Vouchers, Testing, and Reading
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.