Monday, April 30, 2012

Resumes this Week: Indiana Statewide Testing to Ensure Privatization +

Updated April 30, 2012

I first posted this on March 7th.  At that time, I had just begun researching the truth behind "education reform." I had no idea corpocratic politics was the force behind not only the tension and demoralization enveloping me, but the indecent teaching standards I am asked to follow.

When I reread this, I think about how much more I know about how Corporate America's political connection is pushing the agenda to privatize education.  Still, the basics behind any power play are the same: Greed. Operate by instilling fear. Lie. Repress your opposition.

If you are a novice to the movement to reclaim schools, this article is a good beginning point.
If you already know about the forces behind "reform" skip down to the final comment which was posted on the petition to end the IREAD-3.

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Spread Fear with Misinformation:  failing schools, outdated educational system maintaining the status quo, lagging behind, shortcomings of schools pose national security threat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?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

State Legislator Poisoning Public Education While Calling it Medication

The latest pamphlet mailed to citizens of our district by State Representative Dan Leonard make the same claims I refuted in March in 
an email I also shared here.  My email fell on deaf ears. This newest pamphlet added the claims below.  

Why Join a Union Committee?

When you received an email from the union president asking for your participation on a union committee, you probably said to yourself, “Another committee?”  This is understandable.  Let us be frank: a core of what is necessary for our corporation to function has been accomplished on your personal time.

You probably already belong to several committees. Even if they meet during regular hours, the hidden costs of committee meetings -  planning, grading, and other burgeoning responsibilities that still must be done - are completed after normal business hours.

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.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Counties

With state mandates "deforming" public education, it may not be the best of times in other counties, but at least it is not the worst of times, either.

Consider the differences between two Indiana districts, Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) and Monroe County Community School Corporation's (MCCSC).

In HCCSC, the teachers attempted to bargain a new, long term contract by summer. A long term contract last summer could have been binding so as complex, untested, state mandates in teacher evaluation would not have to be implemented rashly.  HCCSC teachers argued that a lack of long term contract created an uncertain environment with no ownership by its members.  A safe work environment and stakeholder input are two underpinnings of not just highly effective teaching, but also highly effective organizations.

There was no dispute over contract language, no disagreement that couldn't be worked out. HCCSC administration refused to bargain, choosing to use delay tactics until the new laws took effect.

IN MCCSC, teachers and administration agreed to a four-year contract before the new state law took effect, skirting limits on what the two sides could bargain over and the contract's length.  A merit pay system will not be in the contract for some time.(1)

Further, a quote from MCCSC superintendent Judy Demuth:

I really believe that a great teacher’s a great teacher and by instituting a merit program where you give them 500 more dollars or 750 more dollars isn’t going to change a great teacher… I think there’s a lot to be said about letting good teachers doing what they want to do and not throwing a token amount of money on them and expecting them to improve their performance, that’s not going to do it… 
I think [merit pay] tries to institutionalize a process that we know. We’re working with children, with their lives at home, and all of their capabilities they bring to the classroom.  [Teachers] are not widgets, they’re people.  And we talk with them and work with them as people, so I am apprehensive about that as a model of merit pay.

HCCSC teachers, next time someone tries to tell you, "It's just the state," understand that's not entirely true.  It's the superintendent and the administration of the corporation as well.

Working out a long term contract to avoid unproven, bureaucratic laws that nearly every education specialist finds detrimental to education is effective leadership.   Sabotaging contract negotiations so obtrusive state mandates are thrust upon teachers is but a political power play.

Update: April 22:  Be sure to read the comment section, HCCSC teachers.
(1)Superintendent On Merit Pay: Teachers 'Are Not Widgets, They're People' | StateImpact Indiana

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).

Friday, April 13, 2012

Selling Out Liberty for Power

"Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power."   --- Ben Franklin

Franklin's quote is an admonishment to our administration.  

Everyone in HCCSC should have received this memo by now:

Topic: Transfers

Transfer language is now a discussable item and not a part of our contract.  The transfer language now reads as follows:

"Teachers wishing to be considered for  transfer will have five days from the time of posting of vacancies to make their wishes known in writing.  Reasonable efforts will be made to grant internal interviews within ten days of the posting. ...Candidates for a new position will be considered based upon performance and acceptance by the receiving building principal."

The new language is evidence of a crumbling pillar of democracy - education.

This language means much more than deciding if a tenured teacher is granted choice of which building to teach. With the adoption of this language, teachers of HCCSC have handed a golden scepter to the the superintendent to act as Hegemon for the state. This language begins to empower the superintendent to decide to remove any teacher at any time for any reason.  An entire community now entrusts the superintendent to decide not only who teaches, but who teaches where, and who teaches what.

The superintendent has shown obedience to the state, even if mandates are not in the best interests of students.  Principals comply with orders from the superintendent or face severe repercussions.  Teachers' evaluations are based on test scores; so it is teach the state's indoctrinated curriculum or lose one's job. Thus, a cultural hegemony has been formed from the IDOE:  accept state standards as norm, though the benefits are for government and corporations, not children.

This process is best described by Lois Weiner in her article,Teacher Unionism Reborn  Here are a few excerpts:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Would You Rather...? Pay for Teachers or Pay for Tests

At the beginning of the school year, teachers in HCCSC were told two things; there was no money for raises, and to get ready for the PARCC test by adopting Core Curriculum Standards.

By lack of incremental or cost of living raises, paying much more for health insurance, loss of matching funds to retirement accounts, increased hours without compensation, most teachers are making 10% to 20% less than expected.  However, the state, which restructured tax bases resulting in much of our pay decreases, is moving ahead with the PARCC test.

According to AccountabilityWorks,a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting educators, parents, and policymakers interested in quality assessments,  the expected bill for the State of Indiana implementing the National PARCC assessment is staggering.

(View per state bills here.  Projected national cost:  $15.8 billion.)

On average, AccountabilityWorks projects the annual cost for testing in states participating in the consortia to increase by a total of $177.2 million each year.  Over the seven year horizon of this cost analysis, the total increase would be $1.2 billion dollars for the average state. They also project that states adopting Common Core will need to spend approximately $2.47 billion in one time costs to obtain aligned English language arts and mathematics instructional materials.

AccountabilityWorks concludes that "states should step back and encourage a public discussion of the potential benefits and costs of implementing the Common Core standards. Is realigning the local education system to the Common Core standards the best investment of scarce educational resources?" 

Perhaps projected expenses will not be as costly, because the state will probably ignore this as well. "(State should) ensure that thorough professional development is provided to all teachers. Without sufficient teacher understanding of the standards and assessment expectations, students will not receive an adequate opportunity to learn the material on which they will be tested."  Hard to imagine that being told to, "Go to this website and print a copy of the core curriculum," is costing our district our portion of $2.47 billion dollars.

So, Would you rather?  Pay for a huge test but not prepare for it? or,  Pay for teachers and have no huge test?  If you are the Department of Education, and your goals are to increase the GDP through an agenda to privatize schools...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Thomas Midgley Jr. Merit Based Pay Connection

If you ever wanted to study someone who exemplified unintended consequences, look no further than Thomas Midgley Jr.  In his lifetime, Midgley was a chemist who received over 100 patents, honorary degrees, and numerous awards, including some of the most prestigious awards given in his field.

His inventions revolutionized the automobile and household life.  It wasn’t until 20 years after his death that it became known that these inventions, leaded gasoline and CFC’s, had created some of the worst environmental disasters of the century.  According to environmental historian J.R. McNeil , “Midgley had a greater impact on the environment than any other single organism in world history.”

Perhaps states starting to use merit based pay, or evaluating teachers by their student test scores, should think about the legacy of Thomas Midgley Jr. before touting how grand of an idea it is.  We are already seeing the unintended damage being done by its implementation in public education.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Preparing Teachers for the 21st Century

Received another letter from my friend outside the educational field.

Dear teaching friend of mine,

So you and your fellow teachers are demoralized.  Pish-Posh.  You and your coworkers are demoralized because the real world has changed and you can't adapt to it fast enough. Instead of sending angry letters to your legislator you should be sending him thank you cards for finally bringing the cutthroat, contort-the-truth world of politics and corporate business to public education.  

Teachers know all about making rules, almost as much as politicians, who have taken over your game and made new rules. You no longer know how to play, and that's why you're so unhappy. Kudos, politicians. Kudos for helping me imagine my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Johnson, flailing to keep up with dictated rule change after rule change.  Living in the fascist world you'll create through a government indoctrinated system of education is just a small price to pay for the vengeance I've sought all these years since she made me stay in for recess on kickball championship day.

All the rule changes are geared toward bringing a competitive market right into education. Now this is what I call, Head Start. Please don't tell me your kindergarten teachers still say things in their sing-song voices like, "Share the toys, Johnny." Right there is why politicians have taken things like blocks, fingerpaint, and dress-up clothes away from kindergarteners and replaced them all with lined white paper.  What kid wants to borrow lined white paper?

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.