"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson
Monday, April 19, 2021
Friday, April 9, 2021
THE HOUSE VERSION
The House version gave nearly 40% of all new education money to the less than 5% of the state's students in the form of increased voucher spending, including money for unaccountable ESAs (educational savings accounts).
It also provided an increase in voucher availability to a family of four making nearly $150,000 a year. This House plan was not the "save poor children" voucher plan that Mitch Daniels proposed ten years ago. It very definitely expanded voucher money for wealthier students.
It's probably good that Indiana Republicans are no longer trying to pretend that their voucher program is so that "poor kids can escape from terrible schools." Instead they're all but admitting that public schools don't interest them. Privatization is the goal no matter what that pesky state constitution says. At least now they're being honest about it.
THE SENATE VERSION
The Senate still included an increase in vouchers so they're not backing off entirely. Families of four with six figure incomes would be able to get a 90% voucher allowing their kids can enroll in mostly segregated private schools that teach creation science and that slavery was a good investment. This assumes of course, that the school will have their child since private schools can reject students for nearly any reason.
The Senate version, while not as extreme as the House, still contains a significant increase in voucher support, including a foot-in-the-door new ESA plan that lets parents use tax dollars to buy "educational" services without public oversight or accountability. Hmmm...I wonder if they might try to increase money for that in years to come?
HOUSE WILL BE "AGGRESSIVE"
The bill now goes to a conference committee where House members will try to put back what the Senate took out. Speaker of the House Todd Huston, whose campaign contributions include $35,000 from Betsy DeVos's Hoosiers for Quality Education (see also here), said that the house will "be negotiating very aggressively" to get back what was taken out so they can satisfy their lust for privatization.
One might even think that the plan all along was for the House to propose an extreme expansion of vouchers, then have the Senate back off a bit to pacify public school advocates (and more than 170 school boards around the state), and settle on a more "modest" increase in voucher money and an ESA plan.
It's still an increase in Indiana's ever increasing move towards total privatization.
For Further Reading
New Indiana budget proposal scales back private school voucher expansion
After a chorus of opposition from public school districts and advocates, Indiana Senate Republicans significantly scaled back an expansion of the state’s private school voucher program under their budget proposal Thursday.
The Senate plan would not extend private school vouchers to as many middle-class families as suggested in the House budget proposal and other legislation discussed this session. It also would dramatically curtail a proposal for education savings accounts, which would give stipends to parents of children with special needs who do not attend public schools.
Senate budget would dial back voucher expansion
...the Senate budget would partially roll back the ambitious expansion of Indiana’s private school voucher program that was included in the House budget.
Like the House budget, it would create a new K-12 education savings account program, but it would limit participation and costs. Also important: It would remove a House-approved cap on the complexity index, the funding formula feature that favors districts and schools with more disadvantaged students.
Monday, April 5, 2021
Scholars show how to challenge voucher discrimination
How many ways can we say it? School choice is not about parents choosing the school for their child. It's about schools choosing which students to allow through their doors. Private schools get to choose their clients.
The law may state that private and religious schools must not discriminate in order to receive state funds, but the actual real-world actions of schools accepting vouchers shows that private schools can, and often do reject certain students based on various characteristics such as religion or sexual preference (or the sexual preference of their parents). Under other circumstances, this discrimination wouldn't be a problem. Religious schools should be allowed to require their teachers and students to follow certain theological teachings. However, it becomes a problem when public funds are used to further such discrimination.
The simple fact is that private schools, and religious schools in particular should not be allowed to use public funds because they are not required to accept all students. Public tax dollars should go to public schools which accept all students -- gay and straight, faithful and faithless, white or black. Using tax dollars to support religious schools that discriminate is contrary to the intent of the founders. Jefferson wrote,
...to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness...Using tax dollars to support private and religious schools which discriminate based on religious beliefs is forcing taxpayers to pay for something they might not believe in. It's "sinful and tyrannical".
Green, the lead author, said supporters promote vouchers to expand opportunities for students and families. But, as the programs expand, state officials often enable them to deny those benefits to entire groups of students.
“Vouchers were sold as program that all could benefit from, but the anti-LGBT provisions give the lie to that statement,” Green said.
Voucher programs come in a variety of forms, but all provide ways for states to provide full or partial tuition funding to private schools for qualifying students. Indiana’s program, established in 2011, serves over 36,000 students in more than 300 private schools, nearly all of them religious schools, at a cost of $172.8 million. Lawmakers want to expand the program and extend it to upper-income families.
Vouchers Are About Abandoning Public Education, Not Freeing Parents
Public education is a public good, like roads, water systems, and libraries. It benefits everyone.
Vouchers are not about freeing or empowering parents. They are about empowering private interests to chomp away at the giant mountain of education money in this country. They are about dismantling any sort of oversight and accountability; it's striking how many of these voucher bills/laws very specifically forbid the state to interfere with the vendors in any way, shape or form.
Think of voucher programs this way.
The state announces, "We are dismantling the public education system. You are on your own. You will have to shop for your child's education, piece by piece, in a marketplace bound by very little oversight and very few guardrails. In this new education ecosystem, you will have to pay your own way. To take some of the sting out of this, we'll give you a small pocketful of money to help defray expenses. Good luck."
...Voucherization is also about privatizing the responsibility for educating children, about telling parents that education is their problem, not the community's.
Lawmakers Backing Standardized Tests Should Practice What They Preach
Forcing students to waste time taking standardized tests this year (and, actually, any year) is absurd. It is a waste of taxpayers' money -- even more than during normal (aka non-pandemic) times.
Educators are scrambling to teach safely and most lawmakers stand aside unsure how to help.
We can’t figure out which students to assist, they say, without first giving them all a batch of standardized tests.
It’s absurd, like paramedics arriving at a car crash, finding one person in a pool of blood and another completely unscathed – but before they know which person needs first aid, they have to take everyone’s blood pressure.
I mean come on! We’re living through a global pandemic.
Nearly every single class has been majorly disrupted by it.
So just about every single student needs help – BUT SOMEHOW WE NEED DATA TO NARROW THAT DOWN!?
Our duly-elected decision-makers seem to be saying they can only make decisions based on a bunch of numbers.
Does Education Secretary Cardona Recognize the Two Huge Problems with High-Stakes Testing?
Following the pattern of previous Democratic and Republican administrations, the Biden administration's Secretary of Education has determined that the most important thing the Federal Government has to do for public schools throughout the country is force them to take wasteful standardized tests. Arne Duncan would be proud.
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona insists that federally mandated standardized testing will go on as usual in this COVID-19 dominated year. While his decision feels particularly impractical, intrusive, complicated and disruptive in the midst of COVID-19, the decision is of much deeper concern for two reasons.
One would like to think that Dr. Cardona is familiar with the huge debate that has consumed education experts and also many parents who have been opting out for years now. But when Dr. Cardona explained why testing must go on as usual, he didn’t even bother to offer a rationale that addresses any of the reasons experts have insisted he should cancel the tests once again this year. Instead he said we need the tests so that the Department of Education can ensure that federal investment goes to the school districts that need it most. That is such a lovely thought, and if tests were designed and used to gauge needed investment in the poorest communities, it would be wonderful.
The Reading Helper
Halfway through my career I moved out of my general education classroom and became, what Russ Walsh calls, a Reading Helper.
In this post, Walsh reminds us that the most important aspect of being a teacher is the relationship between teacher and student, not standardized tests...not state standards...not grades.
I have a teaching certificate that says I am a qualified Teacher of Reading, and Reading Specialist and Supervisor, but from the time I got a certain Valentine's Day card from a student in 1993 I have thought of myself as a Reading Helper. That card was from a second grade vulnerable reader named Danielle who had been my student since that September. The cover of the hand made card was full of many colored hearts and flowers and said, of course, "Happy Valentine's Day." Inside was a message that I will never forget and which has defined my work ever since: "Thank you for hleping me read. Love, Danielle" Yes, exactly, "hleping." Danielle still had some spelling reversals crop up from time to time. But the message could not have been clearer. I was being thanked for helping and it meant the world to me.
Why Do So Many Children Have Dyslexia? What is it Exactly?
The word “dyslexia” literally means “difficulty with written words”. In my experience -- more than forty years as a paraprofessional, teacher, and retiree volunteer -- there are as many different types of dyslexia as there are struggling readers — every child is different! Parents define it based on their own child’s (or children's) struggles. Teachers define it by what they've seen in their own isolated classrooms. I’ve watched arguements between parents and teachers exposing the conflict as “that’s dyslexia,” “No, this is dyslexia”. The arguments about reading programs are even worse. There is no one perfect program that works for every single student. There is no panacea.
Nancy Bailey is absolutely correct in this post, that we need to stop worrying so much about the label and find out what works for each individual child. If a parent wants to call their child’s struggles dyslexia, so be it, but we still need to figure out what works for the child.
This post is followed by an interesting discussion in the comments. Many of the comments prove the points that Bailey makes in her article.
It’s important to continue to raise questions about reading problems and to seek school programs that help children learn to read.
But we should also be asking why so many children present such problems when they show up to school.
No matter what causes reading problems in children or what the label, schools, and teachers must continue to provide students with the individual help they need. There is no one perfect reading program for all children. Schools need to provide rich reading environments and extra phonics for students who need it.
Sunday, March 28, 2021
I taught third grade in the 1970s and 1980s. At that time the "teach to the test" trend hadn't infiltrated America's public school classrooms. We gave a standardized test, but it didn't determine who went to fourth grade, didn't enter into my evaluation, and didn't have anything to do with how much money the school got. In fact, "teaching to the test" was considered bad pedagogy and limiting to the scope of the everyday classroom experience. We were, therefore, pressured NOT to "teach to the test."
At that time in my teaching career, I considered my daily read-aloud the most important part of my reading instruction.
Read Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease lists these five reasons for reading aloud...
I was convinced then, and I still believe, that children who are read to, feel good about reading. Children who feel good about reading are motivated to read to themselves. Children who are motivated to read grow into readers. Trelease explains it this way...
- it builds vocabulary
- it conditions the child’s brain to associate reading with pleasure
- it creates background knowledge
- it provides a reading role model
- it plants the desire to read
I would keep track of the books I read to my students and at the end of the year, I would rank the stories based on the students' favorites. One year I even had the students illustrate a scene from their favorite book in a line drawing. I gathered them all, made copies for everyone, and presented the students with a coloring book of their peers' drawings from their favorite books of the year.
- The more you read, the better you get at it; the better you get at it, the more you like it; and the more you like it, the more you do it.
- The more you read, the more you know; and the more you know, the smarter you grow.
Without fail, every year three authors would be at the top. They were Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and of course, Beverly Cleary.
RAMONA THE HERO
My third-grade students always loved Kindergarten Ramona in Ramona the Pest. They were close enough in age to their own Kindergarten experiences that they remembered their own Ramona-like fears and mistakes. Ramona Quimby took those fears and mistakes and understood. I always imagined my third-graders thinking, "Here is another little person who understands what it is like to be a child."
After Ramona the Pest, I would often skip right to Ramona Quimby, Age 8 since that was Ramona's "third-grade" book. Ramona was universal. She faced similar problems, made similar mistakes, felt similar feelings, and, for those students in my class who had older siblings, felt the same way about her older sister.
Ramona was sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but never a parody. The characteristics that made Ramona so appealing to my students were the same characteristics that made her seem real. Even though the stories were made up, they were never outside the possibility of what could happen to them. Every child could relate to feelings of embarrassment when they made a mistake. Every child understands the anger at being patronized. Ramona expressed those feelings and made them acceptable.
Once in a while, one of the little girls in my class would be labeled Ramona by the other students. It was never cruel or teasing. Ramona was their hero. It's just that sometimes, one of the students had that same combination of energy, frankness, and off-kilter humor that would remind us all of our friend, Ramona. More often, I would watch the students in their daily lives and think -- of the boys as well as the girls, "There's Ramona."
Cleary was such a popular author that I occasionally included books about Ralph S. Mouse and Henry Huggins in my yearly read-alouds, but Ramona was, without question, the hero to year after year of my third-graders.
BEVERLY CLEARY, APRIL 12, 1916 - MARCH 25, 2021
I wonder if any of my former third-graders, when learning about Beverly Cleary's passing, thought about Ramona.
My hope is that they did...because they read aloud to their children...who read aloud to their children.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
House Bills 1001 and 1005 would give nearly a third of the state's increase in education funding to the 5% (10% if you count charters) of the students who go to private schools. I had written to my local state rep, Dave Heine, but received no reply. He voted to approve the increase along with all of his Republican friends in the state House of Representatives. The bills are now before the state Senate, so I wrote my state senator, Dennis Kruse (IN-S14), and asked him to vote against increasing the vouchers.
I received responses from Senator Kruse this week. I'll send a reply to his emails, though I doubt it will change anything. Here is what he wrote (different paragraphs are from his response on House Bill 1001 or House Bill 1005) followed by some of what I might say.
Kruse: Thank you for reaching out about House Bill 1005. I value the opinions of my constituents and I value your individual opinion.Me: Do all politicians start their letters this way? I've talked to this man in person and I know full well that, while he might "value" the opinion of some of his constituents, he doesn't really value mine. Every election cycle, Senator Kruse gets donations from a group called Hoosiers for Quality Education a group funded by former Secretary of Education, and billionaire privatizer, Betsy DeVos. The goal, it seems, is to privatize Indiana's education system.
Kruse: I am committed funding education for Hoosier students. The Indiana 2019-2020 state budget increased $750,000,000 more to K-12 Education than the previous fiscal cycle. That is the largest single increase in state education funding in our 200-year history as a state. This legislative session has just begun. I am excited for the opportunity to review Indiana's current practices and potential amendments.Me: He says, look at how much money we're spending on education in this state. Am I supposed to be impressed by this? We have given around a billion dollars of public funds to private/religious schools since the voucher plan was put into place in 2011. How was that money spent? No one knows. Who kept track of that money? Maybe the money was spent on new steeples, football fields, or church expansions. There's no way to know because that money is unaccountable.
Kruse: While I believe that Indiana public schools should receive an increase in funding, I also believe that parents have the right to choose where their child should be educated. House Bill 1005 creates a grant for students with disabilities or for students with parents who have disabilities. Accordingly, this bill allows parents of children with disabilities to make a choice about where their child attends school. Some public schools are not equipped with the proper resources or staff to address the individual needs of students with disabilities. Therefore, I want to ensure that parents can receive a meaningful education for their child by supporting House Bill 1005.Me: Do parents choose to send their children to a private school? Some do because some private schools will accept some of the students. But all private schools restrict some students. Students of a different religion, gay students, transgender students, students who struggle with learning, students with behavioral issues, are all targeted for rejection by some private schools. Whose choice is it to attend a private school? A parent can apply to send their child to a private school, but it's up to the school to accept them.
Should taxpayers fund schools that discriminate against certain students?
What about students with disabilities? Some private schools don't accept any students with disabilities. Others only accept certain disabilities (such as students needing speech therapy). Private schools often reject students by telling the parent that "we aren't equipped to deal with their particular needs." Finally, public schools are required by law to provide services to children with disabilities. Private schools are under no such obligation. Do these bills require schools to take students with disabilities? Do these bills preserve the rights of students with disabilities?
Kruse notes that "some public schools are not equipped with the proper resources or staff to address the individual needs of students with disabilities." So instead of dealing with this problem directly by increasing funds to ensure that all public schools are properly supported, we're going to just forget about that and send the money to private schools instead? Why are we sending tax money to private and religious schools if we aren't even able to fully fund our constitutionally mandated public schools?
Kruse: The decision about what school to send your children to is a challenging one for every parent. Choosing not to attend a public school, for most parents, is an opportunity to select the best fit for curriculum for their children.Me: I'm glad he mentioned the curriculum. Why should taxpayers provide funds for schools that teach religion instead of science or history? Should taxpayers fund students' field trips to the Creation Museum? What about schools whose curriculum materials "whitewash slavery" saying things like, "The majority of slaveholders treated their slaves well"?
Should tax dollars go to schools that teach religion? The Indiana Constitution (Article 1, Section 6) says "NO."
No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.In 2013, despite the Constitutional restriction, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state voucher program. They were wrong.
Kruse: While I support school vouchers, I also strongly support public education. Indiana's total state budget designates 61% of funding toward education. 50% of the budget is directly utilized in k12 education, for an annual budget of $9 Billion of the total annual state budget of $18 Billion...Me: Again, the money he's talking about includes money for private schools and charter schools which he votes to increase every year. Indiana Republicans always, always say that "more than 50% of the budget goes to education." That's true, but hidden in that more than 50% is the money, taken off the top, for private schools. That money should be going to public schools, because the state constitution mandates a system of public schools. It says nothing about supporting a system of private, religious, or privately run schools. Indiana, indeed, no state in the country, can afford to fund three separate school systems (public, charter, and voucher).
Kruse: Accordingly, this legislative session we are currently working to draft the budget proposing an increase to school funding by $438 million. This proposal would result in an approximate $800 raise for teachers over the next two years. I will support this increase and any opportunity to raise public school teacher salaries.Me: I'm all for increasing Indiana's teachers' salaries. Indiana teachers' salaries have dropped by around 15% (when adjusted for inflation) since 2000. The amount that Senator Kruse notes, though, isn't enough. With another $800 a year, the average salary for Indiana teachers would still be less than all the surrounding states. Now, if he means to increase the salary by $800 a month (for the 10 month school year), that would put the teachers just slightly below where the Governor's Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission, said we needed to be. Finally, and once again, that $438 million increase to school funding includes voucher increases!
Kruse: I am committed to finding ways to support the education of Hoosier students at both private schools and public schools. I believe that school vouchers do not contradict public education. Instead, I believe that parents should have the ability to send their children to the school of their choice.Me: I know he is committed to finding ways to support private schools. I can't think of one voucher bill that he's voted against since 2011.
The truth is that school vouchers DO harm public schools. Public dollars should go to public schools.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
Just 1 in 6 Indiana college students who study education become teachers, report finds
Indiana schools have struggled to fill vacancies in recent years as a strong economy created jobs in other industries. Teacher pay in Indiana lags behind that of neighboring states and behind salaries of other professional careers — a problem that has attracted attention from politicians and advocates on both sides of the aisle.Promised a raise by Governor Holcomb (see here, here, and here), teachers are still waiting while the Governor continues to mark time. The lack of salary increases is contributing to the problem.
A little over a year ago Holcomb approved pay raises for state employees of 2%-6%. He excluded teachers, of course, instead deferring to the Teacher Compensation Commission whose recommendations for an increase to an average of $60,000 he then proceeded to ignore.
Yes, the pandemic has caused economic problems for the state, but the Governor is still promising, yes, promising to raise teachers salaries. Eventually, he said, Indiana "will be one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay." So teachers will get their hopes up and continue to wait. Think: Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football...
Meanwhile, the supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly (IGA) is doing what they have done annually since 2011...diverting public tax money from the state's constitutionally mandated public schools to increase the church and state merger in the form of private and parochial school vouchers.
Responding to the continued disrespect of teachers, and the consistent move towards privatization, Avon Community Schools Superintendent, Scott Wyndham tweeted,
Could more money help attract young people to a career in education? Perhaps, but it won't happen if the supermajority in the legislature has anything to say about it. If passed by the IGA, one-third of this year's increase for education will go to the 5% of students who don't attend public schools. Until we stop moving public money to religious institutions, we're not going to be able to attract new teachers (or fully fund public schools).
In December teacher compensation was a priority for our state. Now we’re spending time & energy advocating against voucher expansion - $$ flowing away from public schools w/ little accountability & no results. Wonder how that $ could help this problem? https://t.co/cF74Oxhulu— Scott Wyndham (@AvonSupt) March 5, 2021
Governor Holcomb has joined with the Republicans in the state legislature to shrink the pool of Indiana's qualified teachers. Without an incentive to seek a career in education where will our future teachers come from?
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Anyone who has been paying attention to education news knows that the Biden administration has, at least at the time of this writing (Mar 2, 2021), refused to cancel the required federal testing for this school year despite the pandemic and despite Candidate Biden's promises to the contrary. In her blog, Diane Ravitch reminded us...
The Biden administration chose a pro-testing advocate, Ian Rosenblum of Education Trust New York, to announce the decision that states must administer the federally mandated tests this spring. Miguel Cardona has not yet been confirmed as Secretary of Education nor has Cindy Marten been confirmed as Deputy Secretary. Who made this decision? Joe Biden? Jill Biden? Ian Rosenblum, who has not yet been confirmed as Deputy Assistant Secretary? (The Assistant Secretary has not even been announced.) Is the Obama administration back?[Note: Cardona was confirmed on March 1, 2021]
Joe Biden said unequivocally at a Public Education Forum in Pittsburgh when he was campaigning that he would end the federal mandate for standardized testing. Denisha Jones, lawyer, teacher educator, board member of Defending the Early Years, and the Network for Public Education, asked candidate Biden if he would end standardized testing. Watch his answer here.
If you're interested, surf the internet to find other stories about how Biden has broken this particular promise...but that's not the purpose of today's blog post. I'm more concerned about how the results of the tests will be used.
THE PURPOSE OF THE TESTS
What's the purpose of the state standardized tests?
Since the state tests were instituted, they have been used by privatizers to illustrate how public schools in the United States are "failing." The truth is, however, that the tests mostly measure family income, and the concept of "failing" American schools is a myth.
During No Child Left Behind, state standardized tests were given to rank schools to determine which were worthy of praise and which were worthy of punishment. "Failing schools" -- i.e. those schools with high levels of poverty which regularly scored lower on standardized tests -- were punished with closure, state takeover, and replacement of staff.
During Race to the Top, the test was used to do the same as during No Child Left Behind but added "failing teachers" to the punishment list. Tests were (and in some places, still are) invalidly used to evaluate teachers. Those teachers who taught in "failing schools" were deemed to be "failing teachers" and would be subject to job loss or other punishment. In addition, Arne Duncan's Education Department virtually abandoned so-called "failing schools" and emphasized opening charter schools.
The Every Child Succeeds Act, which we're currently living under, has eased some of the punishments (it eliminated the requirement to evaluate teachers using state tests, for example), but the tests are still required every year in grades three through eight.
The educational reasons for testing include (but are not limited to) things like the diagnosis of students' learning and analysis of curriculum, but there are a pile of other issues with standardized tests, however, that make their value questionable.
THIRD GRADE PUNISHMENT
One of the more damaging uses of standardized tests has been to determine whether third graders' reading achievement is sufficient for them to be promoted to fourth grade. Currently about two-dozen states and the District of Columbia have laws that either require or allow for the retention of third-graders who fail a standardized reading test.
Third graders should be retained, the argument goes, because reading is different in fourth grade. In the primary grades, one learns to read. Beginning in fourth grade one "reads to learn." While this might be true, depending on a school's curriculum, there's no evidence that retaining kids in third grade helps.
In a recent blog post, Peter Greene, at Curmudgucation, discussed another argument for third-grade retention. That is, that third-graders who read well have a better chance of graduating from high school. Therefore, if we have third-graders who don't read well, we need to retain them in third grade until they do...
..."Double Jeopardy" ties third grade reading proficiency (more or less as defined by NAEP) to high school graduation as well as tying both to poverty.As Greene points out, they're confusing correlation with causation.
Without getting into too detail, the report finds that students who are not reading proficiently in third grade are more likely not to graduate, students who are poor for at least a year are less likely to graduate, and students who are both are even less likely to end up with a diploma. Black and Hispanic students who lagged in third grade reading skills were also less likely to graduate.
Hernandez has identified correlations, not causations. Research might well show that third grade shoe size is a good predictor of adult height, but it does not follow that making third graders wear bigger shoes, or making them stay in third grade until their feet are big enough, will lead individual students to grow taller, nor raise the average height of adults.Retention in grade based on the state standardized test, or for any reason, is a remediation method that doesn't do what it purports to do. The "additional time to learn" argument has been disproven by the fact that after two or three years any academic advantage to retention disappears. Most students who are "behind" when they are in third grade are "behind" when they get to high school.
Retention in grade has been studied for more than a century and it has yet to be proven to be an effective method of helping students improve. At worst, retention increases the chance that a student will drop out of high school. At best, retention doesn't do permanent damage to a student's mental and emotional health.
Studies with the strongest research methods compare students who were retained with similar students who were not retained. They ask whether repeating a grade makes a difference in achievement as well as personal and social adjustment over the short run and the long run. Although individual studies can be cited to support any conclusion, overall the preponderance of evidence argues that students who repeat a grade are no better off, and are sometimes worse off, than if they had been promoted with their classmates.
You've probably noticed that the world is in the midst of a global pandemic. As such, schools have been closed, opened, closed again, half-open...in short, trying to find workarounds in a sometimes futile attempt to educate their students.
Some students have been on a hybrid schedule...in school part-time and at home part-time. Some students have been at home, working from a computer, for an entire year. Other students have been "lost"; their school systems have been unable to locate them. Parents often have difficulties juggling the online education of more than one child with their home and work responsibilities. Everyone wants students back in school. Students. Teachers. Parents. Everyone.
Given the problems associated with school over the past year, what do you think this year's Spring standardized tests will show?
It's absolutely likely that more students than usual will score below state cut scores on their achievement tests this year. It's further likely that those students who are the most vulnerable will score the lowest. How will those test scores be used?
- Will more students be subjected to retention because they "fell behind" during the pandemic?
- Will state Departments of Education fail to adjust cut scores (because those cut scores are usually arbitrary choices) so that fewer kids "fail" the tests?
- Will states continue grade retention practices despite the challenges to curriculum expectations during the pandemic?
Cancel federally mandated standardized tests for this year (and next year, and the next...). They don't help and they're a waste of time and money.
Provide resources to schools and teachers so they can meet the needs of their students. Let teachers...the education professionals...make educational decisions, not legislators.
And here in Indiana, divert public money for education back to public schools for a change.
Monday, February 22, 2021
2019, I wrote,
This year, just like in the past, the state of Indiana, ruled by one party with a supermajority in the legislature, has worked to disrespect public schools and public school teachers. The only way to fight this, aside from the daily grind of contacting legislators about every single damaging piece of legislation, is to elect people who don't hate public schools and public school teachers.Sadly, nothing has changed and my fellow Hoosiers, including many of my former public school colleagues, continue to send the same anti-public education folks to Indy. In this year's session of the Indiana General Assembly the Republican supermajority, like Republican legislators across the country (see here, and here, for example) are doing everything they can to damage the public schools of the state.
One would think we'd be able to get the teachers, themselves, on board with this...
They are attempting to divert more money for the state's already expansive voucher program...despite the studies that have shown that vouchers don't improve education. They will likely succeed. The state, of course, hasn't looked into the success or failure of the voucher program because it is no longer about "saving poor children from 'failing schools', the reason the program was begun in 2011. Now, it's just about "choice." This means that private schools get to choose which students they want, and once the new bill passes the Indiana Senate (which it likely will), those students will be more likely than not, white, and not-poor.
The objections from public education supporters have been loud and strong, but the supermajority doesn't care or need to listen.
Do the voters in Indiana (again, including many public school teachers) even know what the General Assembly is doing to our system of public education? Is Indiana so fiercely partisan that its citizens are willing to give up its public schools because their "tribe" wants it to? Ninety percent of the state's children attend public schools (94% if you include so-called "public charter schools"). Why do we keep electing the same anti-public school state legislators?
2021 INDIANA GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON EDUCATION
Indiana voucher plan could take 1/3 of school funding boost
The Speaker of the Indiana House said that the state should "fund students, not school systems." Unfortunately, he is ignorant of the Indiana Consitution which requires the legislature to fund a "uniform system of Common Schools."
From the Associated Press
More than one-third of the proposed state funding hike for Indiana schools could go toward the state’s private school voucher program under a Republican-backed plan that could boost the program’s cost by nearly 50% over the next two years.How Indiana has cut funding for students in poverty, hurting urban schools
The estimated $144 million cost for the voucher expansion and a new program allowing parents to directly spend state money on their child’s education expenses is included in legislative budget projections — but is more than double what House Republicans discussed in releasing their state budget plan last week.
Over the past few years, the state has cut into any extra funding for high poverty school systems because...economic segregation, racism, greed, political expediency...choose one or more.
From Chalkbeat, Indiana
Even though the state boasts an increased education budget each year, Indianapolis Public Schools receives $15 less per student today in basic state funding than it did seven years ago.Commentary: Money, mouths and education reform
That’s because IPS’ gains in funding for each student have been eaten up by a sharper decline in state support for students in poverty, district officials say.
In recent years, Indiana lawmakers have prioritized across-the-board increases for schools over support for disadvantaged students, favoring budget strategies that buoy more affluent districts while higher-poverty schools say they’re left without enough resources to serve disadvantaged students.
My local Senator told me (and a small group of public education advocates) a few years ago that the Senate was tired of all the "reform." He indicated that we needed to evaluate what we've done before we do more. That hasn't happened and he has gone along with the continuous increases for "reform."
From By John Krull in TheStatehouseFile.com
The self-proclaimed education reformers make it sound as if their efforts will have nothing less than a transformative effect on schools and students, improving scores and performance at an astounding rate.Former state superintendents united in their opposition to voucher expansion bills
The evidence suggests, though, that they just do not believe that.
If they did, they would be compiling evidence that students in voucher and charter schools were doing much, much better than their counterparts in traditional public schools. They would be testing the students receiving state funds to study in settings other than traditional public schools and the educators teaching them to build their case that choice works.
That the education reform movement works.
But they don’t do that.
At almost every stop, they take measures to make sure their plans and programs cannot be tested, cannot be assessed, cannot be held accountable.
And they do this while insisting traditional public educators and schools be held to rigid standards of accountability.
For the last hundred and sixty-plus years, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has been elected by Indiana voters. The last two Superintendents (one Democrat and one Republican) have spoken out against education privatization. That was enough for the anti-public education legislature. They decided that they couldn't take a chance any more on the voters choosing someone who might disagree with them, so they changed the law and the new "Secretary of Education" is, along with all but two members of the State Board of Education, appointed by the (also Republican) governor. The other two state board members of appointed by the leaders of the House and Senate (also Republican).
Neither the Indiana Secretary of Education nor any members of the State Board of Education are elected. Apparently, Indiana's legislature doesn't want to give the voters a say in education matters. The state's voucher program, which currently costs the state more than $170 million each year, was instituted in 2011 by the Republican-dominated Indiana General Assembly without the benefit of voter approval.
The following letter from three retired State Superintendents speaks loudly, though the supermajority doesn't really care about what they have to say.
From Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz, and Jennifer McCormick in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.Vouchers undermine education for all kids
In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant money away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana's teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency and well-being...
I disagree with this writer. I don't think that the supermajority hopes "no one notices" what they're doing to education. I think they don't care since they can do whatever they want.
The concept of "common good" is all but gone.
From Robert Stwalley in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
The Republican supermajority in the Indiana General Assembly is attempting to quietly gut public education and hope no one notices...
School choice advocates would have you believe that money should follow the child because this platitude is simple and seems to make sense on the surface. However, this is completely untrue and detrimental to the overall concept of a tuition-free public school system.
Taxes are collected from everyone to support government activities. Public schools are government entities designed to improve society by providing a practical education for the young citizens of tomorrow. Everyone is better off with an educated populace.
If you need more evidence that the Republican majority hates Indiana's public education, here are some more. There's still a chance that the State Senate will reject the increase in vouchers and the development of Education Savings Accounts, but I don't think the odds are very good of that happening. I hope I'm wrong.
Our Opinion: Failing grades for Indiana voucher expansion bills
Viewpoint: Three bills would do harm to public schools, Indiana's economy
Lawmakers need to choose schools over 'school choice'
An Opposition Letter from Public School Supporters to Members of the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Holcomb
Thursday, February 18, 2021
The Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1005 which calls for increases in funding for voucher accepting parochial and private schools. Public schools get the leftovers.
Article 8 Section 1
Public schools are a Constitutional mandate in Indiana. Sending tax money to private schools is not, even if the money is laundered through the parents (parents designate a school and the state sends the school the money). The Indiana Constitution says...
Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
2021 VOUCHER EXPANSION PASSES THE HOUSE
'Hoosiers all lose': Former state superintendents come out against voucher expansion
Parochial and private schools in Indiana are not "open to all" as mandated by the Constitution. Yet the House of Representatives continues to divert more and more tax money away from public schools into the pockets of religious institutions (which is against the state Constitution -- see Article 1, Section 6) and private school operators.
This year, the House members will boast that they passed a huge increase for education, though they won't say that more than 1/3 of the increase went to schools serving fewer than 5% of the state's students.
While the fiscal analysis on House Bill 1005, one of the bills objected to by Reed Goddard and the other former superintendents, estimated its cost at $66 million, a new projection of education expenditures over the next two years puts the cost of those programs much higher – closer to $144 million over the two years of the proposed budget. The expansion of these publicly-funded private school programs, which educate fewer than 5% of Hoosier students, would receive more than one-third of the new K-12 education dollars in the House budget.
In their letter, the superintendents argue that HB1005 and similar proposals from the Senate (in Senate Bills 412 and 413) would divert significant dollars away from public schools. They also joined a chorus of individuals, including some lawmakers and other public school advocates, worried that the ESA program will open the door for fraud.
“Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated,” the letter said, “and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.”
House passes voucher expansion
The speaker of the Indiana House, Todd Huston, must not be familiar with the Indiana Constitution, which plainly states that the General Assembly is responsible for a "...SYSTEM of common schools..." [emphasis added] not individual students. While Betsy DeVos may agree with his take on privatization, his comments quoted in this article are Constitutionally wrong. According to the Constitution, the Indiana General Assembly does, indeed, fund systems. [emphasis added]
House Bill 1005 would increase the amount of money families can make to be eligible for vouchers and also increase the awards themselves.
And the measure creates new Education Scholarship Accounts in which state money would be deposited for families to choose how they want to educate their children. It is open only to special education students and children of active military.
The cost of the bill is more than $65 million over the biennium.
...House Speaker Todd Huston took to the floor to defend the bill – something he usually doesn't do since he presides over the chamber. He said “we fund students, not systems” and said opposition is just an attack on parents.
“Who's accountable? Families,” Huston said.
Leaky bucket: legislature diverts K-12 tuition support funding from public schools
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education posted an infographic (pdf version here) showing how money for parochial and private schools is drained from tax funds meant for public schools. Among the points on the infographic...
The more legislators siphon away money for pet projects, that’s less for public schools and teacher pay...
99% of the taxpayer money [for vouchers] goes to religious schools that can (and many do) discriminate...
They can choose to exclude any students for any reason, or for no reason at all...
PUBLICLY FUNDED DISCRIMINATION
David Berliner on the Travesty of Public Funds for Religious Schools
David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, understands why public tax dollars should not go to parochial schools.
- They aren't required to accept all students. Instead of students choosing private or parochial schools, the schools choose which students they will accept.
- They don't have to follow the same curriculum as public schools and can teach questionable topics.
- Indiana parochial and private schools aren't accountable to the state for the money they receive.
- They drain tax dollars from public school systems.
...So, despite the receipt of public money, the Fayetteville Christian School is really not open to the public at all! This school says, up front and clearly, that it doesn’t want and will not accept Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others. Further, although supported by public money, it will expel students for their family’s alleged “sins”. Is papa smoking pot? Expelled! Does your sibling have a homosexual relationship? Out! Has mama filed for divorce? You are gone! The admissions and dismissal policies of this school–receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year–are scandalous. I’d not give them a penny! North Carolina legislators, and the public who elects them should all be embarrassed to ever say they are upholders of American democracy. They are not.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Now that I have established my mansplaining credentials, I'd like to comment on a thread I read on Twitter this morning. The thread consisted of women giving examples of someone like me mansplaining something that they already knew.
I must admit...while reading the thread I felt the urge to add my own tweet explaining how Twitter threads work...
...but I digress.
A FLASH OF INSIGHT
The thread that I read included a tweet from Dr. Jessica McCarty, whose Miami University (Ohio) bio reads,
Dr. McCarty has a PhD in Geography from University of Maryland at College Park. Expertise in remote sensing, GIS, data mining, natural resources, agricultural & food security, land-use/land-cover change, fire, air quality, GHG emissions, black carbon, climate, app development, and UAVs. She is a PI and/or Co-I on NASA, EPA, NSF, USDA, and UN projects that focus on using remote sensing of food security, fire, emissions, & air quality. She has presented at NASA, AGU, IIASA , WMO & UN meetings.I have no idea what most of that bio means, so I'll assume that Dr. McCarty is a fully qualified professional. Her tweet about mansplaining...
Dr. Jessica McCarty (@jmccarty_geo)At that point, I had a blinding flash of insight...
At a NASA Earth meeting 10 years ago, a white male post doc interrupted me to tell me that I didn’t understand human drivers of fire, that I def needed to read McCarty et al.
Looked him in the eye, pulled my long hair back so he could read my name tag. “I’m McCarty et al.”
For the last few decades, politicians in the U.S. (mostly male) have been mansplaining education to American teachers (mostly female).
Think of politicians as the "white male post doc" and think of teachers as Dr. McCarty. For years they've been telling us "what's wrong with education" and "how to fix education" but the teachers are the real experts.
Let's see some examples...first, George W. Bush's "signature" education policy, No Child Left Behind.
Were there any teachers, anywhere in the country, who believed that it was possible to have all students score "proficient" on standardized tests within a dozen years?
Of course not. The politicians who wrote NCLB had absolutely no clue what proficient actually means. Nor did they realize that standardized testing was an excellent method of determining a student's family income, but not much else.
And then we had Race to the Top. Not to be outdone, the Democratic designed education plan begun eight years later included evaluating teachers using student test scores. Were there teachers anywhere in the country who didn't understand that those teachers who taught in wealthy schools would get better "evaluations" than teachers who taught in high-poverty schools?
Once again, the answer is no. Politicians didn't notice that "good" teachers (by their definition) seemed to congregate at schools with children from wealthy families while poor kids always seemed to have the "bad" teachers. They didn't understand that correlation is not causation. They didn't understand that there are out-of-school factors that have an impact on a child's school achievement and that test scores do not define quality schools or quality teachers. David Berliner explained this well in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. American schools are set up to reward students who come from wealthy families.
THE STATUS OF TEACHERS
By now it should be no secret why teachers are "mansplained" about education -- aka treated with less respect than other professionals. Teaching is still seen as "women's work" and those who hold control of the funding in education are mostly men.
In a field so dominated by women, it's not surprising that, in our patriarchal society, teachers are devalued and disrespected. Women still earn less than men. Women still have trouble reaching the highest levels of societal status (outliers notwithstanding). And women are still objectified in popular culture.Now, the next time you hear a politician talk to a teacher or a group of teachers (or the general public) about "...what's wrong with education in this country" you'll know what's really going on.
Money and status are still the most reliable paths to respect in our culture. The relatively low pay of the teaching profession and the fact that women make up the majority of educators, tends to lower the status of other teaching when compared to other professions.
In societies where education is more successful teachers are paid more and afforded higher status.
And to my former colleagues (mostly female)...Thanks for reading. I really needed to explain this.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
provide children who attend failing schools grants to attend a school of choice." At that time, the state provided tuition help for low-income students to attend religious schools (it's actually "private" schools, but nearly all are religious). Families earning more than $60,000 were not included. The inflation rate over the last ten years has been about 16% so that $60,000 cap would be about $70,000 today. The General Assembly, however, wants to double that and the Indiana House will vote on the bill tomorrow (February 15).
We've spent more than half a billion dollars on vouchers since 2011. Has it helped poor students? Has it improved learning? Has it improved public schools as voucher proponents claimed it would? The state has yet to evaluate the program for anything other than political contributions. As with other voucher programs around the country, the voters have never directly chosen to spend all that money.
In 2011 the goal of the voucher program was to help poor students "escape" from "failing" [read: high-poverty] schools. Now the program goal is to provide "choice" for private and religious schools to accept middle-class families who would have sent their kids to their schools anyway.
The money for vouchers comes from the state's education budget, so the voucher students in one county are draining away public funds that could be used for public school students in other counties around the state. The money also goes to mostly religious schools despite the state constitution prohibition (Article 1, Section 6). How does that pass legal muster? The state Supreme Court agreed to allow the state to launder the money through parents. Parents choose the voucher recipient (assuming that the school accepts their child, of course), and the state sends the cash directly to the school -- state funds, directly from tax dollars to religious schools. It doesn't matter if the school discriminates against certain students, hires unqualified teachers, or teaches religious doctrine as scientific fact.
Meanwhile, funds for high poverty public schools are being capped, public school teacher salaries are ignored again, and charter schools are also getting a budget boost.
How does this keep happening? The Indiana electorate, including the parents and caretakers of the 90% of students who attend public schools, continue to vote for people who hate public schools.
Betsy would be proud.
Bill lavishes more money on favored private schools
Freshman state lawmaker Jake Teshka was incredulous. He had just listened to the president of the Indiana School Board Association criticize a sweeping expansion of the school voucher program as benefiting wealthy families.
“Do you believe, that in 2021, $140,000 in a family of four is considered wealthy?” the South Bend Republican asked Robert Stwalley during Feb. 3 testimony on House Bill 1005.
“I would certainly consider it to be wealthier than the original program was designed – for the low income. Absolutely,” the Purdue University engineering professor replied. “For a family of five, that brings you up to $160,000 a year in income. That's pretty wealthy, sir.”
Median household income in Indiana is $57,603, according to census data. For a family of four, it is $90,654.
Teshka isn't the only House Republican out of touch with Hoosier families. His colleagues on the House Education Committee, as well as all Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, voted unanimously to support HB 1005. The bill goes to the full House on Monday, where the super-majority caucus appears dead set on removing already-generous income limits on vouchers and adding education savings accounts, a costly program with an extensive record of abuse in other states.
Hoosiers should demand to know the justification for handing millions in tax dollars to high-income households and private and parochial schools. How many more ways can GOP lawmakers find to take money from the schools serving 90% of Indiana's students, including the neediest?
Friday, February 5, 2021
|"OPEN THIS SCHOOL!"|
I feel like we're living in an Idiocracy.
Wisconsin's Republican legislature is fighting the mask mandate ordered by the Democratic governor...because, of course they are.
Wisconsin's Legislature repealed Gov. Tony Evers' mask mandate. He issued a new one.
Fearing more deaths statewide, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers reissued a mask mandate Thursday, standing up to a Republican Legislature that had repealed his previous mask order earlier in the day.Experts, i.e. those who are educated and actually know things, understand that masks, along with other mitigation measures, help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (See here, here, and here. The idiocrats in the Wisconsin legislature aren't experts.
"We know that wearing face coverings can save lives and prevent death. We know it's supported by science," Evers, a Democrat, said in a two-minute video.
He said repealing his previous mandate to wear face coverings in public places put at risk about $50 million a month in federal funds to help hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents.
...BUT MASKS ARE NOT ENOUGH FOR SCHOOLS TO OPEN
So what do experts say about opening schools during a pandemic? Teachers are worried about their own safety, as well as the safety of their students, co-workers, and families. Some teachers are refusing to return to school until they can get vaccinated. In Indiana, the governor has decided to forego vaccinations for teachers even though the CDC recommended that teachers be vaccinated at the same time as other "essential" workers. Our governor is not alone. Others are saying that teachers should just go back to work and quit whining.
So, do teachers need to be vaccinated before schools can open?
If you have seen or read any news recently, you might think that the new director of the CDC believes they don't.
CDC director says schools can safely reopen without vaccinating teachers
Teachers do not need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 before schools can safely reopen, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.This is the extent of the reporting that most folks see on Facebook, cable news stations, or the headline in the newspaper. The article above even has "Key Points" of the article bulleted at the top which further discourage readers from reading any further...
“There is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House news briefing on Covid-19.
“Vaccinations of teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools,” she added.
Notice what's left out of the "Key Points." There isn't anything about what needs to be done before schools can open other than teachers have been worried, and they don't need to be vaccinated.
If you keep reading, however, you get to this paragraph...
A study from the CDC published late last month found little evidence of the virus spreading at schools in the U.S. and abroad when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.Did you see that?
...when precautions were taken, such as wearing masks, social distancing and ventilating rooms.In Indiana, our idiocratic governor, aside from postponing teachers vaccinations, now says that students and staff only need to keep a "social" distance of three feet instead of six. And now that there are more contagious variants of the disease, the governor, in his (lack of) wisdom has decided that schools are...
...no longer required to quarantine if someone is exposed in the classroom, if they kept three feet socially distant and wore a mask.According to the CDC, social distancing is still six feet. Even if it wasn't, how am I going to fit 25 (or 30 or 35) kids in my classroom and keep them even three feet apart?
PROVIDE AND EMPHASIZE MORE INFORMATION
Since many citizens in our idiocracy (including some legislators and, apparently, our governor) don't necessarily read entire articles, or only get their news in small bites from the TV, more information about what schools need to open must be emphasized! The director of the CDC should emphasize that teachers don't need to get a vaccine before schools open if and only if...
1. all staff members and students have masksIf a school can't do those things, and if the state or federal governments can't provide funds to allow them to do those things, then it's not safe for schools to open.
2. strict social distancing (of six feet) is followed and
3. school buildings and classrooms are properly ventilated
Think about the special education teacher or special education paraprofessional who can't social distance from their high-need students, whose students have trouble keeping masks on, and are working in an old school building with poor ventilation. It's February. Opening windows is not an option in some parts of the country.
Think about the preschool teacher who has a room full of two, three, or four year olds. Can she keep a social distance between them? Can she make sure that they all keep their masks on? How about snack or lunch time? How about diaper changes? What if the classroom is in an old building with poor ventilation?
Not every educational group or age group of students are able to follow the guidelines from the CDC. Not all school buildings are equiped to keep students socially distanced or to provide adequate ventilation.
When someone makes a blanket statement that "it's ok to open school buildings even if teachers aren't vaccinated"...
...it sounds like an idiocracy to me.
You might also like this post by Nancy Flanagan.
The 12 Point Covid-19 DISCONNECT Between Teachers and Those Who Want Schools Open Now!