Monday, December 5, 2022

In Case You Missed It – December 5, 2022

Here are links to the last two week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


This week we start with politics.

Since public education is paid for with tax money, it has frequently been used as a political football by politicians. This has become even more pronounced since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Our political discussions today range from bashing teachers' unions to the conspiracy theories promoted by right-wing pressure groups.

Other topics covered in today's posts are testing and vouchers.


Teacher: Why I Quit

After Teaching For 11 Years, I Quit My Job. Here's Why Your Child's Teacher Might Be Next.

There's a teacher shortage in the U.S.

Peter Greene describes it as "a slow-motion walkout, an open-ended strike that's hard to see because teachers are walking off the job one at a time." The pressures of teaching coupled with the last few years dealing with COVID, followed by the political backlash against masking, the conspiracies of "grooming," CRT, book banning, and the like, have created a perfect storm. Would you continue to work in an industry in which politicians, the media, and even your patrons bullied you, called you names, and threatened you?

Not to mention the almost daily incidents of school violence...and the lack of political will to control firearms in our society.

From Huffpost
...there is currently a full-blown cultural war against teachers (and counselors and school board members). It’s not a coincidence that the anti-teacher narrative has grown in tandem with the push for “universal school choice.” The corporate education reform movement is far from organic. The people pulling the strings (and providing the dark money) have a very specific ulterior motive: to discredit the public school system so they can completely privatize education. Ironically, their “indoctrination” accusations and efforts to restrict educators’ professional autonomy are actually in service of their own goals to censor what students learn and gradually eliminate the separation of church and state. If you think I’m exaggerating, read this.

This movement is not democratic. Proponents want to consolidate power over the education system among an even smaller group of decision-makers with different priorities from most Americans. Currently, decisions about how to operate schools are made by school boards composed of district residents — usually elected by other district residents — who, at least in theory, have students’ and communities’ best interests at heart. But when public institutions become vehicles for profit and political influence, shareholders do not historically prioritize the common good.

Thank You, Teachers

Dan Rather: Thank You, Teachers

We'll try to ease the pain of the above post with Dan Rather's thank you to teachers for their work.

From Diane Ravitch
“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’”

I believe every word of it. These aren’t empty sentiments. They come from my lived history. A while back here on Steady, I shared my own experiences as a student of public schools, including an emotional return to my elementary school in Houston.

For all the challenges our schools face, right now millions of children are learning about the world and themselves thanks to dedicated teachers. Teachers are going the extra mile, reaching out to kids in need, tweaking lesson plans to include new insights, passing their own inspirations to the young people before them.

The work is not easy — far from it. And it can be an incredible grind, especially when it seems that society doesn’t value it or is even outright hostile to teachers. With this as a backdrop, it is understandable that many are choosing to leave the profession. This is not a reflection on them, but rather on the nation that is allowing it to happen.

Moms for Liberty? Moms Against Public Education!

Mercedes Schneider on “Moms for Liberty” Takeover of Local School Board: Let the Litigation Begin!

The radical right wing in the United States understands that "all politics is local." Aside from anti-public education legislation from state legislatures, a place to begin their effort to destroy public education is the local school board. Supporters of public education must organize to defeat them at the polls.

From Diane Ravitch
Mercedes Schneider describes the arbitrary and capricious actions of the Berkeley School Board in South Carolina. “Moms for Liberty” won control of the board in the recent election. At its first meeting, it fired the superintendent and the board’s attorney and immediately replaced them.

I posted a report previously about this extremist takeover, written by Paul Bowers, a journalist in South Carolina who attended the tumultuous meeting.

She points out that the superintendent had been rated “proficient” unanimously by the previous board only a month earlier.
Politicians Jockeying for Position

Pompeo: Randi Weingarten Is “the Most Dangerous Person in the World”

Mike Pompeo is testing the waters for a presidential run in 2024 by bashing teachers' unions. He claims that the most dangerous person in the world is a teachers union president.

From Diane Ravitch
Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just proved that he is the stupidest person in the world. He said in an interview that Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

More dangerous than the President of China, Xi Jinping, who is threatening the survival of Taiwan and re-imposing a repressive regime across China.

More dangerous than President Kim, the dictator of North Korea, who is threatening South Korea and the rest of the world, with his intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

More dangerous than Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who is trying to destroy the people of Ukraine by destroying their access to heat, light, and water as winter begins,in addition to raining deadly missiles on them.

No, Pompeo says, Randi is “the most dangerous person in the world.”

Why? Because she leads a teachers’ unions, and unions are evil.

Florida: School Boards Endorsed by DeSantis Begin Firing Superintendents

Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis has been working overtime to damage his state's public schools.

From Diane Ravitch
Have you ever heard of a state governor endorsing candidates in local school board elections?

At the last election, DeSantis endorsed 73 local school board candidates who share his hard-right views. More than half won. Most of the same candidates were endorsed by the fringe group “Moms for Liberty.” Where the DeSantis candidates won a majority, they wasted no time in firing the superintendent. Teachers in DeSantis-led counties must be very careful in teaching about race, racism, gender, American history or anything likely to offend the ideologues who control the board.

Politico reported on the swift actions taken by DeSantis-endorsed school boards:
Florida: Why Does Governor DeSantis Appoint Local School Board Members?

From Diane Ravitch
In one county, his appointees fired the district superintendent and school board attorney at their first public meeting.

Just days ago, he appointed a campaign donor to the Miami-Dade school board.

LOL, We Already Knew It

Grumpy old teacher explains that we already knew that state testing was a waste of time and money.

From Grumpy Old Teacher
...the teacher was told that the state did not report data (test results) by benchmark and the district did not allow teachers to review questions with students and analyze why students chose wrong answers; therefore, a third test was needed so teachers could look at the questions, go over them with students, and look at what wrong answer was most often chosen and why it was wrong.

Reread that paragraph carefully. Ha, ha, ha, did a district employee just admit what we always knew?! That state and district tests have little value for the classroom teacher. Their tests tell us nothing except that our schools no longer focus on what students need. It’s about the data. Students are nothing more than dogs running around a track for the bettors and the house who sets the odds so that it always wins.


School Vouchers Don’t Increase Academics; They Increase Bigotry

Vouchers don't work...other than to divert public tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools.

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
Let’s be honest.

At best, school vouchers are a failed education policy experiment.

At worst, they’re an attempt to normalize bigotry.

Using taxpayer money to send your child to a private or parochial school has got nothing to do with getting a quality education.

If we look at the facts, using a school voucher to go from a public school to a private one actually hurts kids academically.

Large-scale independent studies in Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio and Washington, D.C., show that students who used vouchers were as negatively impacted as if they had experienced a natural disaster. Their standardized test scores went down as much or more than students during the Covid-19 pandemic or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

This should come as no surprise. When we give children school vouchers, we’re removing their support systems already in place.

They lose the friends, teachers, and communities where they grew up. It’s like yanking a sapling from out of the ground and transplanting it to another climate with another type of soil which may not be suited to it at all.

Vouchers have nothing to do with helping kids escape struggling public schools.


Even with a Gerrymandered, Voucher-Supporting Legislature, Ohio Advocates Will Keep on Pushing for a Strong System of Public Education

Ohio finds itself where Indiana has been for more than a decade -- in the grip of an anti-public education supermajority in the state legislature.

From Jan Resseger
After the November election, we woke up in Ohio to a troubling political reality. We have only one remaining Democratic official elected statewide—U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who now begins the final two years of a six year term. Our state is highly gerrymandered, and all the people elected to run our state government, from Governor Mike DeWine on down, are Republicans—most of them increasingly conservative. Republicans now hold a 26-7 supermajority in the Ohio Senate and a 68-31 supermajority in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Although the term-limited, outgoing House Speaker, Bob Cupp lowered himself by joining Senate President Matt Huffman to create illegal (and implemented nonetheless) gerrymandered legislative and Congressional districts for the November, 2022 election, Cupp’s biography summarizes a complex and nuanced political career: “Speaker Bob Cupp is serving his fourth term in the Ohio House of Representatives. He has served as an elected official in all three branches of government and at both the local and state levels: as an Allen County commissioner, a four-term state senator, a court-of-appeals judge, and a justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio.” Extremely knowledgeable about public school finance, Cupp led a several-years-long commission to design a new Fair School Funding Plan and sponsored the legislation as part of the FY22-23 state budget.

Here, however, is the Columbus Dispatch‘s Anna Staver describing Cupp’s replacement, Derek Merrin, who was just elected by his peers to become House Speaker in January: “A 36-year-old realtor and real estate investor who launched his political career before he could legally drink is about to become one of the most powerful lawmakers in Ohio… Merrin told reporters… that he plans to push a ‘bold conservative agenda’ in the next General Assembly… Merrin helped shepherd the 2019 ‘heartbeat bill’ through the House Health Committee where he served as chairman… When the next two-year legislative session gets underway, the leaders of both the Ohio House and Senate will be strong supporters of expanding school choice. Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, is known around the statehouse as the school voucher guy, and Merrin co-sponsored ‘the backpack bill.’ That’s a plan by House Republicans to make every K-12 student in Ohio eligible for a tuition voucher for private school. ‘Speaker-elect Merrin has been a strong supporter of funding students, not systems,’ Center for Christian Virtue President Aaron Baer said. Baer worked closely with lawmakers on House Bill 290, (the Backpack Bill) which was introduced more than a year ago.”

Senate President Matt Huffman has been shamelessly willing to brag about the power his gerrymandered, Republican supermajority grants him. Last spring, he told reporter Anna Staver: “We can kind of do what we want.”

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day every Monday except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

So, What do kids need?

The Indiana General Assembly's Organization Day was yesterday, Tuesday, November 22, 2022. Cathy Fuentes-Rohwer, president of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, spoke to members of AFT Indiana at the Statehouse.

She has graciously allowed us to reprint her comments, here. We urge you to support public education in Indiana and support the ICPE. Click the link below to join:

So, What do kids need?

As we head into a budget session this January, we must ask ourselves how we can best support Indiana's children and prepare them for a bright future. As all good educators, we must start with where the child is and go from there.

Indiana ranks 31st in the country in terms of children's overall wellbeing. The American Academy of Pediatrics sounded the alarm last year when they declared a national mental health crisis for our children. Indiana is 26th in the nation in terms of mental illness rates and access to care. Our domestic violence rates are above the national average. Our child abuse rates are twice the national average. We know that these overall well being statistics are disproportionately affecting our children of color and children from other historically marginalized communities. We also know that the effects of the pandemic had a serious and continued effect on these many concerns for our kids.

It was during the pandemic that our country discovered what we public education advocates have been saying: our schools are the heart of our communities. Our public schools were and are on the frontline of care for our children. The people who work in those schools are the first responders for our kids’ health, education and overall well being. We need to support this system of community public schools.

Instead, Indiana is still faced with a real teacher shortage. Our rural and small schools are struggling to provide kids with the advanced courses and experienced, well paid teachers that all children deserve. Other school systems serving some of our most vulnerable kids are in the same boat. Our public schools are for all and serve all kids–and yet, increasingly the state legislature is siphoning away resources and precious tax dollars to those private and privately run schools that can select their few. Last school year alone, we lost around a quarter of a billion dollars to vouchers alone.

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education will be pushing for more funding in this upcoming legislative session for our public schools. The cost of inflation and the attack on public education, the failure to provide enough funding for the complexities of the burdens of poverty on children's learning and well being, the shrinking pool of teachers with experience and education to meet the needs of our kids, is creating a sustained crisis for Indiana's children.

Here is what we don't need: We don't need another reimagining of high school. You have messed around with how and what our kids need to accomplish before they graduate enough. Let teachers inform policy. Let teachers teach.

Here is what we 
don't need: an increase in public funds going into private hands through charters, innovation schools, private schools, ESAs (education scholarship accounts), or whatever the next best way of cutting public education is. Public schools have kids who are medically fragile, who are houseless, who are new to this country, who are dealing with situations that most of us can't imagine–and “school choice” will not help them. They choose public schools where they are all accepted and served. Fund PreK, not discrimination.

Here's what we also 
don't need: adults getting bogged down in absurdity, accusing our teachers of horrible nonsensical things, looking for litter boxes and porn in the classroom. Let teachers teach. Let educators inform policy. Let them teach truth in history.

Our kids need for the policymakers in this building to stop the attack on their schools, their communities, and on them. Kids need acceptance and love and to continue to walk into schools that accept them and are welcoming. They don't need this continued opening and closing of schools with the market, the revolving door of teachers, the continued loss of funding and resources into private hands that are unaccountable, to all this: STOP!

Public funds belong in public schools..where all children are accepted and cared for. Your budget is your priority: will our kids be prioritized? We will be watching. We will keep the public in public education.


Monday, November 21, 2022

In Case You Missed It – November 21, 2022

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention on NEIFPE's social media accounts. Keep up with what's going on, what's being discussed, and what's happening with public education.

Be sure to enter your email address in the Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

The next In Case You Missed It will post on December 5.

This week's post has important, analytical information about the NAEP test scores, including a reminder that "proficient" does NOT equal grade level.

We also have reports on the school board elections in Indiana, the governor of Virginia's plan to whitewash history, and educational harassment at a charter chain. Jan Resseger answers all of those with a call for public education advocates to fight back.

Fort Wayne Community Schools sets a test score goal and some ideas for bringing success to public school systems.


Worried About Helping Students “Catch Up”? Here’s How To Do It.

The NAEP, like most other standardized tests, is being misused and incorrectly interpreted. The public needs to be constantly reminded that "proficient" does not equal "grade level." Read Peter Greene's analysis.

From Peter Greene in Forbes
You've been seeing plenty of headlines about the dismal scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test scores.

Despite the panic, the NAEP results have provided no clear answers about any of the things people want answers about. As we saw with the "little" NAEP results, there's no clear connection between school closings and dropped scores— staying open when other schools were closed did not produce any clear advantages. And in fact some score declines mirrored other pre-pandemic declines.

Add this on top of the usual caveats about the test. NAEP’s “proficient” is set considerably higher than grade level, as noted on the NAEP site. (This is a lesson that has to be relearned as often as NAEP scores are released.) Students who don’t achieve “proficient” are not “below grade level.” And when interpreting scores, NAEP is extraordinarily clear that folks should not try to suggest a causal relationship between scores and anything else. There are too many factors in play to point to any single factor as a clear cause.


‘Anti-CRT’ candidates underperform

Sadly, Indiana's school board elections have become political.

From School Matters
Indiana, unlike most of the country, did experience a partisan red wave on Nov. 8. Republicans won every statewide race, easily. They won seven of nine congressional districts and came close to winning an eighth. They held their supermajorities in the state House and Senate. If there’s a state where anti-CRT rhetoric should have swept ideologues onto school boards, Indiana is it.

But there’s not much evidence that happened. Surveys show that most Americans, regardless of politics, have a positive view of their local public schools. Farfetched claims that schools are indoctrinating students with a “woke” agenda may play well on right-wing media, but most Hoosiers know better.


Virginia: Governor Youngkin Directs Whitewashing of History Standards

Virginia Governor Youngkin wants to remove non-white history from the state's history curriculum.

From Diane Ravitch
Educators, parents, and civil rights groups in Virginia are outraged because Governor Glen Youngkin has directed the rewriting of the state’s history standards. The Youngkin standards eliminate anything that extremists and rightwingers find objectionable. The Youngkin team initially deleted all mention of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the elementary curriculum. Presumably any discussion of Dr. King’s life and legacy might be interpreted as “critical race theory” by the Governor’s allies.

At the same time, Youngkin’s cultural warriors expanded coverage of Ancient Greece and Rome, expecting children in the early elementary years to learn about major figures in those civilizations for whom they have no context or understanding.

In the rewrite of the standards by the Youngkin team,, a startling amount of material about African Americans was deleted. The curriculum and standards were literally whitewashed.

And as you will notice, the Youngkin draft refers to Native Americans and indigenous peoples as “the first immigrants.” What?

The Multi-Layered Attack on Public Schooling and Why We are Obligated to Fight Back

We can't sit back and let the anti-public education forces destroy our public schools. We have to fight back.

From Jan Resseger
...This background from experts prepares us to recognize today that Moms for Liberty and similar groups disturbing local school boards with racist and homophobic attacks are part of a conscious strategy of funders like the Heritage Foundation and the Goldwater and Manhattan Institutes to grow school privatization and undermine public support for our society’s largest and most universal civic institution. In my state, Ohio, House Bill 290, the universal, Education Savings Account school voucher bill, which will be hashed out this month in a lame-duck session of our gerrymandered, supermajority Republican state legislature, is intimately connected with the mass of culture war bills that have been introduced in the same legislature—bills that would ban books and ban any discussion that touches on race, gender, and sexuality. The culture war bills are there to make us define some of our children as “other” or deviant, to generate fear and unease, and to destroy commitment to a public system of education that has been made more inclusive over the decades in accordance with its declared mission of serving each and every child.

Whose responsibility is it to push back against today’s attack on public education? In his 2021, book, The Privatization of Everything, Donald Cohen assigns the obligation for protecting a democracy to its citizens: “In a democratic society, public goods…. should be defined by the public and its values. Just because some people can be excluded from having a public good does not mean we should allow that to happen. In fact, after we the people define something as a public good, we must use our democratic power to make certain that exclusions do not happen… no winners or losers—when it comes to education (or clean water, or a fair trial, or a vaccine), even if it’s possible to do so. We decide there are things we should do together. We give special treatment to these goods because we realize that they benefit everyone in the course of benefiting each one—and conversely, that excluding some hurts us all. That starts with asserting public control over our fundamental public goods… What’s important is that public goods exist only insofar as we, the voters and the people, create them. That’s how democracy should and often does work. But it really works only if we can hold on to an idea of the common good. Is it good for individuals and the whole?” (The Privatization of Everything, pp. 6-8)


Success Academy Parents Speak Out. Part 2 “I was told my seventh-grade daughter had to repeat entire grade because she failed one course by one point”

From Gary Rubinstein's Blog
Success Academy is known for its high 3-8 standardized test scores and its extreme rigidity. In a way, the rigidity is part of what causes them to have such high test scores. They demand compliance from their students and from the families of those students. When a student or the family of a student is not conforming to the expectations of the school, that student or family are going to be harassed, humiliated, and punished until they either fall into line or ‘voluntarily’ transfer to another school.

The heartbreaking saga of a girl I will call ‘Carla’ began pleasantly enough eight years ago when she was accepted into Success Academy Springfield Gardens as a kindergartener. From kindergarten through fourth grade, she thrived at the school. Her fourth grade report card grades were mostly the highest or second highest category, except for writing where she was struggling.

In fifth grade, she started having problems academically, though not catastrophically, and then as we all know, the pandemic hit and schools in New York went remote for the next year and a half. For the end part of fifth grade and all of sixth grade, Carla struggled to learn remotely. She had various connection issues and would wait in zoom waiting rooms endlessly. She was really traumatized by the pandemic year and was eager to return to in person classes for her seventh grade year.


FWCS sets reading goal of 95% passing by 2027

It's too bad that FWCS needs to focus on test scores. The pandemic caused emotional trauma, aside from academic losses. Focusing on the test scores alone, and of third graders, in particular, might cause some to ignore the real needs of children. Luckily, we know that most teachers rarely ignore the needs of children to focus entirely on test scores, but children's needs, rather than test scores, should be the system-wide focus.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Fort Wayne Community Schools board formalized its expectations Monday about students' reading skills, matching a statewide goal of reaching a 95% passing rate on a key exam by 2027.

Board member Steve Corona, who presented the resolution, hopes FWCS' resolution encourages other boards and districts to do the same.

"We as a state have to get serious about this," Corona said after the meeting.

FWCS and other districts saw their scores plummet on the Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination assessment, or IREAD-3, when testing resumed in 2021 after disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The exam measures third grade literacy proficiency.


Disrupting disruption: How 3 school districts improved with steady work

From the Answer Sheet
Public schools are frequently in the news these days, and seldom is the news good. The spotlight is on ideological donnybrooks over how race and gender-related topics are discussed in classrooms; the growing demand that parents, not teachers, decide what their children should be taught; assaults on the system by opportunistic politicians; and the learning loss blame game, with schools faulted for keeping schools closed during the pandemic. Some state lawmakers have proposed junking the common school and replacing it with a market-based regime.

The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way.

In “Disrupting Disruption,” my co-authors and I shine a light on three racially and ethnically diverse school systems: Roanoke, nestled in Virginia’s Shenandoah mountains; Union, Okla., Tulsa’s neighbor; and Union City, N.J., across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Their students don’t resemble those in highflying places like Wilmette, Ill., or Lexington, Mass., predominantly White and well-off, with their off-the-charts test scores and graduation rates, and they do not appear on any list of the nation’s highest-performing districts. But they look like much of America, where White students don’t constitute a majority, and many come from low-income families.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is behind a paywall. Digital access, home delivery, or both are available with a subscription. Staying informed is important, and one way to do that is to support your local newspaper. For subscription information, go to [NOTE: NEIFPE has no financial ties to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette]

Note: NEIFPE's In Case You Missed It is posted by the end of the day every Monday except after holiday weekends or as otherwise noted.