nearly four of five Americans would support their local teachers in a strike for higher pay.

For the first time in nearly 50 years, American parents would prefer that their children not become teachers. Why not? Because of the pay, mostly. Also, I think, because of the lack of respect given to teachers, lack of job security, and the lack of support when on the job. Those are the reasons there is a serious teacher shortage in Indiana and around the country.

Indiana's (and America's) children need enthusiastic, well-trained teachers more than ever, but the number of college students going into education has continued to drop. Who will teach tomorrow's students? Will the state further lower the qualifications for teaching so more people who aren't actually qualified will teach? Lower qualifications will help fill classrooms with adult bodies, but how will that help student achievement?

Starting in 2011 Indiana teachers lost their seniority rights and most of their collective bargaining options. Most importantly, the legislature, filled with adults who only remember education from the point of view of a student, decided what and how teachers are supposed to teach but blamed teachers when student achievement didn't soar.


TEACHING ATTRACTIVENESS

How does Indiana compare to other states?

Understanding Teacher Shortages: 2018 Update

The Learning Policy Institute has an interactive...
...map [which] highlights a number of key factors that reflect and influence teacher supply and attrition and signal whether states are likely to have an adequate supply of qualified teachers to fill their classrooms. Based on these data—which treat compensation, teacher turnover, working conditions, and qualifications—each state is assigned a “teaching attractiveness rating,” indicating how supportive it appears to be of teacher recruitment and retention and a “teacher equity rating,” indicating the extent to which students, in particular students of color, are assigned uncertified or inexperienced teachers.
Each state gets a "teaching attractiveness rating" -- a number between 1 and 5 with 1 being the least attractive.

Indiana's teaching attractiveness rating is 1.9. Arizona, at 1.3, is the only state with a "teaching attractiveness rating" that is lower than Indiana's. Three states where teachers went on strike in 2018 are all higher...
  • Kentucky: 4.05
  • West Virginia: 2.73
  • Oklahoma: 3
Will Indiana's teachers stand up for themselves and their students? Will they decide that turning the other cheek...and...getting the hell beat out of them is not helping them or the students in their classrooms.

Maybe Tim Skinner is right.
"They need to stop promoting vouchers and stop promoting every single form of education in Indiana except public education," he said. "Stop for awhile and evaluate to see what good this 15-year reform movement has done for public schools ... and recognize it's damaged public schools."

🚌🏫🚌