Thursday, March 31, 2005

The New Advocate Weekly is Out --

Time to check out the newest education roundup at Joe Thomas' site, Also check out what Old Soul has to say about what we have been saying here about vouchers and privitization. It's happening in Texas and may be happening in your town soon. It also looks like charter schools are just not making the grade. After four years they are even worse! Thanks to the Super's Blog for this one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Amateurs Amok -- Call in the Pros

Here is a guest commentary from the Orlando Sentinel. Similar to the article discussed in the post below, the author compares amateur knowledge with expert knowledge, but this time about education in general not just about tests.

"...After the publication of A Nation At Risk in 1983, business leaders decided that education was too important to be left to professional educators. So they used their political clout not to help professional educators, but to shove them aside and take over... Many amateurs think this is a wonderful, long-overdue policy. Indeed, it seems to make so much sense that teachers who question it are likely to be viewed with suspicion. Good teachers, many believe (those deserving to be called professionals) constantly "raise the bar." Good teachers welcome being held accountable. Good teachers aren't overly concerned with students' self-concepts. Good teachers raise test scores.

Professionals know it isn't that simple...Take the matter of grade retention. Professionals know that "grade level" is an invented, arbitrary idea left over from the school-as-factory era, know that academic gains from grade retention are almost always temporary, know that kids mature at different rates, know that individual differences are America's greatest intellectual asset, know grade repeaters rarely graduate, know we've created no alternative career paths for "non-standard" kids, know that helping helps a lot more when kids don't think they're stupid. And they know this just begins the list of complex issues being ignored by grade-retention legislation.

If the fog of political rhetoric ever lifts and the true state of education in America becomes clear, don't blame the professionals for the chaos. Their opinions have been ignored for years."

Here's a page of columns from the Center for the Study of Jobs & Education in Wisconsin and United States. by Dennis W. Redovich, retired Director of Research, Planning and Development from the Milwaukee Area Technical College. An educator for more than 28 years. His writings mostly center on Continuing Fallacious Belittling of American Public Schools "...The writer has been reading newspaper articles and commentaries or reports that claim that American K-12 public schools are failing and that public schools of the “past” were superior to current public schools since the1960s. The specific time period when schools were better (the 40s, 50s, 60s 70s etc.) or the valid factual data that proves them better are never stated. The continuing fallacious total belittling of American K-12 public schools in 2005, without any exceptions, is unbelievable...The great numbers of high paying jobs of the future that are claimed to require college graduation and high academic skills for all high school students are a hoax. The majority of the jobs of the future in Wisconsin and the United States are low or average paying jobs that require short term or moderate-term on the job training and do not require high-level academic skills in any academic areas, particularly in higher mathematics...The war against public education in the United States is being callously waged, using useless high stakes standardized tests as weapons, by the Bush Administration. And now the opponents of public education have targeted vocational education and the Perkins Act for vocational education for devastation. It is unbelievable and appalling because there is absolutely no rational reason for national high stakes academic testing for vocational or K-12 public education in the United States... " and lot's more about the current attacks on public education in the U.S.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Educational Equity in Alaska -

Taking at tip from Joe over at Shut Up and Teach, here is a site from and about my state, Alaska. This site is headquarters for resistance to high stakes testing in Alaska. Especially interesting is the history page and the graphs that show who is passing the high school test and who isn't. For a real life story about the damage NCLB and the high stakes testing it requires, do to real people be sure to read, Julie Mae's story.

On a related topic is this article from Kappan by two authorities on the "science of testing." It is not necessarily pro or anti testing but raises some interesting points for pondering. "Many of us have an intuitive understanding of physics that works surprisingly well to guide everyday action, but we would not attempt to send a rocket to the moon with it. Unfortunately, Mr. Braun and Mr. Miss Levy argue, our policy makers are not as cautious when it comes to basing our school accountability system on intuitive test theory."

In fact I think I must read it again.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Thanks to Joe at Shut Up and -

Joe reminds us that even though conservatives would have us believe that vouchers would help to give better schools to the poor, virtually all studies tells us that vouchers do a good job of subsidizing those that already attend private and religious schools. In Arizona, a recent study found, " ... that of the 57,000 recipients of tax money in 2002 for private and religious school tuition, 55,000 were students already in private and religious schools (Tucson Citizen, 6/23/04). Less than 4% of the students getting tax dollars to attend these schools are the ones voucher advocates said the law would help..."

While you are out in the blogosphere be sure to stop by The Super's Blog for some great political satire, but while your there scroll down to the article about the business roundtable getting some things right. He's got a point.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Some school leaders say military recruiters have too much access -

This one is from the National Association of School Boards. And here is another take from A little known section of NCLB allows army recruiters to visit high school students without parents’ permission. Parents can opt out but most are unaware of this little known fact and do not. A district in central New York allows parents to opt in, that is if they want their teenager visited they can say yes, otherwise no-go. "...This year, 71 parents signed the opt-in form, compared with 60 last year and 48 the year before. The high school has an enrollment of 1,600... " They are in trouble with the law, and they are the only district in that category.

It sets one to wondering why the all-volunteer army needs to use such tactics, which even include visiting students at home without calling and without permission. It all gets curiouser and curiouser.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

No Child Left Behind Act Is Stifling State Innovations in Education by New York State Sen. Steve Saland

This guy happens to be a republican but this is not necessarily a partisan issue. This article is from the Kanasas City infoZine. Here Sen. Saland talks about the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recent report. They recommend 43 ways to change the law. Some of what the senator discusses: "...The rigid and inaccurate yardstick that No Child Left Behind uses to measure student improvement was itself left behind by many states as they fine-tuned their accountability efforts. The federal measurement compares, for example, this year's fifth-graders to next year's fifth-graders. Many educators complain that it is not a valid way to evaluate student progress.

Some states, in the pre-NCLB days, developed better models. California, Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia were using more sophisticated and accurate systems that gauged the growth of individual students, not just groups of students and entire schools. NCLB allows states to draft their own plans for meeting the goals of the law, and those plans are subject to federal approval. None of those states was allowed to continue using its own system under NCLB. The federal law undermined innovative approaches like these...." and "...NCSL's task force recommends that Congress and the Bush administration reconsider the law's 100 percent proficiency goal. While that's certainly a laudable aim, under the current student proficiency measurement scheme, it is not statistically achievable. Not when disabled students who are permitted individualized education plans under civil rights law are expected to perform at grade level. Not when English learners in their third year in the country are expected to perform at grade level, regardless of their language and academic skills when they came into the United States. Not when the law expects perfection, but fails to acknowledge differences in schools and students....And certainly not when there are consequences that actually divert money and energy from teaching...." He concludes "... It's time to prune the law. State legislators have handed Congress and the administration the hedge clippers..."

We agree, and while we're at it, let's change the shape.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Powerful letter from a Colorado Media Specialist -

This is worth a read. It's from the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado but this is going on right now all over the country.

"...Because of CSAP, when I retire this year, I will not be replaced. Neither will two other teachers: a gifted-and-talented teacher and a physical education teacher. We're expected to lose 100 students from our population, which amounts to three teachers. These days, principals can't afford to lose language arts, math or science teachers, so everyone who is considered "nonessential" to CSAP doesn't get replaced...I am ashamed of this country. We are allowing our political leaders who do not understand education to belittle our children. We are letting people who know the least make decisions about our schools. We are allowing the rich to dictate a program of poverty to the poor, and call it accountability. And if this continues, we are going to end public education. Is this what Americans want?

This CSAP test is an end-run. The people who want to end public education have found a way to do it...These struggling students will walk away even more disheartened at the end of the school day. And so will I, because I don't see testing as a way to improve education, but as a way to ruin it, a way to make public education look much worse than it truly is, a way for politicians to make themselves look much better than they are, and a way to keep the poor down and feeling bad about themselves..."

There is nothing more that I can say.

But on another note I was turned on to this article and many others by Susan Ohanian. Be sure to check out her site but don't stop there. Sign up for her mailing list, daily updates of the news about public education and NCLB.

And from that site, Who's the Man Behind the Curtain? This is a must read. The first line says it, "When Ted Kennedy and George Bush agree on something, one needs to start to worrying about who the man behind the curtain is." And the answer is...of course...the Business Roundtable.

Friday, March 18, 2005

What If There Were No NCLB? -

This post has a lot to say. Yes, there are other, better, ways to improve education in the U.S. besides NCLB.

Also, from Gerald Bracey, "BILL GATES, IF YOU’RE SO RICH, HOW COME YOU’RE NOT SMART?" "I do congratulate you for focusing some attention on economically deprived schools. Alas, you and the governors appear to think that school reform can, all by itself overcome their problems. But poor students arrive at school behind their middle class peers. As measured by tests, they learn the same amount during the school year, but lose the gains over the summer, leaving them farther behind. You and the governors should look for ways to eliminate the factors that cause poor children to lose ground during the months when the schools are closed." Fat Chance.

And from the Albuquerque Tribune a commentary, Why Testing Fails. "Testing, or what politicians deem "accountability," has run amok in our schools...The tests that are being imposed on students are not tools educators can use to guide instruction. They are used to rank schools, and because there are so many flaws to the one-size-fits-all assessment, they are inaccurate tools. While standardized testing is one piece of assessment we can use to reflect on education, testing should not dominate the educational process...Accountability in its current form is destroying education. Education is the backbone of democracy. We can use assessment to guide instruction, and education, when properly implemented, can lessen achievement gaps. We have data from recent decades. Why are we ignoring data and subjecting our children to this scrutiny that does not produce accurate and usable information? Citizens, speak up."
Here, here!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Justice: Propaganda A-OK -

Does this bother anyone else? I'll tell you, I am scared. This whole administration and everything that is going down scares the living crap out of me. Can this really be happening? Why isn't everyone creating one holy stink over this? The good news is, someone in the press is picking it up. The bad news is, not many care. That's where I am forced to go, so many people feel that there is absolutely nothing that they can do about it that they totally ignore it. That scares me even more.

And in the, "I've been telling you it is going to happen," department, the Texas house recently passed, "... a provision that could spell the beginning of the end of public schools in Texas." It's coming, I tell you, it's coming.

While everyone frets that Bush is not providing enough funds for NCLB, they slowly dismantle public education as we know it. And that is not a good thing. No it's not.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Check Out the New Links -

At the right I highly reccomend checking out any or all of the Links to Education related blogs. This is an idea from Joe Thomas at Shut Up and Teach and some others. The top few are the ones that seem most realated to this site. Check 'em out!

Monday, March 14, 2005

I Cannot Believe It Has Been Almost A Week -

No, I can't. Life gets busy. I really would like to write every day or almost every day but it gets difficult to squeeze it in. I do have a lot to share:

is a great speech by David G. Stratman from 1997. Not much has changed since then. He believes that modern education reform is all about taking more power from the people and making them afraid and insecure, thus giving more power over their lives to the corporations. I am afraid I am becoming more and more a believer. If you follow the link on the this speech it will lead you to New Democracy World. This is Mr. Stratman's site. Here he calls for a revolution from the ballot box. Boy do I agree with this! If we could only get the general public to take their blinders off to see that they are getting royally screwed by the current corporate led system.

Meanwhile, the Black Commentator continues to try to keep the blinders from decending on the black community. The lead article is something they have talked about before, the current administration's attempt to "create" new "leaders" for the African American Community. Follow one of the links in this article and you will be able to read an older article about the history of vouchers and the connection to segregation and racism. There is all kinds of great stuff in the commentator. read it and pass the word around.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Case Against "Tougher Standards"and A WORD ABOUT "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" - from Alfie Kohn -

"...We must quit confining our complaints about NCLB to peripheral problems of implementation or funding. Too many people give the impression that there would be nothing to object to if only their own school had been certified as making adequate progress, or if only Washington were more generous in paying for this assault on local autonomy. We have got to stop prefacing our objections by saying that, while the execution of this legislation is faulty, we agree with its laudable objectives. No. What we agree with is some of the rhetoric used to sell it, invocations of ideals like excellence and fairness. NCLB is not a step in the right direction. It is a deeply damaging, mostly ill-intentioned law, and no one genuinely committed to improving public schools (or to advancing the interests of those who have suffered from decades of neglect and oppression) would want to have anything to do with it.

Ultimately, we must decide whether we will obediently play our assigned role in helping to punish children and teachers. Every in-service session, every article, every memo from the central office that offers what amounts to an instruction manual for capitulation slides us further in the wrong direction until finally we become a nation at risk of abandoning public education altogether. Rather than scrambling to comply with its provisions, our obligation is to figure out how best to resist." from Test Today Privatize Tomorrow - 2004

I had a new kid move into my classroom this week and another today. In our district we are on trimesters. The trimester ended they day before the first kid arrived. Both of these students are academically well below the rest of the class. The first student is a July baby; came fro a K-1 class with a first year teacher; developed later; good family; she won't be making the grade in second grade. The second student moved to another Southeast Alaskan town from a Midwestern state three months ago and is currently living at the local shelter. There are several kids in the family all on various doctor prescribed meds for ADD, bi-polar etc. Add these to my low functioning esl student who was rescued from an abusive family situation last year and another who can have seizures at any time and the meds used to control the seizures may be causing worse damage and as low functioning as she is she is probably functioning higher than her mother, meanwhile she is the oldest of four and dad just lost his third job in as many months. Add these to my two ADD, LD kids who are just now getting into the process of being identified., and that is 6 out of 24 that I can almost guarantee will not be on grade level at test time. That's 25% of my first grade class and I have it easy compared to some. All of these kids and several others who are on the edge and may or may not make it by test time. And we think we have the best school in town! When that AYP bar is raised next year we won't make it but niether will most of our other schools, and isn't that just what they want?

Monday, March 07, 2005

Odds and Ends

Here's a note from Sue Allison of Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing. She makes some great points about the latest attack on high schools, including:

"Bill Gates' biggest mistake was to hitch his wagon to Achieve Inc. guys, the corporate shills who have been crisscrossing the country celebrating the fact that Massachusetts denied 4,800 diplomas to seniors who were supposed to graduate in 2003. These fellows insist that they are fighting to lower the drop-out rate and to get more kids into college while in truth they are fighting to make sure we deny diplomas and thereby ruin college plans of students who have earned their diplomas fair and square by doing acceptable work in our classrooms."

Go get 'em Sue! There's also a great quote from Paul Wellstone at the end.

And here's one from the Dallas Morning News. It's about Sandy Kress:

" He's a lawyer, a lobbyist, an education policy wonk and a once-prominent Democrat who became a top adviser to Republicans. And today, at age 55, Mr. Kress is among the most influential players in the education-industrial complex... "One of the things that irritates people is that he wraps George W. Bush around his neck like a mink stole, and he is really this highly paid hired gun who opens up education markets for big companies," said Carolyn Boyle, a former PTA mom who lobbies to maintain funding for public schools...Mr. Bush saw him as the perfect choice to shepherd No Child Left Behind through Congress. Mr. Kress got much of the credit for passing the law. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called him the president's "smooth talker."... Rarely mentioned publicly, however, are Mr. Kress' connections to powerful companies and business associations that have a stake in a $500-billion-a-year public education machine fueled by a politically volatile mix of federal, state and local taxes."

This one really is worth the read.

And finally one from
Duncan Waite of the San Antonio Express-News. He writes about the recent attempt in Texas to get the "business model" into schools. As he says,

"Think HMOs. Think Enron, WorldCom, Fannie Mae, Tyco, the Securities and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan Chase, Bristol-Myers, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Halliburton and Arthur Andersen. The list of recent corporate scandals goes on.

Is this the model we want for our schools — a slippery ethical footing where almost anything is justified in pursuit of profit?"

I whole heartily endorse his final comment, "The business model is a bad idea for education. Let's keep public schools public."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I Want to Finish My Thought From the Entry Below -

For the last few years here in Alaska, the right wing of the Republican Party has had a death grip on our legislature, as it does in many other places these days, as you may have noticed. This has meant cuts, cuts, cuts, and of course no new taxes. No taxes. We do not pay state taxes. We leave that up to the oil companies. That's why we are pushing for ANWAR drilling. There has been a lot of talk about some sort of fiscal plan to stave off coming disaster, but nothing. Of course income taxes are off the table. As our governor has said, "Why would we want to punish our most productive citizens?" So we punish the least powerful. In the great conservative tradition we cut public spending, on all kids of social issues including schools and education. Our schools have been having to cut, cut, cut. Then, last year, it happened. The parents across the state, mostly in the most populated areas, began to organize and to let the legislature know that enough was enough. Here in Juneau the organization leading the drive was formed, ironically, by a charter school mom. Other organizations were formed in other parts of the state. The organizations networked with each other and lobbied the legislature, in an election year, and won $80 million in new money for education. That is the good news. The bad news is, it just stopped the bleeding. It just kept schools from all over the state from loosing ground. It did not make up for years of loses. (I spite of this one republican legislator remarked, " We fixed the problem last year.") This year they are working hard again, so far with not as much success, but the point is, these mostly middle class parents got involved in the process and made a difference. This same difference can be made for all students at the local level by keeping the middle class kids in public school classrooms, and by having those parents spend their energies on educating all kids instead of on things like raising funds for "extras" for charter schools and special classes that serve only a small group of kids. I believe it is not too late yet but I am troubled by the push from the corporate side, and the right, for more special programs for more kids that are all aimed at privatizing public education. It feels like a tidal wave right now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trojan Horse Watch -

This is from The Black Commentator (2002). Their site has some great articles that will open your eyes about the kind of garbage the right wing is trying to feed to the African American community. This one is about the money and connections behind the voucher movement, and especially about the extreme right wing Bradley Foundation. Bradley Foundation money funds groups like the right wing think tank Heritage Foundation. This brings up an old sore spot for me. I listen to NPR a lot, mostly because I cannot stand the commercialism and blather of commercial radio. They often use people from Heritage as their "experts," but they rarely identify them as even being conservative, much less the extreme right wing, corporate driven idea factory that they are. This is something I would expect from cable news, but the truth is that all mainstream media outlets parrot the conservative line over and over again! It infuriates me.

Which brings me to a spout that I have been wanting to make for a few days. Last week at a party, that I didn't particularly want to go to, I happened to sit down next to an acquaintance that I have known for some time. Immediately he asks me about the affects that NCLB is having on our school district. Well, as you might imagine, I was off... It was a pretty good conversation and a reasonably enjoyable night. At the end of the night I ended by telling him about our web site. Later in an e_mail, after he commended me for the site he wrote that in his mind NCLB and alternatives to public education are separate issues. He said he thought we were alienating a large, thoughtful, caring, determined and potentially very helpful group of families by painting them with the same brush. According to him there are over a million kids now being homeschooled and those families are as alarmed about NCLB, if not more so, as most public school teachers. He said that the Home School Legal Defense Ass. has been fighting this sort of garbage for decades. He went on to say he disagree with NCLB for what I see are all the right reasons. But, he brings up a good point. It is not the alternatives to public education that I have a problem with. Instead it is the funding of these alternatives with public money. It is also where the impetus for the alternatives is coming from, which is the extreme right and all those who would like nothing better that to get government out of the business of education, and put a good poprtion of that money in private hands.

But it's more than that. I mourn the fact that the middle class in this country has, largely, given up on public education. We are loosing exactly those people, those parents who with their influence and hard work, could help us change the system. And we are loosing them largely, because of the constant hammering from the business organizations and the media that our school system is a failure, which it is not! And with the help of this lost middle class it could even be better! I hope to add more to this soon, but I'm beat.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? - a review -

This review pretty much hits the nail on the head. A book worth reading. Not objective however, but informative. I found it hard to read at first because the tone feels kind of angry and the authors are obviously so biased, but by the end I think I realized that there is a lot to be angry about. Read this to get the big picture about where all this standards based, rigorous education reform is coming from. Namely the Business Round Table and The Beard Foundation and and all the others "foundations" that fund this and all the interlocking ties between them all.

And then there is this from Susan Ohanian on the Achieve high school B.S. discussed below:

"Ohanian Comment:
There's an important detail here for those who still insist that all this is a conservative agenda:
Achieve President Michael Cohen, is a former education adviser to President Clinton.
This is bi-partisan and corporate-driven."

And more on the same subject from Susan:

"Governors Announce $42-Million Campaign to Improve High Schools

With money involved, let's watch the colleges scramble to get on board.

The American Diploma Project certainly isn't new. In partnership with The Education Trust and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Achieve launched the American Diploma Project (ADP) in 2001.

For the lowdown (and it is low) on Achieve and on State Farm's participation in bashing public schools, (through its head honcho Edward Rust), see Why Is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools? by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian.

Rust is now or has been the co-chair of the Business Coalition for Excellence in Education, chair of the Business Roundtable Education Task Force, chair of National Alliance of Business, cochair Committee for Economic Development Subcommittee on Education Policy, member of board Achieve, member of board McGraw-Hill, member President-elect Bush's Transition Advisory Team Committee on Education, member board of Trustees American Enterprise Institute.

Arthur F. Ryan of Prudential was formerly with Chase Manhattan and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He is chair of the Business Coalition for Educational Excellence (BCEE) at the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, co-chair New Jersey United for Higher School Standards, Achieve board member, award recipient (for work on higher standards) from New Jersey Business & Industry Association, member of the Augusta National Golf Club, which bars women from membership.

Governor Robert Taft? Here's just one item to consider:
Taft appointed Nancy J. Brennan, from Akron, to the Ohio Educational Telecommunications Network Commission for a term ending November 8, 2007. Ms. Brennan is vice president, overseeing special projects area, of White Hat Management, LLC. Ms. Brennan merged Brennan Learning Services with White Hat Management, a professional education management company.
Govenor Mark Warner: A Democrat, Warner shows his allegiance to the corporate imperative in a 2004 essay in Education Next.
We need to significantly modify the current incentive structure. Like professionals in other fields, teachers ought to be rewarded for achieving results—in this case, based on their effectiveness in producing student learning.
Sponsoring institutions for Education Next are Hoover Institution, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, and
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Is there a child advocate in the house?"

Sometimes others say it better than I.