Monday, November 12, 2018

Saving Public Education

“…Good teachers are leaving. States won’t fix the reasons why teachers are leaving. Good teachers are being replaced by inexperienced and/or underqualified teachers. And (eventually) our children will be taught by these teachers. We should all be very, very worried about this. In fact, I wanted to make the title of this article ‘Nine Things Teachers Need if We Don’t Want a Dystopian Future in Which America’s Children Are a Pack of Raging, Illiterate Wildlings,’ but my editor said it was too long. This is what teachers need if we want to save public education.
1. A living wage and competitive health care.
“Since so few people are willing to teach under the current conditions, every state in the US is currently experiencing a teacher shortage. States are responding to these shortages not by improving conditions for teachers but often by lowering the qualifications to become a teacher. I don’t know how I can say this any more clearly: We will no longer have talented teachers if we do not take steps to make teaching an attractive profession. Period. Read ‘How Close Are Teachers to Receiving Poverty Benefits?’

2. Smaller class sizes. 
“In addition to challenges with discipline, behavior, and building relationships, large classes force teachers to deliver less effective instruction. A student in a class of 35 will not receive the same quality of education as a student in a class of 20. However, it’s important to know that smaller class sizes cannot be a solution in itself. If we don’t take steps to make teaching an attractive profession, the educators coming in to teach those small classes won’t have the experience they need.

3. Shared accountability with parents and students.
“In the past several decades, what used to be a shared accountability between teachers, parents, and students has now shifted—largely thanks to education reform based on the whims of legislators instead of actual research—to an expectation that the teacher alone should deliver results. Borrowing wording from Professor Jason Read, teachers have become ‘the solution, scapegoat, and sacrificial lamb rolled into one.’ I’m not suggesting we head back to a time when teachers were the unquestionable authority. I’m saying that we can’t do this alone. We need parents to support us in and out of the classroom by following up with homework, discipline, and in modeling—especially in their conversations at home about school and teachers—that education matters.
4. Support and respect from the public. 
“There’s an old proverb I teach to my students every year: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.’ In the same way, we will only fix the problems in education if people decide to do what’s right for education even if:
§  They no longer have (or never had) kids in public schools.
§  They feel they aren’t connected to education (they are, but that’s another article).
§  For some reason they harbor a bizarre, decades-long resentment of teachers and troll Facebook posts about education with their misspelled outrage.
5. Lawmakers who treat education as seriously as security.
“Because in so many ways, education IS security. A country that cannot think is just as dangerous as a country that cannot defend itself.
6. For people in education reform to actually listen to teachers.

“Longer recess. More arts education. Play-based learning. All of these are better for kids and their academic and developmental growth. We know this from research. And yet those in positions of power continue to impose limits on them or cut them completely.
7. Highly qualified administrators.
“A school is only as good as its leadership. I once transferred to a school in a new district that was pretty much identical to the school I was leaving—Title I middle school, identical population breakdowns, similar facilities and resources—but the experience was like night and day. What was the difference? The leaders in my new school were really, really good at their jobs. We have to demand that our administrators have more than two years of experience teaching and a state license.

8. School facilities that reflect that the people within them actually matter. 
“School buildings are often outdated and full of hazards, including but not limited to: black mold, broken windows, entrances left unsecured, cracked tile and flooring, missing ceiling tiles, broken hand rails on stairs, classrooms designed for 20–25 students that house 35, plants growing out of the gutters on the roof, leaks bursting from paint bubbles in ceilings, etc. Note: This is a short, incomplete list.
9. Counselors.
Mental health is a topic that’s been in the news a lot in the past couple of years, particularly as it relates to school shootings. But very few public schools have enough counselors to meet their students’ needs. In fact, the average ratio of counselors to students in schools is 1 to 471 (the recommended is 1 to 250), and many states don’t even require that schools hire mental health professionals. The lack of access is even worse in high schools, where counselors have the added expectation of connecting students with college opportunities. We’ve known that education has been in trouble for years, but the solution is simple: Listen to teachers. Listen to research. Elect people who do so" (We Are Teachers).


10. A Defined-Benefit Pension Plan.

·         Teachers need a guaranteed pension plan. Most teachers do not pay into the Social Security System. A defined-benefit pension plan is more cost efficient than the defined-contribution savings plan (401(k), 403(b), 457).
           A defined-contribution savings plan does not have the pooled investments, professional asset managers, and shared administrative costs that a defined-benefit pension plan provides.

·         A defined-benefit pension plan offers the retiree predictability; it guarantees monthly benefits for life.
·         Funds are invested by professional asset managers in a diversified portfolio that follows long-term investment strategies; the large-pooled assets reduce asset management and miscellaneous fees.  

·         A defined-benefit pension plan provides spousal (survivor) financial benefits and disability benefits.
·         A defined-benefit pension plan is a more effective protection than the defined-contribution savings plan because it provides self-sufficiency in retirement; it is associated with far fewer households that experience food privation, shelter adversity and health care hardship.

·         With a defined-contribution savings plan only contributions are defined.
·         The benefit is based upon individual investment earnings; the employee assumes all funding, investment, inflationary and longevity risks.

Sources: the National Institute on Retirement Security, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

11. Fight Against Vouchers and Charter Schools.

·         Money intended for public schools go to private schools

·         This money is deposited in the bank accounts of private investors

·         Voucher proponents prefer selective admission policies that continue the inequality, stratification, and segregation of students (race, religion, and class or income)

·         Voucher proponents “represent the most reactionary elements of our society”

·         Vouchers are not about “saving children” or “improving education.” It is about destroying public education and making profits

·         Vouchers do not increase “Parental choice and control over tax dollars”

·         “Big money” is financing this campaign

·         Voucher advocates are often referred to as “nonpartisan”

·         Koch Brothers, Eli Broad Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and other corporate education reformers are proponents of vouchers (and charter schools)

·         Private schools have no accountability, especially for children with disabilities 

·         Privatizers do not acknowledge the role of poverty that creates educational disadvantages

·         There are no “reliable data” that prove vouchers and charter schools perform better than public schools; there is evidence to the contrary

·         "We Ask America" poll, commissioned by the Illinois Policy Institute (an organization deeply invested in charter school chains), is questionable

·         There is no separation of church and state in private schools

·         Vouchers have been “declared unconstitutional” in North Carolina; other legal debates continue

·         It has been noted there is “rampant fraud and abuse” in many for-profit voucher programs

·         The latest Gallup Poll (2013) found that “70 percent of Americans oppose the use of public funds for religious or private schools”

·         “The Milwaukee voucher schools have never outperformed the public schools on state tests: Read here and here. The only dispute about test scores is whether voucher students are doing the same or worse than their peers in public schools. Read hereabout some very low-performing schools in Milwaukee that have never been held accountable”

·         “Steve Hinnefeld analyzed Indiana’s growth scores and found that public schools usually showed greater gains than charters or religious schools”

·         “Public school students perform as well as or better than comparable children in private schools” (U.S. Department of Education) Diane Ravitch, Death and Life of the Great American School System)

·         Some charter operators are opened by “hedge-fund managers, for-profit firms, and get-rich-quick schemers” (Diane Ravitch)

·         Some charter schools (of choice) have been under “federal criminal investigation for nepotism, conflicts of interest, and financial mismanagement” (Ravitch)

·         “Enthusiasm for charter schools far outstripped research evidence for their efficacy… Too many promises that are only, at best, weakly supported by evidence” (Ravitch)

            "Rhetoric of many charter school advocates has come to sound uncannily similar to the rhetoric of voucher proponents and of the most rabid haters of public schooling. They often sound as though they want public schools to fail; they want to convert entire districts to charter schools, each with its own curriculum and methods, each with its own private management, all competing for students and public dollars” (Ravitch)

             “The charter movement is now part of the growing privatization of public education and Wall Street sees an emerging market.   Take a look at this piece published last fall on ‘…dozens of bankers, hedge fund types and private equity investors…’ gathered to discuss ‘…investing in for-profit education companies…’ There’s a potential gold rush here. Public education from kindergarten through high school pulls in more than $500 billion in taxpayer revenues every year, and crony capitalists and politicians alike are cashing in…” (Bill Moyers). 

12. Oppose Common Core and Other So-Called Education Reform.

·        Common Core was developed in the private sector with economic and political objectives: “Common Core State Standards will prepare all children to be successful in a competitive global economy”

·         It was imposed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices; the Council of Chief State School Officers; and Achieve, Inc. without proper examination of consequences

·         It is not a grassroots movement

·         It is a proposed “Free Market” solution for problems in education

·         Its chief advocates favor privatization of public education through charter schools, online learning and vouchers

·         It is linked to federal funding

·         It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

·         The Initiative is a bonanza for the education entrepreneurs

·         The Initiative assumes that national assessment and standards will raise achievement, despite the past failures of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top

·         It is an untested “same skills” or “one-size-fits-all” approach to curricula, with a focus on only those skills that can be “tested with pre-packaged tests”

·         It assumes that test scores are related to “earning capacity, productivity or other measures of success in life”

·         It ignores “non-cognitive” skills that are essential for “success in life”

·         It emphasizes “abstract” concepts and arbitrary ratios (for example, the emphasis on teaching “non-fiction”)

·         It assumes that informational texts will help students learn

·         It is a no-choice method, without sufficient research and experienced teachers’ input

·         It ignores the fact that students learn at different rates

·         It ignores the fact that students have different learning styles

·         It ignores the fact that effective classrooms often work in spontaneous and unpredictable situations

·         It undermines the way children learn

·         It de-emphasizes playtime for kindergarten children

·         It promises that prescribed standards will make students “college ready”

·         It creates wasted hours of test preparation in classrooms

·         It creates a punitive high-stakes testing methodology tied to teacher evaluation and without adequate preparation and professional development for teachers
·         It will set up students, teachers and schools for failure and blame; thus, it will promote the reform agenda for the privatization of public education 

·         Common Core does not address the significant societal problems such as poverty, dysfunctional families, parental unemployment, gangs and illicit drugs: the issues that cause “marginalized” students to fail continuously.

-Glen Brown


  1. “...In the midst of what can only be viewed as a blow against democracy, right-wing Republicans produce slash-and-burn policies that translate into poisonous austerity measures for public schools and higher education. As Jane Mayer points out in Dark Money, the Koch brothers and their billionaire allies want to abolish the minimum wage, privatize schools, eliminate the welfare state, pollute the planet at will, break unions and promote policies that result in the needless deaths of millions who lack adequate health care, jobs and other essentials.

    “Public goods such as schools, according to these politicians and corporate lobbyists, are financial investments, viewed as business opportunities. For the billionaires who are the anti-reformers, teachers, students and unions simply get in the way and must be disciplined.

    “Public schools and higher education are ‘dangerous’ because they hold the potential to serve as laboratories for democracy where students learn to think critically. Teachers are threatening because they refuse to conflate education with training or treat schools as if they were car dealerships. Many educators have made it clear that they regard teaching for the test and defining accountability only in numerical terms as acts that dull the mind and kill the spirit of students.

    “Such repressive requirements undermine the ability of teachers to be creative, engage with the communities in which they work and teach in order to make knowledge critical and transformative. The claim that we have too many bad teachers is too often a ruse to hide bad policies and to unleash assaults on public schools by corporate-driven ideologues and hedge fund managers who view schools strictly as investment opportunities for big profits.

    “We need to praise teachers, hold them to high standards, pay them the salaries they deserve, give them control over their classrooms, reduce class sizes and invest as much, if not more, in education as we do in the military-industrial complex. This is all the more reason to celebrate and call attention to those teachers in Chicago, Detroit and Seattle who are collectively fighting against such attacks on public schools.

    “We need to praise them, learn from them and organize with them because they refuse to treat education as a commodity and they recognize that the crisis of schooling is about the crises of democracy, economic equality and justice. This is not a minor struggle because no democracy can survive without informed citizens...”

    -Henry A. Giroux

  2. “...Toward the end of my career, my students and I were immersed in testing, test prep, and scripted curricula that I’d never dreamed of back in the eighties. Morale among teachers had plummeted due to the stifling of their opinions and the lack of input toward how they educated their students. Teachers were being blamed for the inefficiency of materials and tests they’d had no hand in creating. My peers were fleeing the profession all around me; some didn’t even make it through their first year. I saw my students losing their love of learning and their motivation to come to school. I saw them turning into oppressed drones instead of vibrant, creative beings.

    “These things were discussed daily in the teachers’ lounge, but the public remained unaware of the procedures that were being forced upon our schools. I wanted to change that. I bid a tearful goodbye to my students and set out to create a documentary that gave voice to the issues today’s teachers face. I found that our stories are the same from coast to coast, and I learned that there is a deep, frightening agenda for public schools that is engineered by profit-driven companies who partner with politicians to use our schools for their own gain, to the detriment of our future generations.

    “We need to be aware of this, and we need to stop it. Heal Our Schools features interviews with teachers across the country, along with commentary from some of the nation’s most prominent public education advocates, including Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, John Kuhn, Nancy Carlsson Page, Kwesi Rollins, Ceresta Smith, Anthony Cody, Kathleen Jasper, Gus Morales, Deneisha Jones, and Barbara Madeloni..."

    -Laurie Gabriel

  3. “…Yes, a lot of people have worked hard to turn my job into something I barely recognize, and yes, I am on the butt end of a whole lot of terrible education policy, and yes, I am regularly instructed to commit educational malpractice in my classroom. But here's the thing-- you don't pay me nearly enough for me to do my job badly, on purpose.

    “I'm not going to make [my students] miserable on purpose. I'm not going to waste valuable education time on purpose. I'm not going to teach them that reading is a miserable activity with no purpose other than to prepare for testing. I'm not going to tell them that these big stupid tests, or any other tests, or grades, even, are an important measure of how ‘good’ they are or how much right they have to feel proud or happy or justified in taking up space on this planet. I'm not going to tell them any of that.

    “Most of these new education reform policies are wrong. They're bad pedagogy, bad instruction, bad for students, bad for education, and we all know it. I am not going to spend another day in my room pretending that I don't know it… And the work I am committed to is the education of young students, the work of having them become their best selves, of finding their best way to be in the world as they choose to be. I am not committed to a year of narrow test prep and a tiny, cramped definition of success. I am not committed to a view of compliance as the highest human virtue. I am not committed to the work of trying to force them into some box that the corporate world has built for them.

    “My first allegiance, my first obligation is to my students-- not the board, not state education bureaucrats, not policy makers, not test manufacturers, not to people who think they need to know what's going on in the school but can't be bothered to get their butts here to use their own five senses to find out. I have no obligation to those who want to profit from my work, and I have no obligation to people who want to use my classroom to further their own political or financial agenda.

    “So I will stay here, and I will do what I consider-- in my professional opinion-- to do what is best for my students and my community. When I am told to implement a bad policy, I will circumvent it by any means at my disposal. I will disregard directives to commit malpractice. I will question, I will challenge, and I will push back. I will speak at every board meeting. I will talk to every parent...

    “Quitting? Hell no. If you want me out of here, you will have to fire my ass, and I will make it just as public and loud as I can, so that you have to step out in front of the community and explain why you're doing it. Hell, we may all end up in court, going on the record about the crap you tried to force me to do to these children…”

    -Peter Greene

  4. "...The PARCC test is a capstone of corporate reform efforts to discredit hard-working teachers and school districts. It is a natural progression of developmentally inappropriate and unvalidated Common Core Standards that were written almost exclusively by test publishers whose intentions are to create a market for their 'new and improved' curriculum materials, assessments, remedial programs and expensive consulting deals.

    "The test itself is written several years above the average student’s reading level; it is to be given on unfamiliar computer technology; it contains intentionally vague and poorly designed questions with opaque directions and is excessive in length. Additionally, cut scores were set outrageously high–ostensibly to align with NAEP proficiency levels and completely disregarding the fact that a rating of 'proficient' on the NAEP means the equivalent of 'A' level work in the classroom.

    "This is the new and impossible standard Illinois students have 'failed' to reach. This is by design. It is absolutely the intention of companies like Pearson who stand to make billions off the misery the CCSS and PARCC are creating. Now politicians can 'prove' teachers are lazy and incompetent and point to PARCC scores as evidence, then hand over public dollars to their business cronies and donors for charter schools. Your statement helps that process along by promoting the fantasy that it is possible to improve these test scores if only we numbskull public school teachers would just get up to speed on these dandy new standards.

    "Please, if you are going to take our money and purport to represent teachers collectively in Illinois, it is incumbent upon you to educate yourself about the reality of the monumental bamboozle that is corporate reform. I recommend Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error for starters, and her blog is a daily format for exposing the damaging effects of the move to privatize and profitize education. Todd Farley’s book Making the Grades is an insider’s expose of Pearson’s shoddy test design process and standardized test-grading mills.

    "Additionally, I am requesting that IEA not accept funding from Bill Gates or Pearson or any other entity that seeks to destroy public education. Doing so ensures our demise as a profession and will hasten the dismantling of democracy itself.

    "Democracy works best when we prepare students to be critical thinkers who are creative problem solvers and question authority. CCSS are preparing students to be obedient worker bees. Ask yourself why students at elite private schools aren’t being subjected to CCSS or PARCC testing? If these standards and tests are so essential to a great education, wealthy parents would be clamoring to have them for their own children. In fact, exactly the opposite is happening. CCSS and unfair rigged exams like the PARCC are for the unwashed, undeserving poor and middle class.

    "Cinda Klickna, you disappoint me. I am beginning to believe my dues to the IEA and NEA are not money well spent. Please educate yourself and become an advocate for children and teachers in this state. Call out corporate reform for what it is: a blatant profit-making scheme. Stop falling for the slick marketing. Talk to real teachers about their struggles under this brutal and demoralizing test-and-punish regime. STOP looking to 'have a seat at the table.' Don’t collaborate and cooperate with those who will destroy the education profession.

    "If you need real teachers to talk to, I volunteer myself and my colleagues. Thank you for your attention in this matter. It is critical teachers have the informed support of our biggest professional organization."

    -Terri Reid-Schuster

  5. “Like much else in the national education debate, panics about teacher shortages seem to be a perennial event… ‘It’s a sad, alarming state of affairs, and it proves that for all our lip service about improving the education of America’s children, we’ve failed to make teaching the draw that it should be, the honor that it must be,’ mused Times columnist Frank Bruni…

    “A recent survey by the American Federation of Teachers and the Badass Teachers Association cited by Bruni sheds some light on the state of teacher autonomy and job satisfaction. Only 15% of teachers in the survey strongly agreed with the statement ‘I am enthusiastic about my profession at this point in my career,’ although 89% strongly agreed with such feelings at the start of their career. Seventy-three percent said they were ‘often stressed,’ citing ‘mandated curriculum, large class sizes and standardized testing’ as their top everyday stressors in the classroom; 71% said adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development were major sources of workplace stress. Among the 30% of teachers who claimed to have felt bullied in the last year, 58% of these identify an administrator or supervisor as the culprit…

    “One of corporate school reform’s many ironies is that its ideological justifications often yield their opposite. In the name of ‘raising standards’ and holding educators accountable, teachers lose their professional autonomy and face an ever-increasing stream of new mandates. This leads to higher turnover. In order to fill the gaps, licensure rules are relaxed and ‘supports’ are provided for an increasingly amateur workforce—through prefabricated curriculum and assessments. And the cycle starts all over again. The demoralization of the American teacher is leading to the deskilling of their profession, which leads to teacher resignations, which leads to more demoralization, ad infinitum.”

    -Kevin Prosen

  6. “A specter is haunting America - the privatization of its public schools, and Big Money has entered into an unholy alliance to aid and abet it. Multi-billionaire philanthropists, newspaper moguls, governors, legislators, private investors, hedge fund managers, testing and computer companies are making common cause to hasten the destruction of public schools.

    “This assault also targets the moral and social vision that inspired the creation of public schools - the belief in a free and inclusive democratic society that unites all of us in a common destiny as we struggle together toward a just society and a better life for ourselves and our children…

    “The Gates, Broad, Walton, and Koch Foundations deserve special mention in unleashing Armageddon upon our public schools, all the while preening themselves hypocritically as angels of light. So intent are these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in their class warfare against their own country that the sacrifice of millions of public-school children as collateral damage means nothing to them.

    “But in fairness it must also be said that the depredations they are visiting upon our public schools must be seen within the broader context of the universal misery and devastation they are raining down on America's economy, families, the environment, and even compromising our democracy itself! Their purchase of public officials, the institutions of government and the electoral process with Supreme Court connivance proceeds majestically forward as they silence criticism by lavishing billions in strategically targeted hush money…

    “This is a new low for American Big Business in defiling even the hallowed precincts of schools, where children should be getting a real education, not sitting in telemarketer cubicles with Bill Gates' computers, as a return on his investment. This is a nightmare vision of education to come, hatched in the same brain that has already given us standardized testing and Common Core standards, a personal gold mine for him.

    “If the vaunted noblesse oblige of multi-billionaire philanthropists were the genuine article, they would quietly pour forth their abundant largesse upon all the public schools of the nation, with no strings attached! Instead, they pit their pet charter schools against public-school children, who are made to suffer year after year from the loss of billions annually diverted from their schools to charters.

    “The moral rot of unchecked influence peddling will continue unabated in this stealth war of charter secrecy against American children. For it is they who will be sacrificed upon the altar of this insatiable Charter School Moloch of Greed, which will glut its limitless appetite for money, power, and lasting control over children without any accountability. In the meantime, it's full steam ahead for these ‘new reformers’ with their hidden agenda for two kinds of education - one for the rulers and one for the ruled in a Standardized America..."

    -Frank Breslin

  7. The real problem: Poverty

    “As noted above, when we control for poverty, American students rank near the top of the world on international tests. This finding confirms that poverty is the major factor in determining school achievement, a finding that is consistent with the results of many studies showing the powerful negative impact of poverty on many aspects of learning, including, of course, reading comprehension and other aspects of literacy development (e.g. Biddle, 2001; Duncan and Brooks-Gunn, 2001). Studies have documented how poverty impacts school performance: Food insecurity, lack of health care, and lack of access to books, among other aspects of poverty, all have devastating effects on student's ability to learn.

    Food insecurity

    “Children of poverty are likely to suffer from food insecurity (hunger and concern about future availability of food). Studies (Coles 2008/2009) show that food insecure children more likely to have slow language development and problems in social behavior and emotional control. They are more likely to miss school days, repeat a grade, and have academic problems. The effects of food insecurity are reversible: when previously food-secure children experience food insecurity, their reading development slows down relative to food secure children. But "a change from food insecurity to food security can bring concomitant improvements: the study also found that poor reading performance for food insecure children in the beginning grades was reversed if the household became food secure by 3rd grade" (Coles, 2008/2009).

    Lack of health care

    “High-poverty families are more likely to lack medical insurance or have high co-payments, circumstances that result in less medical care, and more childhood illness and absenteeism, which of course negatively impacts school achievement. David Berliner cites studies showing that "children in poor families in most states are six times more likely to be in less than optimal health, experiencing a wide variety of illnesses and injuries, as compared with children in higher income families" (2009, p. 16). School is not helping: Poor schools are more likely to have no school nurse or have a high ratio of students to nurses (Berliner, 2009).

    Lack of access to books

    “There is very clear evidence that children from high-poverty families have very little access to books at home, at school, and in their communities (Newman and Celano, 2001; Duke, 2001; additional studies reviewed in Krashen, 2004). Studies also show when children have access to interesting and comprehensible reading material, they read (Krashen, 2001; 2004). And finally, when children read, they improve in all aspects of literacy, including vocabulary, grammar, spelling, reading and writing ability (McQuillan, 1998; Krashen, 2004). In fact, the evidence is strong that reading for pleasure, self-selected reading, is the major cause of advanced literacy development. Making sure that all children have access to books makes literacy development possible. Without it, literacy development is impossible...."

    -Stephen Krashen

  8. Libraries

    “Libraries are often the only source of books and other reading material for children of poverty and they are a potent source: A number of studies confirm that providing access to books via libraries has a positive impact on reading development: The better the library (more books, presence of a credentialed librarian, better staffing), the higher the reading scores (e.g. Lance and Helgren, 2010) Krashen, 2011). Multivariate studies show that the positive impact of school libraries can be as strong as the negative impact of poverty on reading achievement (Achterman, 2008; Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2012): in other words, a good library can offset the effect of poverty on literacy development.

    Protect children from the effect of poverty

    “The implications are straight-forward: until poverty is eliminated, until we have full employment at a living wage, we need to protect children from the effects of poverty. This reality means they need adequate food programs, improved health care, including providing more school nurses in high poverty schools, and, of course, more investment in libraries and librarians. As readers of this journal know, however, library funding is not being increased: It is being cut (Kelley, 2010)…”

    -Stephen Krashen

  9. Diane Ravitch’s solutions to improve school and society:

    · From the day they are born, young children need a loving caregiver, good nutrition and medical care; their parents should get the help they need to learn how to care for their babies.

    · Children need pre-kindergarten classes that teach them how to socialize with others, how to listen and learn, how to communicate well, and how to care for themselves while engaging in the joyful pursuit of play and learning that is appropriate to their age and development and builds their background knowledge and vocabulary.

    · Children in the early elementary grades need teachers who set appropriate goals for their age. They should learn to read, write, calculate and explore nature, and they should have plenty of time to sing and dance and draw and play and giggle.

    · Classes in these grades should be small enough—ideally fewer than twenty—so that students get the individual attention they need. Classes should be small enough to ensure that every teacher knows his or her students and can provide the sort of feedback to strengthen their ability to write, their non-cognitive skills, their critical thinking, and their mathematical and scientific acumen.

    · Testing in the early grades should be used sparingly, not to rank students, but diagnostically to help determine what they know and what they still need to learn. Test scores should remain a private matter between parents and teachers, not shared with the district or the state for any individual student. The district or state may aggregate scores for entire schools but should not rank individual students by test scores or judge teachers or schools on the basis of these scores.

    · Teachers should write their own tests and use standardized tests only for diagnostic purposes.

    · As students enter the upper elementary grades and middle school and high school, they should have a balanced curriculum that includes not only reading, writing, and mathematics but also the sciences, literature, history, geography, civics, and foreign languages. Their school should have a rich arts program, where students may learn to sing, dance, play an instrument, join an orchestra or a band, perform in a play, sculpt, or use technology to design structures, conduct research, or create fanciful artworks.

    · Every student should have time for physical education every day. Every student should have a library with librarians and media specialists. Every student should have a nurse, a psychologist, a guidance counselor, and a social worker. And every student should have after-school programs where students may explore their interests, whether in athletics, chess, robotics, history club, science club, nature study, Scouting, or other activities.

  10. Why are Finland's schools successful by LynNell Hancock:

    The country's achievements in education have other nations doing their homework.

    “There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town. The differences between weakest and strongest students are the smallest in the world, according to the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). ‘Equality is the most important word in Finnish education. All political parties on the right and left agree on this,’ said Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s powerful teachers union.

    “Ninety-three percent of Finns graduate from academic or vocational high schools, 17.5 percentage points higher than the United States, and 66 percent go on to higher education, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet Finland spends about 30 percent less per student than the United States.

    “Still, there is a distinct absence of chest-thumping among the famously reticent Finns. They are eager to celebrate their recent world hockey championship, but PISA scores, not so much. ‘We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test,’ said Pasi Sahlberg, a former math and physics teacher who is now in Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. ‘We are not much interested in PISA. It’s not what we are about…’

    “Teachers in Finland spend fewer hours at school each day and spend less time in classrooms than American teachers. Teachers use the extra time to build curriculums and assess their students. Children spend far more time playing outside, even in the depths of winter. Homework is minimal. Compulsory schooling does not begin until age 7. ‘We have no hurry,’ said Louhivuori. ‘Children learn better when they are ready. Why stress them out?’

    “It’s almost unheard of for a child to show up hungry or homeless. Finland provides three years of maternity leave and subsidized day care to parents, and preschool for all 5-year-olds, where the emphasis is on play and socializing. In addition, the state subsidizes parents, paying them around 150 euros per month for every child until he or she turns 17. Ninety-seven percent of 6-year-olds attend public preschool, where children begin some academics. Schools provide food, medical care, counseling and taxi service if needed. Stu­dent health care is free…”

  11. Karen Lewis on CTU’s Vision for Public Education and the Schools Our Students Deserve:

    "…So what do our students deserve? They deserve school reform that works, that is evidenced-based; it’s not based on a marketing scheme, and it’s certainly not based on somebody’s wishes who sits in a corner office with a spread sheet making decisions.

    "Our students deserve smaller classes and a robust, well-rounded, deep, rich curriculum and in-school services that address their social, emotional, intellectual and health needs.

    "All of our students deserve culturally-sensitive, non-bias and equitable education… And they deserve professional teachers who are treated as such, fully-resourced school buildings and a system that partners with parents…

    "This is not reality in the third largest district in our nation. What our students often get are under-resourced school buildings, a system that alienates their parents and discounts their voice as noise.

    "Our students are subjected to ballooning class sizes, asbestos-lined bathrooms, and windows that refuse to open or shut. And despite the growing neighborhood violence, our students do not have enough counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists.

    "They do not have adequate wrap-around services, and students are subjected to school-reform experiment after school-reform experiment. And when those experiments do not work, our students’ parents and educators face the threat of having their schools closed or turned over to corporate interests with little to no education experience…"

  12. What David Lentini learned by studying the history of education

    "…1. Americans won’t ever be happy with public education until they understand that education and job training are two different things, and that we can’t have a functional democracy and market economy—the two most intellectually demanding forms of society imaginable—without the sort of education that historically has done the most to produce sound thinking—a traditional liberal arts education that develops the whole intellect.

    "2. The reformers will continue their pernicious campaigns until we abandon the childish fantasy that education can be done cheaply, painlessly, and effortlessly by some technical fix. Having earned two degrees in chemistry and a law degree, and having taught my own children as well as the children of others, I know that learning any subject is an intensely personal experience. Good teachers are more like good coaches than sales persons or entertainers. The idea that we can substitute pedagogical training for mastery of actual subject matter, or that filmstrips, radio, television, movies, or computers, or whatever whiz-bang technology comes next can be substituted for actual intellectual engagement between a teacher-master and a student is nothing but charlatanism. We—parents, school boards, and tax payers—have to start saying “no” to the self-proclaimed experts (reformers) who are nothing but shills for corporations that seek to insert their proboscis into the tax revenue stream…"

  13. Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers by the Economic Policy Institute

    Conclusions and Recommendations:

    “...We began by noting that some advocates of using student test scores for teacher evaluation believe that doing so will make it easier to dismiss ineffective teachers. However, because of the broad agreement by technical experts that student test scores alone are not a sufficiently reliable or valid indicator of teacher effectiveness, any school district that bases a teacher’s dismissal on her students’ test scores is likely to face the prospect of drawn-out and expensive arbitration and/or litigation in which experts will be called to testify, making the district unlikely to prevail. The problem that advocates had hoped to solve will remain, and could perhaps be exacerbated.

    “There is simply no shortcut to the identification and removal of ineffective teachers. It must surely be done, but such actions will unlikely be successful if they are based on over-reliance on student test scores whose flaws can so easily provide the basis for successful challenges to any personnel action. Districts seeking to remove ineffective teachers must invest the time and resources in a comprehensive approach to evaluation that incorporates concrete steps for the improvement of teacher performance based on professional standards of instructional practice, and unambiguous evidence for dismissal, if improvements do not occur.

    “Some policy makers, acknowledging the inability fairly to identify effective or ineffective teachers by their students’ test scores, have suggested that low test scores (or value-added estimates) should be a “trigger” that invites further investigation. Although this approach seems to allow for multiple means of evaluation, in reality 100% of the weight in the trigger is test scores. Thus, all the incentives to distort instruction will be preserved to avoid identification by the trigger, and other means of evaluation will enter the system only after it is too late to avoid these distortions.

    “While those who evaluate teachers could take student test scores over time into account, they should be fully aware of their limitations, and such scores should be only one element among many considered in teacher profiles. Some states are now considering plans that would give as much as 50% of the weight in teacher evaluation and compensation decisions to scores on existing poor-quality tests of basic skills in math and reading. Based on the evidence we have reviewed above, we consider this unwise. If the quality, coverage, and design of standardized tests were to improve, some concerns would be addressed, but the serious problems of attribution and nonrandom assignment of students, as well as the practical problems described above, would still argue for serious limits on the use of test scores for teacher evaluation.

    “Although some advocates argue that admittedly flawed value-added measures are preferred to existing cumbersome measures for identifying, remediating, or dismissing ineffective teachers, this argument creates a false dichotomy. It implies there are only two options for evaluating teachers—the ineffectual current system or the deeply flawed test-based system.

    “Yet there are many alternatives that should be the subject of experiments. The Department of Education should actively encourage states to experiment with a range of approaches that differ in the ways in which they evaluate teacher practice and examine teachers’ contributions to student learning. These experiments should all be fully evaluated...

  14. “There is no perfect way to evaluate teachers. However, progress has been made over the last two decades in developing standards-based evaluations of teaching practice, and research has found that the use of such evaluations by some districts has not only provided more useful evidence about teaching practice, but has also been associated with student achievement gains and has helped teachers improve their practice and effectiveness.61 Structured performance assessments of teachers like those offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the beginning teacher assessment systems in Connecticut and California have also been found to predict teacher’s effectiveness on value-added measures and to support teacher learning.62

    “These systems for observing teachers’ classroom practice are based on professional teaching standards grounded in research on teaching and learning. They use systematic observation protocols with well-developed, research-based criteria to examine teaching, including observations or videotapes of classroom practice, teacher interviews, and artifacts such as lesson plans, assignments, and samples of student work. Quite often, these approaches incorporate several ways of looking at student learning over time in relation to the teacher’s instruction.

    “Evaluation by competent supervisors and peers, employing such approaches, should form the foundation of teacher evaluation systems, with a supplemental role played by multiple measures of student learning gains that, where appropriate, should include test scores. Given the importance of teachers’ collective efforts to improve overall student achievement in a school, an additional component of documenting practice and outcomes should focus on the effectiveness of teacher participation in teams and the contributions they make to school-wide improvement, through work in curriculum development, sharing practices and materials, peer coaching and reciprocal observation, and collegial work with students.

    “In some districts, peer assistance and review programs—using standards-based evaluations that incorporate evidence of student learning, supported by expert teachers who can offer intensive assistance, and panels of administrators and teachers that oversee personnel decisions—have been successful in coaching teachers, identifying teachers for intervention, providing them assistance, and efficiently counseling out those who do not improve.63 In others, comprehensive systems have been developed for examining teacher performance in concert with evidence about outcomes for purposes of personnel decision making and compensation.64

    “Given the range of measures currently available for teacher evaluation, and the need for research about their effective implementation and consequences, legislatures should avoid imposing mandated solutions to the complex problem of identifying more and less effective teachers. School districts should be given freedom to experiment, and professional organizations should assume greater responsibility for developing standards of evaluation that districts can use. Such work, which must be performed by professional experts, should not be pre-empted by political institutions acting without evidence. The rule followed by any reformer of public schools should be: “First, do no harm.”

    “As is the case in every profession that requires complex practice and judgments, precision and perfection in the evaluation of teachers will never be possible. Evaluators may find it useful to take student test score information into account in their evaluations of teachers, provided such information is embedded in a more comprehensive approach. What is now necessary is a comprehensive system that gives teachers the guidance and feedback, supportive leadership, and working conditions to improve their performance, and that permits schools to remove persistently ineffective teachers without distorting the entire instructional program by imposing a flawed system of standardized quantification of teacher quality.”


  15. 61. Milanowski, Kimball, and White 2004.

    62. See for example, Bond et al. 2000; Cavaluzzo 2004; Goldhaber and Anthony 2004; Smith et al. 2005; Vandevoort, Amrein-Beardsley, and Berliner 2004; Wilson and Hallam 2006.

    63. Darling-Hammond 2009; Van Lier 2008.

    64. Denver’s Pro-comp system, Arizona’s Career Ladder, and the Teacher Advancement Program are illustrative. See for example, Solomon et al. 2007; Packard and Dereshiwsky 1991.

    From the Economic Policy Institute:

  16. In What Other Profession by David Reber

    As a parent I received a letter last week from the Kansas State Board of Education, informing me that my children’s school district had been placed on “improvement” status for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” under the No Child Left Behind law.

    I thought it ironic that our schools were judged inadequate by people who haven’t set foot in them, so I wrote a letter to my local newspaper. Predictably, my letter elicited a deluge of comments in the paper’s online forum. Many remarks came from armchair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists quick to discredit anything I had to say under the rationale of “he’s a teacher.” What could a teacher possibly know about education?

    Countless arguments used to denigrate public school teachers begin with the phrase “in what other profession….” and conclude with practically anything the anti-teacher pundits find offensive about public education. Due process and collective bargaining [and pensions] are favorite targets, as are the erroneous but tightly held beliefs that teachers are under-worked, over-paid (earning million-dollar pensions), and not accountable for anything.

    In what other profession, indeed.

    In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer,” or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”

    In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before,” and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure.”

    In what other profession is the desire for competitive salary viewed as proof of callous indifference towards the job? You won’t hear many say “that lawyer charges a lot of money, she obviously doesn’t care about her clients,” or “that coach earns millions – clearly he doesn’t care about the team.”

    But look around. You’ll find droves of armchair educators who summarily dismiss any statement about education when it comes from a teacher. Likewise, it’s easy to find politicians, pundits, and profiteers who refer to our veteran teachers as ineffective, overpriced dead wood. Only the rookies could possibly be any good, or worth the food-stamp-eligible starting salaries we pay them.

    And if teachers dare ask for a raise, this is taken by many as clear evidence that teachers don’t give a porcupine’s posterior about kids. In fact, some say if teachers really cared about their students they would insist on earning LESS money.

    If that entire attitude weren’t bad enough, what other profession is legally held to PERFECTION by 2014? Are police required to eliminate all crime? Are firefighters required to eliminate all fires?

    Are doctors required to cure all patients? Are lawyers required to win all cases? Are coaches required to win all games? Of course, they aren’t.

    For no other profession do so many outsiders refuse to accept the realities of an imperfect world. Crime happens. Fire happens. Illness happens. As for lawyers and coaches, where there’s a winner there must also be a loser. People accept all these realities, until they apply to public education.

    If a poverty-stricken, drug-addled meth-cooker burn downs his house, suffers third degree burns and then goes to jail, we don’t blame the police, fire department, doctors, and defense attorneys for his predicament. But if that kid doesn’t graduate high school, it’s clearly the teacher’s fault.
    And if someone – anyone - tries to tell you otherwise, don’t listen. He must be a teacher.