"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

Monday, April 22, 2019

Republican Teachers: Tell legislators to support public education

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

McCormick is a Republican.

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

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

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

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


REPUBLICAN TEACHERS

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

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

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

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

FULL DISCLOSURE

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

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

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

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

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


FOLLOW THE MONEY

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

And they donate freely to Republicans during statewide elections.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privatizers donated $170,000 to Governor Eric Holcomb

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

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

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

WHICH CAME FIRST, DONATIONS OR IDEOLOGY?

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

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

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


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

Millions statewide, that is...billions nationwide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Climate Change - The Facts

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


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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

2019 Medley #8

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


CHILDREN DON'T EAT ON GRADE LEVEL

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


FOOD IMPACTS ACHIEVEMENT

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

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

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

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

SCHOOLS ARE THE MIRROR OF THE NATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


TOMORROW'S TEACHERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


THERE MUST BE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR CHARTERS, TOO

Weekly privatization report: Charter special ed failure in Louisiana

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

DISENFRANCHISEMENT FOLLIES

Editorial: Republican legislators insult voters who support public schools

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

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


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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Indiana: Still hating public education after all these years

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

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


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

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING

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

CONTINUING EDUCATION

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

REPA III

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

DUE PROCESS

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


FUNDING

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

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

CURRENTLY

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

School Safety

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

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

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

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

She described the training as frightening, painful and insulting.

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

Teacher Pay

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

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

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

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


Collective Bargaining

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

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

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

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

INDIANA HATES ITS PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

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

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

For Further Reading:

More about the damage done to public education in Indiana

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

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

Curmudgucation: Posts about Indiana

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

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Friday, April 5, 2019

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

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

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


HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

TIME FOR SCHOOL

Squeezing the Clock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


HOW DO YOU TEACH READING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEACHER MANAGEMENT

Why You Can't Fire Your Way To Excellence

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


THIRTY YEARS OF CHARTERS ARE ENOUGH

Can charter schools be reformed? Should they be?

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