"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Listen to This - Nineteen for 2019

Nineteen meaningful comments and quotes from 2019 from my blog and others...

JANUARY

Making Laws About Teaching

Speaker Bosma, Qualifications Matter!

Jennifer McCormick
Perplexing but not surprising- people who are most judgmental & outspoken about the qualifications necessary to perform a job are typically those people who have never done the job.


Hey Kindergarten, Get Ready for the Children.

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

Peter Greene
...it is not a five year old's job to be ready for kindergarten-- it is kindergarten's job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not "ready" for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem-- your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem. The solution is not to declare, "We had better lean on these little slackers a little harder and get them away from their families a little sooner." Instead, try asking how your kindergarten program could be shifted to meet the needs that your students actually have. 

FEBRUARY

Punishing third graders

Third Grade Flunk Laws–and (Un)intended Consequences

Nancy Flanagan
Now we are witnessing the other consequences of the Third Grade Threat—pushing inappropriate instruction down to kindergarten, as anxious districts fear that students who are not reading at grade level (a murky goal, to begin with) will embarrass the district when letters go out to parents of third graders who are supposed to be retained. Because it’s the law.

Who’s to blame when students lag behind (arbitrary) literacy benchmarks, for whatever reason...


Blaming Teachers

At What Point Do We Stop Blaming Teachers?

Paul Murphy
As a teacher who has been told to teach a program as it’s written, how the hell is it my fault if the assignments students get are not challenging enough? I’m not the one who designed the assignments.

If you’re requiring me to read from some stupid script written by publishers who’ve never met my students, then how can you fairly evaluate my instruction? It’s not my instruction.

Should we be surprised that students aren’t engaged during a lesson that’s delivered by a teacher who had no hand in creating it and who sees it as the contrived lump that it is? I’m not a terrible actor, but hand me a lemon and I’m going to have trouble convincing even the most eager-to-learn student that I’m giving them lemonade.

MARCH

The Intent of Indiana's Voucher Program

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

Doug Masson
...that 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.


Why is this even a thing?

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

Dan Holub, executive director of the ITSA
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...

Retention-in-grade Doesn't Work (Still)

Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

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


APRIL

Reading on Grade Level...

When Betsy DeVos “Likes” Your “Research”…

Mitchell Robinson
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.

MAY

The Relationship Between Teacher and Child

It's All About Growth

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

No test can ever measure that.


JUNE

Reading Aloud Instead of Worksheets

Father's Day 2019: A Reminder to Read Aloud to Your Children

Stu Bloom
Reading aloud is more beneficial than standardized tests or worksheets. It is more important than homework or flashcards. It is the single most important thing a parent can do to help their children become better readers. It is the single most important thing teachers can do to help their students become better readers.

JULY

Just say "NO!" to Online Preschool

Why Online Preschool is a Terrible Idea

Matthew Lynch
Think about it: why are children sent to preschool in the first place? Isn’t it because they need human interaction? One of the most important skills children learn in preschool is how to make friends. Life is about human relationships after all. How do you learn about making friends, sorting out differences, and obeying the rules when you are staring at a screen, looking for the right color to click on?

Children learn through play, not screens


AUGUST

Science in the United States

Who does President Trump treat worse than anyone else? Scientists.

Robert Gebelhoff
This is the intellectual rot of the Trump era. It’s more than just an anti-big government ideology; it’s a systematic assault on science across the federal government. These actions will reverberate in our government for years to come, even after the Trump administration is gone, in the form of policy decisions we make without the benefit of the best evidence available. And worse, Americans may not even be aware of how they are being deceived and deprived.

That’s the true scandal of Trump’s war on scientists. No other group is so pervasively targeted and so thoroughly ignored. Yet it is their voices, more than any other, that our nation needs in this disturbing political moment.

Public Schools for the Common Good

Support Our Public Schools – And The Teachers Who Work In Them

Rob Boston
As our nation’s young people return to public schools, there are things you can do to shore up the system. First, support your local public schools. It doesn’t matter if your children are grown or you never had children. The kids attending public schools in your town are your neighbors and fellow residents of your community. Someday, they will be the next generation of workers, teachers and leaders shaping our country. It’s in everyone’s best interest that today’s children receive the best education possible, and the first step to that is making sure their public schools are adequately funded.


SEPTEMBER

Read Aloud to your Children

Want to Raise Smart, Kind Kids? Science Says Do This Every Day

Kelly at Happy You Happy Family
The best thing about this particular “keystone habit” for raising smart, kind kids is that it’s completely free, it takes just 10-15 minutes a day, and anyone can do it.

To get smart, kind kids, you don’t have to sign your kid up for expensive tutoring or have twice-daily screenings of the movie Wonder.

All you have to do is this: Read to your child. Even if they already know how to read to themselves.

Because research shows reading aloud is the powerful keystone habit that will raise smart, kind kids. (More on that in a minute.)

Misusing Tests

Testing…Testing…

Sheila Kennedy
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.


The times they are a' changin'.

Greta Thunberg's full speech to world leaders at UN Climate Action Summit

Greta Thunberg
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.

The Teacher Exodus

Educator: There's A Mass Teacher Exodus, Not Shortage

Tim Slekar
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.

NOVEMBER

Billionaire Busybodies

Organizations with the Audacity to Blame Teachers for Poor NAEP Reading Scores!

Nancy Bailey
The latest “criticize teachers for not teaching the ‘science’ of reading” can be found in “Schools Should Follow the ‘Science of Reading,’ say National Education Groups” in the Gates funded Education Week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds most of the organizations in this report that criticize public schools and teachers for low NAEP scores. Yet they are behind the Common Core State Standards, which appear to be an abysmal failure.

Most individuals and groups never teach children themselves, but they create policies that affect how and what teachers are forced to teach. They have always been about privatizing public education.


DECEMBER

It's Poverty

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us

Stu Egan
What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.

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Sunday, December 22, 2019

What's in your water?

Many of America's children continue to be poisoned by their local and state governments...because the Federal government won't listen to its own agency.

Around the country, schools are fighting the effects of environmental toxins in their students' drinking water. The most notorious example is in Flint Michigan, where the school system has seen a doubling of the number of students needing special services due to lead poisoning and the damage to the developing brain that it causes.

Other pollutants are damaging as well. Mercury, along with cancer-causing dioxins, are released from coal-fired power plants and municipal waste incinerators. The airborne toxins travel to the lungs of children or are absorbed into food and water supplies.

2019 was a bad year for lead...in Flint, Newark, Hammond IN, New York City, Detroit, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Thousands of our nation's children have had their lives damaged by the toxicity of lead. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that even the smallest lead level in the blood of children is unsafe.


Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention
No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. The good news is that childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Preventing childhood lead exposure is cost-effective.

According to a 2017 report from the Health Impact Project, a federal investment of $80 billion would prevent all U.S. children born in 2018 from having any detectable levels of lead in their blood. This investment has an estimated $83.9 billion in societal benefits, which represents a 5% return on investment. If it cost less than $80 billion to remove lead from the environment, then the cost-benefit ratio would be greater. Additionally, permanently removing lead hazards from the environment would benefit future birth cohorts, and savings would continue to grow over time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics echoes the CDC's call to completely eliminate lead exposure in children.

With No Amount of Lead Exposure Safe for Children, American Academy of Pediatrics Calls For Stricter Regulations
The AAP calls for stricter regulations, expanded federal resources and joint action by government officials and pediatricians in the policy statement, “Prevention of Childhood Lead Toxicity,” published in July 2016 Pediatrics. Identifying and eliminating sources before exposure occurs is the only reliable way to protect kids from lead poisoning.

“We now know that there is no safe level of blood lead concentration for children, and the best ‘treatment’ for lead poisoning is to prevent any exposure before it happens,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, MD, FAACT, FAAP, chair of the AAP Council on Environmental Health and an author of the policy statement. "Most existing lead standards fail to protect children. They provide only an illusion of safety. Instead, we need to expand the funding and technical guidance for local and state governments to remove lead hazards from children's homes, and we need federal standards that will truly protect children."
Despite what the CDC says, the Federal government recklessly sets the safe level of lead exposure to 15 parts per billion. This gives state governments the excuse to ignore the damage done to America's children.


How is your state doing?

INDIANA

GET THE LEAD OUT: Ensuring safe drinking water for our children at school

The United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) has joined with the Environment America Research & Policy Center to release a state by state report on lead in drinking water. Each state is graded on its lead eradication policies.

Unfortunately, Indiana's grade is a big fat F.

This stems from the fact that Indiana uses the Federal 15 ppb standard. In other words, while no amount of lead is safe for human consumption, Indiana won't address any lead levels in drinking water until it passes fifteen parts per billion. In addition, participation in the lead sampling program does not automatically apply to all schools and child care centers. The state program is voluntary and only K-12 schools can opt-in. Our pre-schools, apparently, are not worth the money.

The report says...
...most states are failing to protect children from lead in schools’ drinking water. Our review of 32 states’ laws and regulations finds:

• Several states have no requirements for schools and pre-schools to address the threat of lead in drinking water; and

• Of the few states with applicable laws, most follow flaws in the federal rules — relying on testing instead of prevention and using standards that allow health-threatening levels of lead to persist in our children’s water at school.


Testing shows elevated lead levels in 7 Hammond schools

Hammond city schools discovered they were above the 15 ppb standard.
A new round of testing has found lead levels in the drinking water at seven northwestern Indiana schools that exceed the federal action level for the toxic metal.

The School City of Hammond’s board heard from a consulting firm Tuesday that drinking water in seven Hammond schools and two other district buildings tested above the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead action level of 15 parts per billion.

Too many states, like Indiana, don't have a mandatory program to check for lead in the water.

Report: If you think dangerous lead in schools is a limited problem, think again
The report, released recently by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, highlighted how many school districts — 72 percent — are not even inspecting their buildings for lead-based paint hazards. The Government Accountability Office restricted its analysis to school districts that had at least one school built before 1978, and those that obtained drinking water from a public water system.

Among the 12 percent that do inspect for lead hazards, more than half found them. That raises questions about what amount could be found in the remaining 88 percent of schools that aren’t looking.


FLINT, MICHIGAN

Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water

It's been five years since the state of Michigan switched Flint's water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The damage done to nearly 30,000 children has now hit the city schools.

The result is enraging. The futures of Flint's children have been sacrificed to greed. The school system, already overburdened by the effects of poverty in the city, now has to add the impact of increased numbers of children with special needs.

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.

The city of Flint is suffering from the effects of environmental racism.
Five years after Michigan switched Flint’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems — real or feared — among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system.

The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.

That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.

The percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE COUNTRY

How many thousands of children have been poisoned? How many more will be before we clean things up?

Various Cities

A hidden scandal: America's school students exposed to water tainted by toxic lead
More than half of public schools in Atlanta were found to have high levels of lead, in some cases 15 times above the federal limit for water systems. Schools in Baltimore, Portland and Chicago were all found to have significant amounts of lead in drinking water.

New York City

Still High Levels of Lead in Drinking Water in NYC Schools
The numbers continue to point to a significant health risk because there is no safe level of lead in drinking water for children. Simply stated, New York’s action level of 15 ppb is way too high—even test results below 15 ppb present a significant risk for our kids.

California

Lead Found in Drinking Fountains at 17% of California Public Schools
The state, however, only requires schools to take action – including notifying parents, shutting down dangerous fountains and conducting more testing – if lead levels exceed 15 ppb. Schools that do detect levels of lead above 15 ppb must take follow-up samples from the place at which the school’s plumbing connects to the community water supply to identify whether tainted water is reaching the school from the outside. As of mid June, 268 California schools reported lead levels above 15 ppb, according to the Water Resources Control Board.

Detroit

Detroit schools to use bottled water due to lead, copper concerns
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti sent a letter to staff to announce that he was ordering drinking fountains at all 106 district campuses turned off after tests found 16 schools with "higher than acceptable" levels of copper or lead in their tap water.

...The shut down of water fountains doesn't apply to charter schools, but Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, intends to initiate "the same level of" water quality testing at those campuses, Vitta said.

Newark

Newark Officials Said There Was No Lead In Schools' Water, Data Shows Otherwise
Seven of 22 Newark schools tested this year had levels of lead in some drinking water sources that surpassed federal standards according to data obtained by WNYC/Gothamist. That runs counter to repeated assurances given by school board officials and City Hall that there was no lead in any drinking water at any of the city’s public schools.

As recently as last week, Water Department Director Kareem Adeem reiterated this to a crowd of more than a hundred Newark residents attending a “State of Our Water” town hall event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

“The schools [do] independent testing and they post that testing on their website,” Adeem told the audience. “They don’t have lead in the schools.”

But that’s not the case.

Philadelphia

Philly school knew about toxic lead in drinking water but kept parents in the dark
In 2016 — while headlines blared about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan — [Frederick Douglass Elementary School teacher Alison] Marcus’ North Philadelphia charter school raised money to buy bottled water for residents of the distressed Midwestern city. But as she watched students at the charter, run by Mastery, toss change into a large plastic bucket, she felt a pang of guilt.

“I just remember thinking, ‘We should definitely be testing the water here,’” she said in an interview this month.

That’s because Marcus says she and other teachers feared the drinking water at the school wasn’t much better than Flint’s. That same year, for roughly a week, some hallway fountains and sinks spurted a brown liquid that looked more like apple cider than water, according to nine former and current staffers.


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Sunday, December 15, 2019

The Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791

(Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post on the Bill of Rights)

The United States Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was ratified on this date, December 15, in 1791.


THE FIRST AMENDMENT: CURRENT CIVIC KNOWLEDGE

The First Amendment within the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, religion, a free press, assembly, and petition.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances
Today, many Americans are unfamiliar with the details of the First Amendment. The recent State of the First Amendment Survey from the Freedom Forum Institute revealed that Americans' knowledge of the First Amendment is lacking.

71 percent of Americans could name at least one of the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment and nearly two-thirds of those surveyed knew that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment (64%), but far fewer could identify any of the other First Amendment rights: 29% identified freedom of religion; 22% named freedom of the press; 12% named freedom of assembly, and only 4% said the right to petition the government was a First Amendment freedom.

In addition, 16 percent of those who took the recent survey thought that the First Amendment protected Americans' right to bear arms, instead of the Second Amendment.

The apparent ignorance of Americans about their own government, while slightly improved from previous years, is disheartening.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: RELIGION

As a child, I listened to my grandfather tell stories about growing up in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia). One story which stands out in my memory was about his hiding in their home during one of the frequent pogroms against the Jewish communities. He emerged when it was over only to be told that his grandfather had been killed by the Tzar's cossacks.

That story has given me a strong feeling of gratitude to the American Founders for the First Amendment. Because of its scope, the First Amendment is, to me, the full expression of the intent of America. It acknowledges the freedom of thought which is, as Jefferson (or possibly another member of the Committee of the Five) put it, the unalienable right of every citizen.

The guarantee of religious freedom is that part of the first amendment which comes to mind when I think about my grandfather's story, and for that we have Jefferson (The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) and Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments) to thank.

The Virginia Statute was the first time an English speaking country or colony, in this case, the Colony of Virginia, DE-ESTABLISHED the state-sponsored church and gave full religious freedom to people of both all religious faiths and no religious faith. Because of Jefferson's leadership in this context, when my grandfather became a citizen in the early part of the 20th century, he was not taxed to pay for a state-sponsored religion, and he was given the same rights of citizenship as everyone else.


THE FIRST AMENDMENT: SPEECH

Eleanor Roosevelt said,
...freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.
The First Amendment provides Americans with great freedom...which we tend to take for granted.

We have the freedom to misunderstand, ignore, or be ignorant of, the responsibilities of citizenship. Freedom of Speech is one area where many people do not seem to understand the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

Simply put, Americans' right to self-expression is extensive, but there are limits. You can say what you want unless you're putting others in danger (e.g. shouting "fire" in a crowded theater), or lying about someone or group of someones (e.g. libel laws). For a comprehensive discussion of limits to free speech, see United States free speech exceptions.

Consequences

Finally, within the limits discussed above, we can say what we want, but with that freedom-with-responsibility comes consequences.

This concept is difficult for some Americans to understand. If you call your boss a vulgar name, you won't be arrested for your speech, but chances are you will be looking for another job. If you make a controversial statement, you will likely be criticized.

Criticism of your speech is not an abridgment of your right to say it. Criticism of a political candidate's speech is not an abridgment of his or her right to say things. When a controversial speaker is denied a platform by a University or civic group, the speaker's Freedom of Speech is not abridged. The speaker is free to speak to other groups or write and publish his ideas.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans expressed the mistaken belief that
...social media companies violate users’ First Amendment rights when they ban users based on objectionable content they post.
Private companies, like social media groups, can restrict one's speech. The First Amendment guarantee of free speech protects citizens from government censorship.
The First Amendment protects individuals from government censorship. Social media platforms are private companies, and can censor what people post on their websites as they see fit.
There are way too many Americans who believe that criticism of someone's opinions is akin to restricting their freedom of speech. It's just not so.

THERE ARE TEN AMENDMENTS...

...in the Bill of Rights. I've discussed the First Amendment. The Second Amendment is the source of quite a bit of political debate. My answer to the debate on the Second Amendment is simple...if the Supreme Court has allowed the government to define limits to the rights enumerated in the First Amendment, we should be able to define limits to the Second Amendment as well. The political arguments, then, are reduced to the extent of those limits (i.e. assault weapons, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, etc.).

The other amendments are even less known, less understood, and less discussed. They include, for example, the right to a
...fair, speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, a notice of the accusation, and the confrontation of witnesses. The Seventh Amendment protects the right to a trial by jury in civil court cases.
Other amendments guarantee equal protection under the law and due process, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, protection against excessive bail, and protection against self-incrimination.

How much do our children learn about the Constitution and the Amendments?

CIVIC EDUCATION

Understanding how our government works should be an essential part of the education of American citizens. Unfortunately, the obsession with standardized tests in U.S. schools has pushed out content areas including Social Studies and Civics.

Jefferson wrote,
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...
In order to maintain our freedom, it's the responsibility of every citizen to understand the basis of, and the processes involved, in running our nation. It's our responsibility as a society to give every citizen the opportunity to learn how the government works, our rights under the law, and our responsibilities as citizens. When we neglect the Civics Education of our children, we fail in our duty to raise up the next generation of citizens.

How's your civics knowledge? Take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Civics Practice Test.


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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Listen to the Experts

FIGHTING THE INSURANCE COMPANY

Remember that time you called your health insurance company because they denied your claim...

You probably thought, "why should an insurance company representative deny or attempt to deny coverage for something prescribed by my family doctor? What expertise do insurance company workers have in the field of medicine?"

A recent article in the Washington Post by Dr. William E. Bennett Jr., associate professor of pediatrics at Indiana University's School of Medicine, highlights part of the problem...

Insurance companies aren’t doctors. So why do we keep letting them practice medicine?
We know how important it is to have insurance so that we can get health care. As a physician, parent and patient, I cannot overemphasize that having insurance is not enough.

As a gastroenterologist, I often prescribe expensive medications or tests for my patients. But for insurance companies to cover those treatments, I must submit a “prior authorization” to the companies, and it can take days or weeks to hear back. If the insurance company denies coverage, which occurs frequently, I have the option of setting up a special type of physician-to-physician appeal called a “peer-to-peer.”

Here’s the thing: After a few minutes of pleasant chat with a doctor or pharmacist working for the insurance company, they almost always approve coverage and give me an approval number. There’s almost never a back-and-forth discussion; it’s just me saying a few key words to make sure the denial is reversed.

Because it ends up with the desired outcome, you might think this is reasonable. It’s not. On most occasions the “peer” reviewer is unqualified to make an assessment about the specific services. They usually have minimal or incorrect information about the patient. Not one has examined or spoken with the patient, as I have. None of them have a long-term relationship with the patient and family, as I have.
In other words, according to Dr. Bennett, doctors should be the ones to make medical decisions...not some distant bureaucrat in an insurance office. What a concept!

EXPERTS

It would seem, then, that those with expertise in an area ought to be the ones we listen to...and that's true in all areas, not just medicine.

For example, it makes sense for us to pay attention to actual climate experts when discussing the problems associated with climate change...instead of a former insurance executive who threw a snowball in the Senate chamber as "proof" that there was no such thing as global warming, or a reality television star who decided that climate change was a hoax created by the "Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

We need people with expert knowledge to help us understand and deal with things we don't know or don't have experience in. In his 2017 book titled The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, Tom Nichols wrote,
...experts will make mistakes, but they are far less likely to make mistakes than a layperson. This is a crucial distinction between experts and everyone else, in that experts know better than anyone the pitfalls of their own profession.
We regularly listen to people with expertise in an area because it's impossible for one person to know everything. Even within fields we sometimes have to go to specialists.

We go to cardiologists when we have heart disease, dentists to repair or replace damaged teeth, and ophthalmologists when we need cataract surgery.

If you're accused of tax fraud you should find a tax attorney. If you're accused of a crime you should find a criminal lawyer.

We rely on plumbers, electricians, engineers, and mechanics to take care of our plumbing, electrical, structural and automotive needs because it's impossible for one person to know everything.

It just makes sense.

K-12 EDUCATION

It makes sense for the field of education, too. Who should you seek out if your child is struggling with reading? or middle school math? or high school English?

Who should you ask if you want to know what is going on in public schools in your town, city, or state? Who can tell you about the value (or lack thereof) of standardized tests, third-grade retention tests, and curriculum development? Who can you go to for help with your child with special needs? Where can you learn about the impact a lack of resources has on your child's classroom?

Who are the experts in public education?
A. A college drop-out who grew a tech company into a $100 billion net worth and spends millions of dollars experimenting with education.

B. A political appointee and basketball buddy whose only education experience was watching his mother teach.

C. A billionaire who never attended a public school, never sent their children to public schools, and never worked in a public school, but contributed to the campaigns of state legislators, US Senators, and Presidents.

D. Politicians, pundits or policymakers who were lawyers, florists, political science majors, auctioneers, accountants, or college graduates with various non-education degrees.

E. Your child's teachers.
Rely on those who have been trained and have experience. Ask the experts.


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Monday, December 9, 2019

2019 Medley #23

Let the Children Play,
Reading: Too much too soon,
The Common Good,
Is the Teacher Pay-gap Gender-related?
Vouchers hurt students in Ohio


HEALTHIER KIDS NEED PLAY, PLAY, AND MORE PLAY

FreshEd with Will Brehm: Let the Children Play (Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle)

Earlier this year I reviewed a book by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle titled Let the Children Play. On December 2, the authors were interviewed by Will Brehm on his excellent podcast, FreshEd.

The authors' emphasis during their interview, and the emphasis in their book, is that play is much more important than most Americans realize, and most American children, especially children who live in poverty, don't have enough time in their day to play. Some excerpts from the podcast...
DOYLE: Play is a fundamental engine of learning for children and if you don't believe us, think of what the American Academy of Pediatrics said recently, "The lifelong success of children is based on their ability to be creative and to apply the lessons learned from playing."

SAHLBERG: Things have gotten worse in the lives of children in terms of their access and opportunities to play, and certainly in school.

DOYLE: In the case of New York City, the poorer the school, which means, you know, the more African American and largely Latinx the school is, the more the children are subject to a hideous practice called recess punishment, or recess detention, where recess is literally used as a carrot or an incentive, or behavior modification tool...kids being punished for late homework or...goofing around, and then they have their recess taken away...[but] the research says, the more you let children play, the better they do on standardized tests, and the better they behave in class.

A three-point plan for healthier kids: play, play and more play

On his blog, Salberg reiterated the importance of play.
Quite simply, smartphones and digital media have taken over the time that children used to have for reading and playing outdoors. And all of the benefits of that play time gained cumulatively over the years in a child’s life have been lost as a result.

Research has shown that these benefits include social, interpersonal and resilience skills, as well as creativity and problem-solving that are often mentioned by employers as the most wanted outcomes of school education...

...I suggest a three-point plan.

One, every school must have a minimum of one hour for free play time each day – separate from time to eat.

Two, at home, every child should have outdoor play time of at least one hour every day.

And three, at a policy level, government and education leaders need to ensure the curriculum is structured so there is enough time for free play during school days.


DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE EDUCATION

It’s Wrong to Force Four and Five Year Olds to Read! Focus on Speaking and Listening Instead!

Play is important, so what do we do here in the US? We're so test-obsessed that we continue to teach in developmentally inappropriate ways. Nancy Bailey on reading too soon...
With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core State Standards, some adults have been led to believe that four- and five-year-old children should read by the end of kindergarten. Preschoolers are pushed to be ready for formal reading instruction by the time they enter kindergarten.

This is a dangerous idea rooted in corporate school reform. Children who struggle to read might inaccurately believe they have a problem, or reading could become a chore they hate.

Pushing children to focus on reading means they miss listening and speaking skills, precursors to reading. These skills are developed through play, which leads to interest in words and a reason to want to read.

Some children might learn to read in kindergarten, and others might show up to kindergarten already reading, but many children are not ready to read when they are four or five years old. And just because a child knows how to read in kindergarten, doesn’t mean they won’t have other difficulties with speech and listening.

THE COMMON GOOD

Normally all the items I post on my blog Medleys are articles you can access on the internet. I have one, however, that I want to review and, unless you're a member of Kappa Delta Pi, an International Honor Society in Education, you won't be able to read it. Still, it's worth discussing.

[For those with access, the article below appeared in two consecutive issues of the Kappa Delta Pi Record...Vol 55, no. 3, and no. 4.]

We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about --

by David C Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus in the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University.

In 2009, David C. Berliner reported on out of school factors and achievement in K-12 education. The report, Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, discussed seven out-of-school factors related to childhood poverty, which have an impact on student achievement. I refer to that report often in these pages...mostly because it's generally ignored by policymakers.

Berliner's report and other research have indicated that out of school factors have a stronger impact on student achievement than either curriculum or school personnel. In the current article, Berliner maintains that out-of-school factors are six times more powerful in determining school achievement than is the strongest in-school factor, personnel.

Essentially, Berliner is saying that we, as a society, need to accept the responsibility for all our children, not just the ones who are related to us. Time to lose the selfish "I, me, mine," attitude and recognize that fully funded education and reduction of child poverty is necessary for the common good. Our nation benefits when everyone has what they need.
...Our nation has an almost mindless commitment to high-stakes testing, even when everyone in research knows that outside-of-school factors play six times more of a role in determining classroom and school test scores than do the personnel in our public schools. Nevertheless, if we want our public schools to be the best they can be and their test scores to be higher than they are, then we need to do something about making our states better places to live in, to work in, and in which to raise children. Each school district needs to look beyond its own district and worry about opportunities for all our children. The extra taxes needed to improve the education of youth, as I proposed here, are trivial against the benefits of a higher quality of life for us all.

...We will never have the kind of schools we would like to have, nor the test scores we want, unless we do something about housing patterns in America's communities.

...about access to high-quality early childhood education.

...about our students' summer school experiences.

...about absenteeism in our schools.

...about pay for qualified educational staff – teachers, bus drivers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers, and so forth.


TEACHERS' PAY GAP -- GENDER PAY GAP

What if More Teachers were Male? The Misogynistic Roots of the War on Public Education.

I have long maintained that public school teachers, and by extension, public schools, are disrespected by state legislatures and the general public because teaching is still seen as "women's work." That's why there's a salary gap of nearly 20% for professionals who teach...similar to the pay gap for women who, in the US earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Those same policymakers would never use the phrase "women's work" nor would they admit that gender has anything to do with the lack of respect given to teachers and schools. There is, however, a suspiciously consistent relationship between the gender makeup of the profession, and the way the male-dominated society treats public schools.

Would teachers make more...would schools be better funded, if the profession was dominated by men?
If men made up the majority of the profession, would legislators still go out of their way to push teachers around? Of course, I have no way to prove this, but I’m guessing no. We love to think that America has come a long way towards living up to our creed of equality for all. We have mostly gotten it right on paper. But in reality, any minority group, including women (though they are a minority in status only), will tell you that we still fall woefully short in practice.

There is a good old boys network in the halls of our state legislature. I believe they feel empowered by their machismo to push more and more ridiculous hurdles in front of teachers because they view the teaching profession as soft and feminine–one might even use the word submissive (quite biblical of them, no?).

VOUCHERS HURT OHIO KIDS...SO THEY EXPANDED THE PROGRAM

Ohio Expands Its Failed Voucher Program, and Most School Districts Will Lose Funding

What do you do when the research shows that a privatization program hurts children? If you're an Ohio legislator, you expand the program.
...the students eligible to leave with a voucher do better if they stay in public school; the students who use the voucher, who come from more advantaged backgrounds, do worse in school.

This is the only statewide evaluation of the Ohio EdChoice Program, and not what one would call a ringing endorsement since those who use the voucher do worse in school than those who stay in public school and don’t use the voucher.

Such research did not impress the Ohio legislature. Under the prodding of State Senator Matt Huffman (R.-Lima), the state has expanded the voucher program, so that students in two-thirds of the districts across the state are now eligible to get state funding to attend a religious school.


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Friday, December 6, 2019

Pearl Clutching Over PISA

IT'S STILL POVERTY


The latest PISA scores have been released and edu-pundits are clutching their pearls because "our scores are terrible." Yet hardly anyone has mentioned that, just like in the past, the scores in the US are lower than many others in the OECD because the US has a high rate of child poverty.

I wrote about this after the last release of PISA scores...
The problem that DeVos and others don't understand, or just simply ignore, is poverty. 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. To be fair, Secretary DeVos might not know this. She never attended a public school and never sent her children to public schools. In her experience, children who weren't achieving academically might have been weeded out of her private schools. She probably never realized that they were then sent to public schools, where all students are accepted.

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.
North Carolina blogger Stu Egan (Caffeinated Rage) did notice it this time and posted...

Poverty Affects Schools, No Measurable Differences in 15 Years, And Reforms Have Not Worked: What The PISA Scores Show Us
What DeVos got wrong is that we as a country are not average. We actually do very well when one considers the very things that DeVos is blind to: income gaps, social inequality, and child poverty.
Egan posted these graphs (along with others) from the latest PISA tests. They show that, within each quartile of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status, the US scores are near the average for the rest of the OECD. Check out his entire post.

In reading, the US 15-year-olds scored a little above the OECD average at each quartile.


In math, the US 15-year-olds scored slightly below the OECD average at each quartile.


We're not number one. But we're not "failing" either. If our child poverty rate was lower, we wouldn't have so many more scores in the lower quartiles and our average scores would be higher.

Egan also includes a long quote from the Economic Policy Institute (from an earlier version of the PISA) which explains things very well. Here's part of it...

What do international tests really show about U.S. student performance?
Because social class inequality is greater in the United States than in any of the countries with which we can reasonably be compared, the relative performance of U.S. adolescents is better than it appears when countries’ national average performance is conventionally compared.

  • Because in every country, students at the bottom of the social class distribution perform worse than students higher in that distribution, U.S. average performance appears to be relatively low partly because we have so many more test takers from the bottom of the social class distribution.
We won't be able to climb to the "top" of the PISA rankings as long as we are near the "bottom" of the OECD in child poverty. What we've been doing has actually been making things worse.
  • We spend too much time on testing and not enough on teaching. 
  • We divert too much of our education funding to the privatization of public schools instead of supporting the common good.
  • We're so focused on cutting taxes for the wealthy that we don't have enough money to support our future.
Nothing has changed since I wrote the following in 2017...

In his Southern Christian Leadership Conference Presidential Address, on August 16, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. said,
...we are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.


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Monday, December 2, 2019

2019 Medley #22

Respecting teachers, Vouchers,
Shaming children, Stuttering,
An ADHD prosthetic, Looking back


RESPECT FOR TEACHERS

Are Teachers Allowed to Think for Themselves?

Teaching isn't, as some legislators apparently think, professional babysitting. Teachers don't just "tell" students what they need to know, and students don't just "remember" everything.

Teaching a class of children -- whether they are 6 years old, or 16 -- is not easy. To do it well takes training, experience, support, resources, and a fair amount of luck.

Most licensed teachers in Indiana have four-year degrees from accredited university teacher training programs; many have master's degrees. Yet almost half of all new teachers leave the field within the first five years. Perhaps they didn't realize that teaching is hard work. Perhaps the hours are too long and they thought they were just getting a 7 - 3:30 job with lots of vacation time. Perhaps the pay isn't good enough. Perhaps they find out that they're not cut out for teaching.

The teachers who stay, then, are those who are committed to education. One would think that, with years of training, teachers would be considered experts in their field. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Panels of "education experts" regularly have no teachers on them. The National Reading Panel had only one middle school teacher. The Panel, which explored the way young children learned to read "included no teacher of early reading instruction."

The National Commission on Education, authors of A Nation at Risk, consisted of twelve administrators, one businessperson, a chemist, a physicist, a politician, a conservative activist, and only one practicing teacher.

This lack of respect for the teaching profession seeps in from the various state legislatures. Teachers in Indiana, for example, are told what to teach, how to teach, and how to assess what they have taught. Then they are blamed for failure when the scores on the assessment (currently ILEARN) are lower than the arbitrary cut scores.
Teaching may be the only profession where you are required to get an advanced degree including a rigorous internship only to be treated like you have no idea what you’re doing.


DIVERTING PUBLIC MONEY TO RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

The Supreme Court Is Considering Forcing You To Fund Religious Education

Since 2011 more than half a billion Indiana taxpayer dollars have gone to fund private and parochial schools despite the fact that vouchers don't go to "better performing" schools...and despite the fact that the First Amendment (as seen in Madison's support of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) establishes a wall between Church and State.

Indiana's voucher program, like others around the country, is free from any conflict between Church and State because the money is laundered through a parent "voucher" in which the parent "chooses" the school their child will go to. In truth, however, it is the school that does the choosing.
...many religious schools engage in blatant forms of discrimination. They may refuse to admit students who are LGBTQ, nontheists or religious minorities. Many apply similar religious litmus tests to faculty and staff. Unlike public schools, which are open to all, religious schools serve a private interest.

Finally, any diversion of taxpayer money to religious schools threatens the public education system. Public schools serve 90 percent of America’s children. They ought to be our priority when it comes to allocating taxpayer funding.

All of these reasons are important, but at the end of the day, this is an issue of freedom of conscience. Our founders understood that no one should be forced to support religion against his or her will. It’s one of the primary reasons why they built church-state separation into the First Amendment. The Supreme Court must not abandon this vital principle.


STOP BLAMING KIDS FOR THE IMPACT OF POVERTY

Penalizing kids for school lunch debt can harm their mental health

Nearly half of Indiana's children are low income; more than one in five live in poverty. With this many children coming from homes without a lot of money, it's even more important for schools to remember that it is not the student's fault if their lunch bill isn't paid. We have to stop blaming children for the impact of poverty on their lives.

Even when parents have enough money it's not the child's fault when parents are late with their payment.
Facing stigma around school lunches can negatively impact kids’ mental health, stress levels, and overall cafeteria experience, Cohen says. That’s seen with kids who feel labeled by receiving school lunch, for example. “When we remove that stigma, it makes a big difference in kids’ lives.” Some schools do so by giving all students cafeteria swipe cards so that it’s not apparent who is or is not paying for the meal. On the whole, Cohen says schools are getting better at free meals, but not lunch debt. “When you give a kid a cheese sandwich, you’re bringing that stigma back.”


ARE SOME OF JOE'S GAFFES SIMPLY COVERING UP HIS STUTTERING?

What Joe Biden Can’t Bring Himself to Say

I'm not going to comment on Vice President Biden's education plans, but this article about his history of stuttering might explain some of his hesitations, and misstatements. "He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth..."
“The paragraph I had to read was: ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman. He laid his cloak upon the muddy road suh-suh-so the lady wouldn’t soil her shoes when she entered the carriage,’” Biden tells me, slightly and unintentionally tripping up on the word so. “And I said, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man who—’ and then the nun said, ‘Mr. Biden, what is that word?’ And it was gentleman that she wanted me to say, not gentle man. And she said, ‘Mr. Buh-Buh-Buh-Biden, what’s that word?’ ”

Biden says he rose from his desk and left the classroom in protest, then walked home. The family story is that his mother, Jean, drove him back to school and confronted the nun with the made-for-TV phrase “You do that again, I’ll knock your bonnet off your head!” I ask Biden what went through his mind as the nun mocked him.

“Anger, rage, humiliation,” he says. His speech becomes staccato. “A feeling of, uh—like I’m sure you’ve experienced—it just drops out of your chest, just, like, you feel … a void.” He lifts his hands up to his face like he did on the debate stage in July, to guide the v sound out of his mouth: void.

I stuttered. I stutter.

Blogger Fred Klonsky says he plans to vote against Biden in the primary election, but understands first hand that the story of Biden's stuttering is a story about how we treat children with differences.
But Atlantic’s senior editor, who has a stutter himself, has written an article that is about way more than Biden.

It is about how we treat differences.

And it is about me, since I had a severe stutter as a child and I still stutter when I am tired or stressed.


TREATMENT AS AN ADHD PROSTHETIC

What Is an ADHD Prosthetic?

Is medication for ADHD a "crutch?"
“My concern,” the parent continued. “Is that if we get him glasses, we are sending him the message that it’s okay not to try to see. It feels like an excuse. Like we’re enabling him. I mean, he has to learn to see someday, right? He can’t go through life using his poor vision as an excuse not to see.”

A LOOK BACK AT CHANGE THAT HASN'T HAPPENED

School Choice Opponents and the Status Quo

This quote from a June 2017 blog post is a good reminder that not much has changed in the field of public education. There are still those of us who "continue to point out that poverty is the real issue in education" and there are still politicians who refuse to take their share of the responsibility for that poverty. Apparently, politicians think that schools are the sole public institution responsible for overcoming the effects of poverty. If they can't, then they are blamed, castigated, taken over by the state, or privatized...none of which changes a damn thing.

Meanwhile, nearly 20% of America's children live in poverty. If we include "low income" children the number doubles....for Black, Hispanic and American Indian children, it triples. The relationship between school success to economic status is well known, but they still blame the schools and teachers.
...To point out the obvious, that poverty is the number one cause of educational inequity, does not make me a champion for the status quo. It simply means that I will not fall prey to the false promise of super-teachers, standardized test driven accountability, merit pay, charter schools, and vouchers, all of which are futile efforts to put a thumb in the overflowing dyke that is systematic discrimination, segregation, income inequity, and, yes, poverty.


Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

We can't ignore the impact of poverty on our students' achievement.

From March 2009
The U.S. has set as a national goal the narrowing of the achievement gap between lower income and middle-class students, and that between racial and ethnic groups. This is a key purpose of the No Child Left Behind act, which relies primarily on assessment to promote changes within schools to accomplish that goal. However, out-of-school factors (OSFs) play a powerful role in generating existing achievement gaps, and if these factors are not attended to with equal vigor, our national aspirations will be thwarted.

This brief details six OSFs common among the poor that significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These OSFs are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

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