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Sunday, August 30, 2015

No Miracle in New Orleans Schools...

Our hearts and minds are with the people of New Orleans on this 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Please take a few minutes to watch these videos that show what most news stories have conveniently left out of their coverage. The people of NOLA want us to know that school choice is short on choice.

These are short, MUST SEE videos. First watch this video on the illegal takeover of NOLA schools.

Then watch this one about the illusion of school choice.

 Education does not work well under a business model. Every family and every child deserves neighborhood schools that work together with their community and an locally elected school board of residents.

So many suburban families feel terribly for our urban neighbors who are struggling with the destruction of their public schools... but we must speak out for our neighbors now. Think about the spending per student in your district and imagine how corporate investors would love to pocket your public school tax dollars. I blogged here about how suburban districts are the new target for privatization. They will study our demographics and offer us schools that sound too good to be true - because they are. We must pay attention to the history of public school takeovers and the myth of school choice. History always repeats itself, unless we learn.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Former Teacher, Current Congressman Speaks out on Education

 There is at least one, single congressman who sees the truth in education politics. 

 He states,  "... even progressive Democrats fall for 'accountability,' over-testing and phony education 'reform.'" 

Thank you, U.S. Representative, Mark Takano (CA).
(All emphasis below is mine.)

 Takano gives the following example as why test and punish goes against logic: "Remember when you were in kindergarten and your teacher gave you a biology lesson on plants by planting carrots to watch them grow? As little kids, we would be anxious to see whether there was any progress in how our plants were growing, so we would make the mistake of pulling the plant out of the soil to see if the roots were growing. That’s what test-driven accountability is like, constantly pulling the plant out to see if the roots are growing." 

"Keeping class size small is also important. There’s something that happens when you go over 25 students. It changes the dynamics and becomes way more stressful."

"Let’s also slow down before we quasi-privatize with charter schools. As far as I can tell, charters actually become more opaque in terms of what they’ re doing. They become less accountable. I’d rather keep schools under the model of the local school board with a lot of transparency of how money gets spent... "

"Teaching is a lot harder than being in Congress. The teachers who I’ve seen who are really good — and I wouldn’t rate myself as an exceptional teacher, I would rate myself as middling — they’ve answered a calling in some way. They’ve found their place in the world. So I get really angry when I hear people say we need to cash out the teacher pensions and pay a lot more money up front to lure smarter people into the profession. That’s just another scheme."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Major Education Journal Sold its Soul...

"Many teachers and administrators still trust the education journal, Education Week. It has a handful of truth and a ton of bad ideas. Guess why...? 'Education Week long ago stopped being an independent news source, having sold its editorial soul to its funders. They will tell you otherwise but in letting funders like Gates, Broad, Cooke, and Walton, among others determine the types of stories covered (generally tech, testing, and charters), EdWeek has allowed itself to be used as a promotion vehicle for these organizations’ “corporate-reform”, profit-centered agenda and systematically disregarded stories without specific funding streams that might otherwise be covered.'" PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH ALL SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS, SUPERINTENDENTS, PRINCIPALS & TEACHERS."
-Parents Across America Suburban Philadelphia Facebook Post, 8/18/15

Read more here

Monday, August 17, 2015

Whom Do You Trust with Your Child? Teachers or Business investors?

In this post, the issue of trust is brought to the forefront of the education discussion. Interestingly, this Gallop Poll ranks teachers near the top of the trusted list and politicians and lobbyists (and car salespeople)  near the bottom. 

Why then, are so many teachers feeling demoralized and dehumanized?

Newsweek covers the issue of teacher morale here. Surprisingly, they are on pointe with a number of reasons why your children's teachers may not feel like they used to:

"Over the past few decades, teacher professionalism and morale declined as education was turned into a market with a push for high stakes testing and centralized control of education."

"Since the beginning of the latest rounds of education reform in the early 2000s,  billions of dollars have been spent at the local, state and national levels on programs such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and Common Core."

Chris Christy lets loose on a teacher... again.

"Supported by a wide variety of “reformist” groups, which include foundations, consulting firms, charter school and voucher advocates, neoliberal think tanks, and teacher bashing politicians of both political parties, education reforms ended up making way for privatization, charter schools or voucher systems."

"As a result teachers no longer control the curriculum as they should. This vacuum has been filled by a host of commercial companies that have developed products to be used both inside and outside the classroom. They range from Professional Learning Communities, Competency based education, Smart Boards, Khan Academy, Flipped Classrooms and Personalized Learning to name but a few on a very long list. Teachers in school have seen a variety of such ‘edu-fashions’ in the form of reforms, flicker and fade."

"Despite this there is little evidence to show that any of this has worked, even by the reformers' criteria for success in testing and evaluation methods such as,  “valued added measures” and standardized tests scores. In fact, years of these “disruptive innovations” have resulted in a situation today of poor job satisfaction for teachers."

So, whom do you trust with your child? Teachers or  business investors?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Two truths and a lie.

Federal and state officials are fond of using our children to create data. In this post is a quote from an article, with an interesting claim:
"A large number of students opting out of New York state exams – about 220,000 or 20 percent – raises doubt about the validity of the results and may make them unsuitable to evaluate teachers or schools, according to a Syracuse University professor."

Well-respected New Orleans author, statistician and teacher, Mercedes Schneider,
has spent years studying the data and the attack on public education.
Schneider states emphatically,

"... under no conditions is it a valid use of student test scores to evaluate teachers or schools."

 Wait, what? The ranking of schools and firing of teachers was never valid?!

In the news this week is a lawsuit by a well-respected and beloved teacher in the high achieving, Great Neck, NY School District. This decision will be crucial for public school students, parents, and their harried teachers. Yes, Pennsylvania is using the same questionable statistical model (Called VAM). Here is the Florida VAM formula:

y_i=μ+∑_(g=1)^M▒〖δ_g x_g 〗+∑_(j=1)^K▒〖β_j x_j+θ_(k)i+ω_(mk)i+ε_i; 〗

Mathematicians, please feel free to comment.

It is concerning that we were misled about the purpose of high stakes standardized tests, like PSSA's.
Schneider reiterates the truth: "...this nonsense of grading teachers and schools using student scores was never a valid use of student tests."

So why should our kids take them?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shortest & most obvious post yet.

Civil rights attorney, Wendy Lecker, has a unique idea in education...

"Want to know how a student is doing? Ask a teacher."

(All emphasis below is mine.)

"Parents have relied on teachers’ assessments to gauge their children’s progress and most have pretty much ignored their children’s standardized test scores. For decades, this approach has served parents and students well. Recent research shows that non-standardized, human assessments of student learning are superior to standardized tests of all kinds.

Lecker has, "...written about the voluminous evidence showing that a high school GPA is the best predictor of college success, and that the SAT and ACT, by contrast, are poor predictors." 

She continues, "If politicians really want to understand how to prepare our children for college, maybe they should try a new — for them- approach and consult experts with a great track record of knowing what makes kids college-ready. Maybe they should ask some teachers.

Thank you, Wendy Lecker!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Human Relationships Matter Most in Education.

 Diane Ravitch recently shared this common sense post. She states, "I don’t know why we have to keep rediscovering the wheel in education. I guess it’s because the reformers keep imposing bad ideas that teachers know will not work and that violate their professional ethics that it becomes necessary to repeat again and again what used to be common knowledge... Big data can’t take the place of a caring teacher."

As parents, grandparents, and community members, we must strive to keep the focus in our schools on the human relationships. Kids work hard when they are in creative, hands-on, appropriately challenging classrooms run by inspirational and caring teachers.

This summer, my 16 year-old daughter did something I would not have done when I was a kid. She signed up for a neuro psych class held at American University. She had an amazing, caring, and encouraging freshman biology teacher in high school (Thanks, Ms. Schroeck!). Now she has spent the past week dissecting a cow's eye, a sheep brain, and seeing what can be learned from a cadaver. Yes, a cadaver. All of this, along with lectures, field trips, and lots of note taking for NO GRADE. When people are interested in learning, we do not need carrots and sticks to work hard. That, of course, is called intrinsic motivation. And when kids have some choice in what they do, it goes up - way up. It is teachers who plan and deliver this kind of instruction and get kids motivated to go outside their comfort zones.

We must all remember that teachers are not mere human resources. They are the essential link to learning, and the skills it takes to get children excited about learning are immeasurable.

I recently pondered the common usage of the terms "good" or "bad" teacher. I now realize that a teacher I remember as "bad," was an inspiration to another student. The truth is, that teacher just may not have been a match for me. We all can think of a doctor we respect, but who is lacking bedside manner, or a lawyer who knows the law inside out, but only comes to life in court.

It is time to ignore the politically fueled teacher bashing in our country.  We know that the reason we hold our breath waiting for our kids to come home from the first day of school is because we are hoping they have teachers who are a good match for them. When our kids get those teachers we sleep easier.  Knowing that our children will feel safe and comfortable in school, so their minds can start to imagine and enjoy the true pleasures of learning is PRICELESS.