SEPTEMBER 14, 2006
I started this blog while I was still teaching, in 2006. I had just begun my 31st year as an educator.
Just like in previous years, however, I was stressed out and irritated about the standardized testing situation in Indiana. I needed to vent.
This was a place where I could express my frustration about the condition of public education in Indiana and the US. I didn’t care who read it…if anyone. I just wanted to put my thoughts down and complain. I suppose I should have titled the blog “The Complaint Department” or something like that since that’s what it mostly consisted (and consists) of...complaints about how public education, and education in general, is treated in the US.
I focused the blog on testing. 2006 was in the middle of the “No Child Left Behind” unpleasantness when schools were labeled good if they catered to wealthy, upper-middle, or middle-class students and bad if they were filled with children living in poverty. This is simply because, then as now, test scores mirror a family's economic status. Rich kids, with educated parents and well-staffed and well-supplied schools score high. Poor kids, with parents who work two or three minimum-wage jobs and understaffed and underfunded schools score low. Adding injury to insult, NCLB made punishment of the so-called bad schools part of the plan.
BAD TO WORSE
Things have gone from bad to worse in the last seventeen years. I’ve complained less, only because I’ve written less due to personal health problems (only 10 posts in 2022 and just one this year).
Testing is still misused and overused. The NAEP is regularly misinterpreted by folks who know nothing about education and testing and who conflate the terms “proficiency” and “grade level.” States still force schools to test for ranking purposes...in ignorance of the real purposes of educational testing.
Politicians, Indiana's included, still use every excuse to whine about the sad state of our public schools, how awful teachers (and their unions) are, and how our children are being shortchanged. All that public school bashing has led to a crisis of teacher shortages around the country. It turns out that it's hard to convince young people to enter a profession where they are insulted, their expertise questioned by people who don't know anything about education, underpaid, overworked, called names like "groomer," and blamed for all the ills of society.
Never mind that those same politicians are the main cause of most of the problems facing our public schools.
Never mind that the growth of vouchers and charters has sucked funding from real public schools.
Never mind that money is still inequitably spent so that the rich get richer and the poor still don't get enough.
Testing is still a problem. Teachers and schools are still judged by their test scores despite the fact that poverty is the real problem.
Vouchers and charter schools drain money from public schools at increasing rates despite the fact that their test scores also reflect the income of their students’ families.
Teachers are still undervalued and underpaid. My anecdotal reasons for this are 1) teaching is a predominantly female career and women don't get paid as well as men and 2) because we, as a nation, talk a good game but we really just don't give a damn about our children and their future.
It's almost like they (politicians, pundits, and privatizers) want to destroy public education...
I still regularly badger my local representatives about public education, but, being Republicans, they either are too afraid of their leadership to speak out in favor of public schools or, as I suspect is true, don’t really care about public schools. In their mind it’s “socialism” and we can’t have that, now, can we? I sometimes feel like they don't hear me either. My state representative is (or was, I can't recall) a board member for our local Lutheran schools (voucher recipients -- no conflict of interest there!), and my state senator is a doctor who introduced a bill (currently on hold pending litigation) forbidding parents from providing gender-affirming care for their children. So much for "parental rights."
Physically, I’m doing better so I’ll try to post more (I hope). And I’m not giving up. I’m hopeful that the young people of the nation take charge, insist that schools are fully funded, and insist that teachers are given the credit and pay they deserve.
With any luck, I’ll celebrate the successes of our nation’s support for public education over the next few years. In the meantime here are a couple of good posts to get your blood flowing...
Raising the Bar on Kindergartners: A Nation at Risk Lives On
Kindergarten has never been so high pressured, even after Covid, and it has been this way for years despite little proof children are born with evolved brains requiring faster instruction so they can grow up and beat their peers in other countries.
How must children feel while being made to carry the weight of the future economy, and if they don’t enter first grade learner ready, they could be marked for life!
And corporate remaking of kindergarten thus far, over forty years, with all its pressure, hasn’t produced a good enough child, or adult, for those who still worship A Nation at Risk.
Local Parents, Educators Face ‘Attack’ on Public Schools from Indiana Lawmakers - Limestone Post Magazine in Bloomington, Indiana
Republican legislators came to embrace the concept that state education funding should “follow the student.” If parents sent their child to a public school, a private school, or a privately operated charter school, that’s where the money would go.
This year, they expanded the private-school voucher program to families that make up to 400 percent of the limit for reduced-price school meals, $220,000 for a family of four; and they eliminated pathways that students had to follow to qualify. That makes it essentially a universal program, open to an estimated 97 percent of students.
“I’m excited to see Indiana once again stand behind our Hoosier families who want the ability to choose the best school that meets their child’s needs regardless of their zip code,” House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said in a news release. “We’re now on our way to having the best school choice program in the country.”
As students leave public schools for private schools, however, state funding follows, leaving public schools with fewer resources. Instead of the “general and uniform system of common schools” prescribed by the state constitution, Indiana now funds three K-12 systems: traditional public schools; over 100 charter schools, most of them privately operated; and private schools that rely on vouchers.