"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, January 8, 2021

2021 Medley #1: Bye, Bye Betsy and other stories

DeVos Resigns, End wasteful testing,
COVID and education, Choice for schools,
Blaming teachers, The "Science of Reading"

Betsy DeVos Resigns

I was ready to publish the rest of the articles in this post on Wednesday, but I got sidetracked by the horrible events in Washington D.C. Since then I have paused, while I figured out what I wanted to say. Then, last night, Betsy DeVos resigned...

I am against nearly everything DeVos has done during her term as Secretary. She has pushed her agenda of privatization and has rejected pleas to support students overwhelmed by debt. She has ignored racist education policies and neglected the students who need the most help. She hates public education and public educators. I doubt that she cares much for public school students, either. She was never qualified for her job. She never attended a public school. She never worked in a public school. She never sent her children to a public school. She's an elitist billionaire who cares only about what she can control with her money.

I'm sure she will now return to private life and continue to wreak havoc on public education by buying legislators and using her billions to support private, religious education.

There are a lot of articles discussing DeVos's resignation -- the nation's worst Secretary of Education appointed by the worst President. Mitchell Robinson verbalizes how I feel about her. After all the terrible things her boss has done over the last four years, she has finally had enough, apparently...
I wish I could find more satisfaction in something I’ve hoped would happen for 4 years.

But as usual, Ms. DeVos did the absolute least she could do (resign), well past the time when it could have made a difference (with 13 days left in her lamest of all duck terms), and is probably only doing it to avoid doing something she doesn’t want to do (invoke the 25th Amendment).

DeVos resigned, allegedly, because her boss’ insurrection attempt was an “inflection point” she simply couldn’t ignore.


The Tests Are Lousy, So How Could the Scores Be Meaningful?

If anything good can come out of the devastating pandemic still terrorizing the nation, then it's that there is absolutely no reason to continue our overuse and misuse of standardized tests. Alfie Kohn pens another excellent, thought-provoking piece...
Standardized tests are so poorly constructed that low scores are nothing to be ashamed of — and, just as important, high scores are nothing to be proud of. The fact that an evaluation is numerical and the scoring is done by a computer doesn’t make the result “objective” or scientific. Nor should it privilege those results over a teacher’s first-hand, up-close knowledge of which students are flourishing and which are struggling.

Sadly, though, some educators have indeed come to trust test scores more than their own judgment. One hears about parents who ask a teacher about problems their child is having in school, only to have the teacher reach into a desk and fish out the student’s test results. Somewhere along the way such teachers have come to discount their own impressions of students, formed and reformed through months of observation and interaction. Instead, they defer to the results of a one-shot, high-pressure, machine-scored exam, attributing almost magical properties to the official numbers even when they know those exams are terrible.


COVID and Schools: The Data and Science Then and Now

The conventional wisdom is that it's safe to send kids back to school. The need for students to be in face-to-face school situations is so important that we should not worry about adults in the building and their susceptibility to COVID, but send the kids so they can get an education (Note: this is often said by the same people who lobby for online charter schools!).

It turns out that the conventional wisdom is wrong. Schools are not always the safest place for kids or adults.
...internationally, they have already figured out in the public consciousness that schools are platforms for superspreading. It is very clear that Covid has taken advantage of some of American’s most challenging traits— denial and hubris— in the debate about reopening schools.

So what does the national data reported in early December by US News tell us about the situation with communities, schools, and Covid?
  • Their analysis of their national data shows that the high school student case rate (13 per 1,000 students enrolled for in-person classes) is nearly three times that of elementary school students (4.4 per 1,000).
  • They observed that the higher the community case rate, the higher the school district case rate...


Can charter schools pick the best students? No, but many believe the myth.

Jay Matthews, the reformist Washington Post education writer without any educational training, writes this article about how it's not true that charters can pick and choose their students...and then proceeds to tell us how charter schools pick and choose their students.
So it’s wrong to say that charters are allowed to pick whatever students they want. But that’s not to say some of them haven’t skirted those rules.

In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Public Advocates civil rights law firm found that at least 253 of California’s roughly 1,200 charter schools maintained policies that illegally prevented students from enrolling or remaining at their schools.

A school in Hemet, Calif. said that to apply as a sophomore a student “must be earning an ‘A’ or ‘B’ in both Geometry and Biology.” A school in Redlands said “only students who show steady academic progress . . . will be eligible for enrollment.” Within a few months of the report’s publication, more than 100 charter schools contacted the authors to say they were correcting their policies to get off the bad list...


The New York Times Adds One Plus One And Gets Three

When the pandemic hit and schools closed, teachers were lauded for their heroism...changing their entire jobs overnight and taking care of their students online. As the public has tired of the pandemic, however, the inconvenience of not having all schools open -- despite the danger to those who work in education -- has opened teachers up for derision. The very fact of teachers as essential workers has given many the opportunity to blame teachers for inconveniencing their lives.

Peter Greene, in the following two posts, explains some things about education and teaching...
...what the heck do people think teachers do every fall? Seriously. Do they imagine that teachers just assume that all their new students know X, Y and Z because it's in the curriculum. Do folks imagine that teachers spend the weeks before school poring over BS Test results to learn where their students are? Because, no-- mostly the test results aren't available yet and because teachers are forbidden to see the actual question, all they get is the test manufacturer's "analysis" of the results, which is mostly hugely broad and unhelpful.

No, in the fall, teachers use a large array of formal and informal assessments to figure out student's individual weaknesses and strengths. Teachers do this daily, and then they keep doing it all year. This remains one of the great, silly fictions of the BS Test--that the results are useful to teachers who would be lost without them. In reality, the BS Test is like a guy who shows up at the office of a general who is commanding thousands of troops on dozens of fronts and this guy--this guy shows up with a pop gun and announces, "I am here to win this war for you."

Another Round Of Teacher Bashing
The level of bash, of demeaning insult, in this "selfish teachers close our schools" argument is huge. Because there are only a couple of possible explanations for the picture critics like FEE [Foundation for Economic Education] paint:

Teachers are stupid people who don't understand the settled science.

Teachers are stupid and also lazy people who went into teaching hoping they would have to never actually work and the pandemic shut-downs are their idea of a gift from God, and they want to stretch out this paid vacation for as long as possible.

Teachers are big fat liars who are pretending not to understand the settled science so they can milk the taxpayers while providing nothing in return.

Teachers should be martyrs who want to give up their entire lives for their students, and if they don't want to do that (or, incidentally, want to be well-paid for it), they're lousy teachers and terrible human beings.

Note that all of these include the assumption that distance learning is a big fat vacation. Also, people who chose teaching as their life's work don't actually want to teach. Also, as FEE makes explicit, teachers do not have students' interests at heart. They don't care about the kids at all (which adds to the assumption of their stupidity, because if you don't care about children, teaching seems like a pretty dumb career choice, but hey--maybe you became a teacher because you couldn't manage a real job).


The Critical Story of the “Science of Reading” and Why Its Narrow Plotline Is Putting Our Children and Schools at Risk

Last one for today, an essential article for teachers of reading and literacy.
#1. Hijacking Terminology
Words have power. The term science connotes credibility, but it also represents evolution and diversity. The “science of reading” has stripped away the dynamic interplay of experiences that grow a child into a reader and a writer and centered the literacy process solely atop phonics. This narrow plotline disregards the impact of writing, comprehension, culture, play, mentor texts, family, and the power of a teacher-researcher to individualize instruction...

#2. Reframing the National Reading Panel...

#3. Attacks on Higher Education and the Problems with NCTQ...

#4. “The Sky Is Falling” atop Declining NAEP Scores...

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