"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

Friday, June 26, 2020

2020 Medley #13 -- Scientific Ignorance and American Anti-Intellectualism

A vaccine for conspiracy theories, 
COVID-19 and masks, No more testing, Scientific literacy, Schools as child care centers,
Anti-science/Anti-intellectualism, Sagan: We've been bamboozled


Conspiracy Theories

The internet has opened the door for Americans to gain wide-ranging expanded knowledge...but, as Isaac Asimov wrote, "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom."

With that expanded knowledge comes expanded falsehood...conspiracy theories. Teachers are tasked with teaching students how to read critically...to sift through massive amounts of information and learn how to tell truth from falsehood. The state of the nation today would indicate that we have failed. Conspiracy theories abound.

Take the current worldwide health crisis. According to conspiracy theories...
  • the virus is spread by 5G towers, 
  • masks will starve your body of oxygen,
  • Bill Gates is going to use the coronavirus vaccine to inject us with microchips,
  • coronavirus is a Chinese bio-weapon
[For debunking information see Debunking COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories]

The National Center for Science Education offers a way to combat conspiracy theories with critical thinking...with the help of an acronym CONSPIR.
John Cook, a frequent NCSE collaborator who focuses on combating misconceptions, recently co-authored The Conspiracy Theory Handbook. During a recent conversation with Cook, he noted: “While we do not have a vaccine for COVID-19 at this time, we do have a vaccine for misinformation and conspiracy theories — critical thinking."

So how do we guide our students to critically think? Isn’t that the million-dollar question? In the case of conspiracy theories, just remember the acronym CONSPIR.

By analyzing information using these seven traits, students — or any concerned citizen — can easily pick out the red flags of conspiratorial thinking. If you can answer yes to any of the following questions when reading articles about COVID-19, chances are you have stumbled across an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory or intentional disinformation...


Palm Beach County residents express outrage over mask requirement: 'Devil's laws'

Even though medical professionals wear masks for hours at a time (think of a heart or brain surgeon performing an 8- to 10-hour surgery...as well as the doctors and nurses who assist) mask-wearing as a preventative for passing the coronavirus is being accused of "killing people" for lack of oxygen. Others claim that having a municipal ordinance requiring mask-wearing is a violation of our constitutional rights -- even though many of those folks accept the laws requiring wearing seat belts in cars, car seats for children, and protective helmets while motorcycling.

A Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners public comment session went viral Wednesday after residents denounced mandatory masking laws as “devil’s laws” that would “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.”

One attendee, Sylvia Ball, said she was “very sad to see the authorities stomping on our constitutional rights,” adding, “They want to throw God's wonderful breathing system out the door.


New coronavirus spike alarms Republicans, but not Trump

Does the President's statement below mean that the U.S. Education Department will no longer require annual achievement tests for children?

"If we didn't have standardized reading tests, we wouldn't have poor readers. We only have poor readers because we test..."
“If we didn’t test, we wouldn’t have cases,” he said later at a shipyard in Marinette, Wis. “But we have cases because we test...”


Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why Science Matters During COVID-19

In this episode of Star Talk, Neil deGrasse Tyson reminds us that science matters...

There comes a time when really the public needs to listen to scientists, in this case, to medical professionals...not only people in public, but people in power of legislation and policy, had the ear of scientists and elected not to take the warnings seriously.


“Parents Need to Go to Work” Does Not Stop COVID at the School Door.

Side note...one of the reasons politicians are so anxious for children to return to school is for babysitting.
When I hear discussions about schools reopening in the fall, I already know what two chief reasons will be offered.

One is that students need to be educated. Of course they do, and as a career teacher, I desire to educate. I have dedicated my professional life to educating generations of children, and I miss being at school, in my classroom, with my students.

The second reason, which seems to follow quickly on the heels of the first, is that “parents need to get back to work”– the implication being that schools need to open so that parents once again have the built-in child care that the K12 school day (and its auxiliary programs) offers.


Franklin Graham Thinks Science And Religion Must Fight. As Usual, He’s Wrong

Anthony Fauci has the credentials and experience. We ought to listen to him.
“One of the problems we face in the United States is that unfortunately, there is a combination of an anti-science bias that people are – for reasons that sometimes are, you know, inconceivable and not understandable – they just don’t believe science and they don’t believe authority.”

Fauci added, “So when they see someone up in the White House, which has an air of authority to it, who’s talking about science, that there are some people who just don’t believe that, and that’s unfortunate because, you know, science is truth.”
Americans need to learn that science is a process, not a list of facts. It involves continuing observation and exploration, multiple hypotheses, and then more observation and exploration. Rarely does it end. For example, the Germ Theory of Disease (just a theory?) can be traced back to the 11th Century A.D. and was updated in the 14th, 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. We're still learning about the "germs" that infect us...today.

Scientists are the original fact-checkers. If you claim you have made a scientific discovery, dozens of your scientist colleagues will try to prove you wrong.  Sometimes, even when there's a scientific consensus, someone comes along and changes everything. The fact that scientific information changes is a feature, not a bug.
Finally, the fact that scientists sometimes disagree about a certain topic is a sign of health and vitality in that discipline, not a weakness. Eventually, the scientific method, including the use of double-blind experiments, leads to a consensus. It’s all right for a scientist to challenge a prevailing theory, but he or she had better be able to produce some research and back it up with experiments that can be replicated by others under the same conditions – or those ideas will fall by the wayside.

Fauci is right about resistance to science being an undercurrent in American society...



Thursday, June 18, 2020

Banks should "social distance" from education

An artist's conception of Rep. Jim Banks, R-IN, and
Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-WI pontificating about education.
NO (in-person) SCHOOL, NO MONEY!

U.S. Congressman, Jim Banks (IN-03), along with a colleague from Wisconsin, have decided that the health of those who attend school, work in schools, or are related to those who attend or work in schools doesn't matter.

In a blatant attempt at extortion, Banks and Tom Tiffany (R-WI) have introduced a bill that would require schools to open for in-person instruction by September 8, 2020, or face the loss of federal education dollars.

It apparently doesn't matter to Banks that there are places in the country where the coronavirus is resurging (including here in his home state of Indiana). It apparently doesn't matter to Banks that his bill would possibly expose children, their teachers, and their families, to a disease deadly to those in high-risk groups.

Perhaps Rep. Banks doesn't realize that the virus may not choose to cooperate with his timeline. Or, perhaps the real reason Banks wants to open schools -- no matter what -- is so they can babysit the nation's children.
Many parents rely on their kids going to school so they can go to work. To get our society up and running again, we need our children back in school.
I get it...people need to get back to work, but do we need to risk the lives of our children and their teachers to do it?


The good [sic] congressman suggests that other countries are opening their schools, so we should too.
“Other countries are doing this. Other countries are finding a way to get their kids back in the classroom and haven’t seen any upticks of COVID 19 cases by doing so.”
It is true that other countries are sending their children back to school, but not without safeguards. Schools are reducing class sizes, keeping students at a distance from one another, providing protective equipment, staggering classes, bus rides, lunches, and recesses, and checking students for fever before allowing them into the school. Increased funding would be needed for American schools to do all those things, especially for those schools that still haven't recouped the losses from the 2008 recession like those in Banks's home state.

Blogger Peter Greene (aka Curmudgucation) wrote...
The estimates on how much it will cost to make schools safe for the fall—everything from extra staff to PPE for those in school—run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Should this bill become law, it would be the most expensive unfunded mandate that school districts—and through them, local taxpayers—have ever been hit with. In fact, since schools would lose money if they failed to meet the mandate, it would become the first negatively funded mandate.
To expect schools to open on Bank's timeline without essential safeguards would be irresponsible and would threaten the lives of students, teachers, and their families. To provide the safeguards would cost much more than the federal education budget provides. Is Rep. Banks willing to include any funding in his bill? Easy question...the answer is "no."

As I wrote on May 19 in Have you met children?
Does anyone honestly think that politicians, especially the pro-privatization politicians who overwhelmingly inhabit state legislatures, will allocate enough money to pay for all the supplies, schedule adjustments, and training needed to accommodate teachers and students in socially distancing classrooms?

The health and safety of our children and the adults who work in their schools depend on our using reason and facts when deciding how to attack the problem of how to educate children during a global pandemic. The politicians, policy-makers, and pundits have already done enough damage to public education because they assume that since they were once students, they "know education."
Using reason and facts means that we need to determine the current extent of the coronavirus pandemic before we make a decision on how and when to open schools.

Using reason and facts means that we need to take precautions when we open schools to keep our students safe, especially those students who have special educational and physical needs.

Using reason and facts means that we need to accept that the changes needed to keep everyone safe -- students and teachers -- will cost money.

Using reason and facts means that we have to predict how students will react to the extreme changes that keeping safe during a pandemic will require.


My guess is that Rep. Banks has no understanding of what it would take to teach five- and six-year-olds social distancing rules.

In the same post from May, I quoted Harley Litzelman, a high school teacher, who said this about young children in school (emphasis mine)...
No more group seating. No story time on the carpet. No small group stations. Coloring must be strictly monitored to eliminate sharing, probably requiring children to keep their own personal sets of crayons and markers, revealing stark class differences within classrooms and between schools. No fingers in the mouth or nose, and several minutes spent washing their hands after they inevitably forget. They, too, cannot get out of their seats during class, and no longer can they enjoy the couches and bean bag chairs that their teachers have acquired. Again is the time to ask: Have you ever met children?
Until you're willing to put money where your mouth is, Rep. Banks, let state and local school boards decide when and how to go back to school. Just because you went to school doesn't mean you know squat about how to run a school, how schools work, and how kids behave.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

2020 Medley #12 -- Post-pandemic Education

Post-pandemic education,
Economic and racial stratification in education,
The kids are alright, Online education, 
The damaging effects of vouchers

[child PNG Designed By ali105 from Pngtree.com]


Have you read anything lately about "when schools reopen after the pandemic is over?" There are ideas galore...some good, some ridiculous. It's good to plan ahead, of course, but we don't really know what the situation will be in three months.

One thing is sure, with the pandemic there came an economic downturn -- a recession, which actually began in February. The House of Representatives has passed a spending bill that's stalled in the Senate. States are running out of money...and schools are, as usual, at the top of the list of cuts.

Here in Indiana, schools have yet to recover from the recession of 2008. More cuts to education, at a time when increased funding for education is absolutely necessary, will be disastrous. Last week I suggested that one way to reduce costs for public schools is to cancel testing...another way would be to return charter and voucher money back to the public schools. Those, however, are not likely to happen, the latter especially.

So the post-pandemic calls for more bus service, smaller classes, teachers teaching online and in person, and a host of other ideas which will cost more money. How does that happen?

Five things not to do when schools re-open

Pasi Sahlberg, author, with William Doyle, of Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive, has some ideas of what NOT to do when schools reopen. At the top of the list is refusing to accept that school is the only place where children learn. He emphasizes that kids will come to school traumatized and will need a focus on social-emotional learning.
So much has been said already about teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic that it is hard to say something new. More focus on social and emotional learning, student and teacher wellbeing, authentic assessments, distance learning with technology, relationships in schools and recess during school days. Fewer high-stakes standardized tests, less unproductive consequential accountability, more direct instruction in school, and less rote textbook learning. All these ideas were presented already before this crisis, but people see that the time is right to transform schools after the pandemic is gone...

1. Don’t think that kids only learn when they are taught...

2. Don’t worry about kids’ losses on school tests...

3. Don’t expect kids to be ready to continue where they left off...

4. Don’t consider recess as a low priority...

5. Don’t expect there will be a ‘new normal’ anytime soon...

David Berliner: Kids Missing School? Don’t Worry.

David Berliner, Regents' Professor Emeritus of Education at Arizona State University and a past president of the American Educational Research Association, agrees with Pasi Sahlberg. A child is more than a test score and school is not the only place to learn.
...what if they do lose a few points on the achievement tests currently in use in our nation and in each of our states? None of those tests predict with enough confidence much about the future life those kids will live. That is because it is not just the grades that kids get in school, nor their scores on tests of school knowledge, that predict success in college and in life. Soft skills, which develop as well during their hiatus from school as they do when they are in school, are excellent predictors of a child’s future success in life.

U.S. schools lay off hundreds of thousands, setting up lasting harm to kids

Among the layoffs are teachers, of course, but also support personnel. The cuts will negatively impact poor students the most.
School districts in poor areas face the most punishing blows. A Brookings Institution paper in April predicted that education layoffs “would come at the worst possible time for high-poverty schools, as even more students fall into poverty and need more from schools as their parents and guardians lose their own jobs.”

Low-income districts are particularly troubled because of plunging revenue amid the Covid-19 recession. Districts rely for revenue on local property taxes and state subsidies. Poorer districts, where property tax revenue is low, rely on states for most of their income. With states hit hard by falling income and sales taxes, aid to school districts is dwindling in many places.

Austerity, Subsistence, or Investment: Will Congress And The President Choose to Bail Out Our Children’s Future?

We bailed out the auto industry. We bailed out the banks. We bailed out the airlines. Do we care enough about the future of America to bail out our children?
Our policymakers are on the edge of a precipice. If they step into the budget-cut austerity abyss at this time of great crisis, they will be choosing to harm the nation’s children and, in doing so, to devalue the country’s most important asset. Recovery would become a long and arduous process. We may, in fact, never recover. As one alternative, they can choose the stopgap, subsistence option of backfilling state and local budgets, which we contend is necessary but not sufficient. In fact, the cost of education will likely be higher due to added safety measures schools will be required to take and the added needs of the returning students. The third choice available to policymakers is stimulus investment devoted to our schools and children, especially children of color, in their time of great need, which would provide the extra benefit of saving jobs and creating new jobs to help in combating national unemployment.

...The enormously expensive bailouts of airlines, financial markets, investors, and other elements of the economy are defended — and are arguably defensible — as necessary to prevent further pain that would be felt by “average Americans” if that larger economy collapses. But many of those average Americans are families with children in public schools. If policymakers choose to let those children sink, taking their futures down with them, then why bother bailing out the businesses that we hope will one day serve them and employ them?

Refusing the needed funding for public education systems means impoverishing our youth, our communities, our public life – our democracy. Economically speaking, it would result in hundreds of thousands additional job losses across the country in the short-term, devastate the future job market for highly skilled labor, and hurt the ability of companies to bring on new talents and grow their profits – shrinking future GDP and tax revenue. If policymakers are willing and able to put $4.5 trillion of Fed lending into bolstering financial markets through treasury funding,43 how can they deny a fraction of that to our children to save their futures?


Rich schools get richer

While our poor children suffer from decaying facilities, underpaid teachers, and lack of materials, America's wealthy children get richer. They get the equipment they need, the well-trained teachers that we all want for our own children, and the opportunities to advance based on income.
Why we should care about high levels of education spending among the rich is a matter of debate. [Bruce Baker, a school finance expert at Rutgers Graduate School of Education,] argues that their choices affect the rest of us. That’s because education investments by the rich can potentially boost their children’s achievement levels and give them an advantage in college applications. As these well-educated children move from well-funded schools to elite universities, their advantages continue as they apply to graduate schools and seek the most coveted jobs. Those at the bottom as well as those in the middle can struggle to compete against this kind of educational privilege.

“It’s kind of like baseball,” Baker said. “When the Yankees spend more, it makes it harder for everyone else to compete.”


This Teacher Went To A Peaceful Protest And…

The self-professed old guy at Caffeinated Rage lets us know that kids today are alright.
The people I marched with yesterday came from various backgrounds with many older people such as myself, BUT…

The number of students and younger people who just might be voting in their first national elections this fall were staggering. It was their energy that fueled that peaceful protest.

There was no violence. There was no cursing.

There was purpose. There was understanding and quest to understand more.


What Do We Know About Online Education and Virtual Charter Schools?

As hard as it is to find a way to teach students during a pandemic it's important to remember that online education is not the same, or as good as, face to face interaction between teachers and students in a classroom.
We find the impact of attending a virtual charter on student achievement is uniformly and profoundly negative, equating to a third of a standard deviation in English/language arts (ELA) and a half of a standard deviation in math. This equates to a loss of roughly 11 percentile points in ELA and 16 percentile points in math for an average virtual charter student at baseline as compared to their public school peers (see Figure 1 above). There is no evidence that virtual charter students improve in subsequent years. We could not “explain away” these findings by looking at various teacher or classroom characteristics. We also use the same methodology to analyze the impact of attending brick-and-mortar charter schools. In contrast, we find that students who attended brick-and-mortar charters have achievement no different from their traditional public school peers (see Figure 2 below). Our confidence in these results is further buoyed by other studies of virtual charter schools in Ohio and nationwide having similar findings.


Public Funds Public Schools Website Provides Compendium of Research on School Vouchers

There isn't enough money to support public education. So why are we sending public tax dollars to private schools? Public funds should go to public schools. Here's a group that explains why.
Public Funds Public Schools introduces its research compendium: “Studies of voucher programs across the country have found that students who participate in private school voucher programs fare worse academically than students educated in public schools, and in some cases dramatically worse. In addition, voucher programs undermine already struggling public schools. Other damaging effects of vouchers include loss of civil rights protections, increased segregation, and erosion of the separation of church and state. Private school voucher programs often lack accountability and transparency, yet cost millions of public dollars.”


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Helping Students Heal

The education blogosphere, as well as the general media, is full of articles dealing with opening schools in the fall, keeping students safe, social distancing by lowering class size, doubling the number of buses, and other, expensive fixes. Additionally, schools will have to take into consideration the mental and emotional health of students and deal with the multiple traumas they will carry with them.

As of this writing (June 3, 2020), the death toll from COVID-19 in the US is over 105,000 which has left hundreds of thousands of Americans grieving for their lost loved ones. Many have had to postpone or forego funerals and memorials in order to stay safe themselves. Among those who have lost family members are thousands of children who, already traumatized by the fear of illness or the loss of contact with their friends and teachers, are further hurt by the very real loss of parents, grandparents, relatives, teachers, or friends.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic trauma, too...and with economic trauma comes social upheaval as families living from paycheck to paycheck start to panic when the food runs out...when the rent or mortgage is due...when the insurance coverage ends.

And we can't talk about social upheaval without acknowledging the excessive number of deaths of Black Americans and the damage to communities of color by the racism present in Amerian society...racism which is exacerbated by economic trauma and political cowardice. The current political upheaval around the country will also traumatize students before they return to school in the fall, no matter how much their parents try to protect them from it.

Public schools have always been a stable force in students' lives and when the next school year begins -- whenever that is -- they will have to take on the additional role of helping students heal from multiple traumas.

How can teachers and schools help their students and likely their families, too, heal after the pandemic and the societal upheaval?


First, cancel the state (and other) standardized tests. We already know that standardized test scores reflect the economic conditions in which a child is raised. We can just as easily rank schools and children using their family income if ranking must be done; the results will be the same. In any event, subjecting children to the added stress of standardized tests which for some determines whether they go on to the next grade is too painful to even consider.

Why shouldn't high stakes testing be abandoned next year?
It would also waste precious instructional time, waste resources, and provide meaningless bad data. Look-- if testing really worked, if it really told us all the things that guys like Toch want to claim it does, don't you think teachers would be clamoring for it? If it were an actual valuable tool, don't you think that teachers, struggling with spotty resources against unprecedented challenges, would be hollering, "If I'm going to try to do this, at least find a way to get me those invaluable Big Standardized Test!"

But no-- in the midst of this hard shot to the foundations of public education, a lot of professional educators are taking a hard look at what is really essential, what they really need to get the job done. The Big Standardized Test didn't make the cut. We don't need the "smart testing," especially since it isn't very smart anyway. We just need smart teachers with the resources they need to do the work.
Note the last sentence, "...with the resources they need to do the work." Canceling the tests will save money, too...millions of dollars. With the likelihood of budget cuts coming, that's money that we can't afford to spend on wasteful tests.


Second, build the new curriculum around healing...and that starts with recess and free time.

A proposal for what post-coronavirus schools should do
Play is urgently relevant to the new education world that will emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. “Play can mitigate stress,” Dr. Yogman tells us. “The executive function skills that kids develop through play can promote resilience, and play can restore safe and nurturing relationships with parents, teachers and other children, which also promotes resilience. That’s got to be our goal when kids get back to school. At every level, in our schools, homes, and communities, our social structures have to acknowledge the magnitude of stress all families, especially those with young children will experience, and design programs that mitigate that, including lots of physical activity and play.”
Schools should focus on developing good relationships between teachers and students. My 2020 Teachers New Year's Resolution #4 was Develop Positive Relationships. In it, I quoted Educational Historian Jack Schneider,
But what policy elites don’t talk about—what they may not even know about, having themselves so little collective teaching experience—is how much relationships matter in our nation’s classrooms. Yes it matters that history teachers know history and chemistry teachers know chemistry. But it also matters that history teachers know their students, and that chemistry teachers know how to spot a kid in need. It matters that teachers have strong academic backgrounds. But it also matters that they can relate to young people—that they see them, hear them, and care for them.
Now, more than ever, students need consistent, caring adults in their lives. Teachers can be among those adults.

To paraphrase Schneider, above, yes, it matters that we teach reading, math, science, and history. But it also matters that teachers know their students and can spot children in need. It matters that teachers can relate to young people -- see them, hear them, and care for them. Learning improves when teachers and students form personal relationships.


Stop sending needed public funds to unaccountable private institutions. We can't afford to support three competing school systems (public, charters, and vouchers) with one pot of public funding. It's time we direct our focus on investing in our public school system.

Research | Public Funds Public Schools
A wide range of research shows that private school voucher programs are an ineffective use of public funds...

Private School Vouchers Don't Improve Student Achievement...

Private School Vouchers Divert Needed Funding from Public Schools...

Private School Voucher Programs Lack Accountability...

Absence of Oversight in Private School Voucher Programs Leads to Corruption and Waste...

Private School Vouchers Don't Help Students with Disabilities...

Private School Vouchers Don't Protect Against Discrimination...

Private School Vouchers Exacerbate Segregation...

Universal Private School Voucher Programs Don't Work...
Charters, as well, have proven to be an experiment that has not lived up to its promises.

Student Achievement in Charter Schools: What the Research Says
The evidence on the effectiveness of charter schools in raising student achievement is, at best, mixed. There is no consistent evidence that charter schools are the answer to our education problems. A research literature that focuses on finding and studying "high-quality" charter schools naturally misleads the public about the average impact of all charter schools and demonstrates that academic performance in most charter schools is underwhelming.
At best, charters do no better than real public schools. It's time to move the funding back to public schools where it belongs.

And yes, this means that there needs to be a change in leadership in Indianapolis and Washington. In order to divert public funds back to public education, and make sure there's enough money for our public schools -- aka our future -- we need to throw out the anti-public education politicians. Elections matter.