Saturday, April 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: 30% Pay Cuts and the Dissolution of the School District Coming to Your Hometown Soon

That is, unless you live in Milwaukee or Philladelphia.  Then it's not coming soon.  It's already here.  Be sure to check out current events in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.  Also, an op ed from Gail Collins in the NY Times finally sheds a little light to the public this week.

NO to Education Reform. YES to Education Redefined.

The Corporatocracy of America has set its claws on dismantling public education by blitzing the populace with Orwellian tactics.
Spread Fear with Misinformation:  failing schools, outdated educational system maintaining the status quo, lagging behind, shortcomings of schools pose national security threat
Denial of Truth:  Refuses to admit or find solutions to the  equity and  poverty problem plaguing our nation, which especially effects our children.
Manipulate support with Propaganda Doublespeak:  Education Reform, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core embedded with 21st Century Skills
Impose Surveillance and Limit Divergent Thinking: States' Department of Education have reorganized their education support into an Office of Accountability.  This office's responsibility is to closely monitor and evaluate teacher practice through bogus accountability measures. Also, the purpose of the Core Curriculum is to create a national database on every student.
So, who are we?  Who are we that resist?

Monday, April 23, 2012

DIBELS: Harming Students and Wasting Money

Ask some primary teachers what they'll be doing in language arts from now to the end of the year and you'll probably hear, "Dibeling."  It's not a teaching method, it's another test taking up valuable teaching time.  

The Scoop on DIBELS
What makes DIBELS the perfect literacy test is that it takes total control of the academic futures and school lives of the children it reaches from the first day they enter kindergarten when they are barely five years old. It keeps control of their literacy development and indeed their whole school experience for four years from kindergarten through third grade.. And the more poorly the children respond to DIBELS the more they experience it. Norm referenced tests usually are not given until third grade and then only once a year. Diagnostic tests are usually used selectively with pupils to provide teachers with information on what strengths and weaknesses learners may have. DIBELS, once it gains a foothold, is administered a minimum of three times a year at the beginning, middle and end of each grade from kindergarten to third.

There are many things wrong with DIBELS. It turns reading into a set of abstract decontextualized tasks that can be measured in one minute. It makes little children race with a stop watch. It values speed over thoughtful responses. It takes over the curriculum leaving no time for science, social studies, writing, not to mention art music and play. It ignores and even penalizes children for the knowledge and reading ability they may have already achieved.

From DIBELS, the perfect literacy test, just like Katrina was the perfect storm: Entire article here.

What to tell the teacher who says, "I don't like what's going on in education, but I'm just going to do what they tell me to do and not stir up trouble."

Stanley Milgram, noted for his From Obedience to Authority Figures study, realized while reading through the transcripts of the My Lai Massacre, the Nuremberg trials, and statements from Lieutenant Henry Wirz, commandant at Andersonville, this theme recurs:
Obedience does not take the form of a dramatic confrontation of opposed wills or philosophies but is embedded in a larger atmosphere where social relationships, career aspirations, and technical routines set the dominant tone. Typically, we do not find a heroic figure struggling with conscience, nor a pathologically aggressive man ruthlessly exploiting a position of power, but a functionary who has been given a job to do and who strives to create an impression of competence in his work.
Milgram said this of his obedience experiments:
They raise the possibility that human nature, or-more specifically-the kind of character produced in American democratic society, cannot be counted on to insulate its citizens from brutality and inhumane treatment at the direction of malevolent authority. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.
In an article entitled "The Dangers of Obedience," Harold J. Laski noted:
...civilization means, above all, an unwillingness to inflict unnecessary pain...Those of us who heedlessly accept the commands of authority cannot yet claim to be civilized.
...Our business, if we desire to live a life not utterly devoid of meaning and significance, is to accept nothing which contradicts our basic experience merely because it comes to us from tradition or convention or authority.

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.  ---Thomas Paine:  Common Sense

Chris Hedges at Truthdig cites Immanuel Kant, Socrates, and Hannah Arendt to put it all together in  the last few paragraphs of his recent article, Why the United States is Destroying its Public Education:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: Connecting the DOTS

Start a conversation about the systematic dismantling of public education and it is hard to find a starting point.   What is destroying public education is much  like Hydra, the multi-headed beast from Greek Mythology. When one head was cut off, two more would grow back. Where does one begin to counter the attack of a multi-headed beast?  

Here's a timely reminder from Steven Krashen who was speaking of the infamous "Pineapple Questions":  

The problem is not bad test items, the problem is the massive and unnecessary testing that is killing our children and stealing money from our citizens. Even if the tests were perfect, I would be against them.
I understand the need to expose these bad items and I am all for it. But we need to make it clear that we are not just saying, "Please sir, give us better tests." 
Thoreau: There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: A Revolt Against "Reform"

Education Reform is its own worst enemy because when it has swept aside opposition and has imposed its testing and assessment regimen on the nation's public schools, parents will be horrified to discover that their children hate school, and those with options will depart the public school system or rise up in revolt, joined by teachers and in some cases students fed up with measures that squeeze every ounce of joy and creativity out of school communities. 

The signs of revolt are already all around us, but because the school reformers have limitless funds at their disposal and a media monopoly which makes their policies seem parent and student friendly, they are likely to get everything they are asking for. Then, after a generation of teachers and students are beaten down and demoralized, the real revolt will begin.      --Mark Naison

I've only been blogging and actively engaged in ending public school "reform" for a couple of months.  With a few Internet searches, a few comments to others fighting this same battle, and posting my blogs, I am already connected to thousands of people united in this cause.  Each week, that number grows.

Also growing is the amount of information available.  The more connected I become, the more I am able to find.  Support is growing.

Mark Naison is a history professor. His predictions are well constructed in his post above found on  Children are more than test scores , Testing hurts kids, or  Dump Duncan.  Still, I hope some predictions are not quite correct. I hope opposition is not swept aside and it doesn't take a generation of teachers and students to be beaten down.  I hope we will look back and see the roots to the real revolt had already begun.

Teacher Unions

If you have time to read just one other article this week, I recommend Teacher Unionism Reborn by Lois Weiner. In her post,  she explains teacher unions need to build quickly to defend public education.  With deference to those who support unions and those who do not, she openly confesses the faults with unions, but logically argues a restructured, or totally new form of union, is the way to stop government/corporate "reform".

Other websites with more about teacher unions and collective bargaining include teacher,
Why Teachers Like Me Support the Union, and
a new blog to me from Wisconsin with this article on Collective Bargaining.
Losing collective bargaining is losing a huge piece of the democratic process.

Seniority and Tenure Matter
If you have ever wondered why Seniority and Tenure mattered, one example in the news this week is  Brooke Harris, a teacher voted Teacher of the Year twice by her colleagues. She was  Fired over a Trayvon Martin Fundraiser.  (Teaching Tolerance).  Also find it here:  I was fired for organizing Trayvon Martin fund-raiser  (Detroit Free Press).

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up: A Growing Movement

"When an individual wishes to stand in opposition to authority, he does best to find support for his position from others in his group.  The mutual support provided by men for each other is the strongest bulwark we have against the excesses of authority."   ---Stanley Milgram
The movement against standardization and excessive testing is growing rapidly.  Join the movements at Children are more than test scores , Testing hurts kids, or  Dump Duncan 

The following quotes, web pages, videos and such are just some of the examples gleaned this week from sites around the web.


Changing Education Paradigms :  Excellent video of where we have been, and where we are headed..Easily
worth twelve minutes. 

I found the video above after visiting this blog article:  Dump Duncan | Reflections of a First Year Math Teacher  This is one of the most well-constructed blog articles I have read.  Each topic addresses is hyperlinked to a definitive article or web page where one can find even more information.  This blog is one to bookmark.  The article is one to share.

Dissent Magazine - Spring 2012 Issue - Hired Guns on Astrotur...

How can you resist visiting an online magazine called Dissent?
This article describe in great detail how big corporations are buying out politicians as the means to achieve their newest conquests:  public schools.  This article is one to share in the workroom or lounge with fellow educators.

Privatizing Public Education, Higher Ed Policy, and Teachers - Alec Exposed
This page reveals how ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher's unions, and push American universities to the right. Among other things, these bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds. Through ALEC, corporations have both a VOICE and a VOTE on specific state laws to change the American education system. Do you?

Stephen Krashen: Testing and Teaching to the Test: It's going to get Worse - Living 
in Dialogue - Education Week Teacher

When Stephen Krashen talks, it's best to listen...and pass his message on.

"I am a teacher. My pedagogy is not data driven. Nor is it scripted by a test company. I do not do "customer service." I try to stretch minds , stir imaginations, and inspire students to do more than they ever dreamed possible. I am always open to constructive criticism, but I refuse to let anyone assess my work other than my colleagues and my peers. If you can't understand the material I teach, and don't love my students as much as I do, stay out of my way. I have the best job in the world and anyone who tries to ruin it will find out very quickly that i don't roll over at the behest of fools."  --- Mark Naison

Monday, April 2, 2012

Tell the IDOE to Scrap IREAD-3

IREAD-3 is a forty-question test that will determine whether public school students in Indiana may advance to fourth grade. It channels education dollars toward redundant assessment, not instruction, and favors retention over remediation; it is therefore a misuse of public funds.
No major decision about a child's future should be made on the basis of a single test score. Retaining students has been shown to increase the risk that they drop out of school and to have a null or negative effect on their academic achievement in the long run.
Like other high-stakes standardized tests, IREAD-3 will disproportionately punish low-income children and families. Indiana students' reading skills are already assessed continually by their teachers as well as through ISTEP+ and NWEA or Acuity. Money allocated for this test directly reduces funds available for remediation. Our tax dollars should go to local schools for literacy programs and teachers rather than to assessment overhead and testing companies.