Monday, July 26, 2021

In Case You Missed It – July 26, 2021

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 new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.


CHARTERS

Charter schools haven't provided the innovations promised. When charters were new they were going to be the labratories for discovering new ways to teach. Charters were going to fill in the gaps that public schools missed. After more than two decades, however, the charter school experiemnt has provided no new innovations and no increased performance when compared to public schools (and neither have private schools collecting state funds through vouchers).

Charters have provided hundreds of scandals and millions of lost tax dollars that should have gone to real public schools.

Read below how charter operators are whining about minimal regulations to help stop the flood of embezzlement, cheating, and the theft of America's tax dollars.

In addition, there's more evidence that charters choose their students, increase segregation, and don't perform better than public schools.

House Democrats Want to Bar Federal Funding of For-Profit Charter Schools, and Charter Lobby Goes Wild

From Diane Ravitch
The federal government has handed out billions of dollars to start new charter schools. The federal Charter Schools Program program started small, in 1994, with less than $10 million. At that time, based on hope, not evidence, charter schools, it was believed, would be more innovative, more accountable, and better than district public schools. Twenty-six years later, we know more, and we know that many charters fail, few are accountable, and precious little innovation has come from them. But the funding for the program has grown and grown. The federal government is now the biggest funder of new charters. Under Betsy DeVos, most of the annual appropriation of $440 million was doled out to charter chains, like KIPP and IDEA, not to teacher-led schools or mom-and-pop schools.

In 2019, the Network for Public Education issued reports based on federal data, showing that one of every three federally-funded charters closed soon after opening or never opened at all. (See here and here.) NPE also issued a report recently about the for-profit management companies that enrich themselves and their shareholders with public money intended for instruction.

Chris Lubienski: The Deceptive Language of School Choice

From Diane Ravitch
Chris Lubienski is a professor of education policy at Indiana University. He wrote recently with Amanda Potterton and Joe Malin about the deceptive rhetoric of school choice rhetoric. Thirty years ago, the school choice movement boasted that charters and vouchers would “save poor children from failing public schools.” They claimed that private schools outperform public schools. Now we know that school choice does not produce academic improvement for students; that many pick their students and discriminate against the children they don’t want. “Success” for school choice means expansion of charters and vouchers, not better education for students.
Last week, Forbes magazine published an article on how “School Choice Keeps Winning.” Interestingly, “winning” isn’t defined as helping kids learn. Indeed, the article avoids that issue because evidence indicates that school choice is actually failing on that front. Instead, Forbes uses the term to celebrate the expansion of choice programs in many GOP-led states.
TESTING

Economists Worry Covid-19 May End Standardized Testing Altogether

Could the silver lining of the COVID-19 cloud be that we finally end the misuse and overuse of standardized testing?

From Gadfly on the Wall
The sky is falling for standardized test enthusiasts.

Economists Paul Bruno and Dan Goldhaber published a paper this month worrying that the Coronavirus pandemic may increase pressure to end high stakes testing once and for all.

The paper is called “Reflections on What Pandemic-Related State Test Waiver Requests Suggest About the Priorities for the Use of Tests.” It was written for The National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER) – a Walton funded, pro standardized testing policy concern.

It’s easy to see why Bruno (who also taught middle school) and Goldhaber (who did not) are distressed.

Last school year President Joe Biden forced districts nationwide to give standardized assessments despite the raging Covid-19 pandemic.

DECADES OF HOSTILITY TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

White Evangelicals Want to Destroy the Public Schools

In 1979, Jerry Falwell (Sr.) said,
I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!
His philosophical and religious descendants are still trying to damage public education.

From Diane Ravitch
Katherine Stewart’s new book The Power Worshippers describes the hostility of evangelical Christians to public schools. I reviewed her book along with two others in the New York Review of Books. One of the most interesting insights in her book is that white evangelicals at first tried to mobilize public opinion to protect the tax-exempt status of segregated private schools and universities. When that didn’t work, they found another issue that did: abortion.

But they have never given up on their goal of public funding for religious schools that were free to discriminate and the elimination of public schools.
SELF-SERVE EDUCATION PLANS

Education and the Self-Service Thunderdome

Curmudgucation blogger Peter Greene comments about the increase in self-service stores...specifically at Walmart...and how privatizers (including the Walton family) are working hard to make America's education system "self-serve."

From Curmudgucation
I'm not opposed to self-service on principle. I do not, for instance, miss gas station attendants at all (you youngsters can go ask your parents or grandparents what they were). Rather than explain to someone what I want and then wait for them to do it, it's far simpler to just get out of the car and do it myself. But what value is added by having me do my own swiping across a bar code reader?

In fact, as we're having the chance to view across many businesses these days, "self-service" is a pretty euphemism for "reduced service."

It's the dawn of retail thunderdome, in which the retailer provides customers with virtually no service at all except for a building, a marketplace in which to hunt, as best your able, for what you are able to find. Need help? Holler fruitlessly at the surveillance cameras. Can't find what you want? Not their problem--you're welcome to choose from whatever they decide to put on the shelves. Customer, you are on your own.

If this model seems vaguely familiar, that's because it's the same model at the heart of modern school choice. It is self-service education, an "ecosystem" in which customers are on their own, without aid or assistance or even anyone to make sure that the available options are safe. Nobody around to watch out for their interests but themselves. Caveat your own emptor, buddy. Here's a tiny voucher to help you feel as if the community hasn't abandoned you entirely, but once we hand you that voucher, we wash our hands of you.

IGNORING HISTORY, IGNORING SCIENCE

The Venn diagram of those who are against teaching evolution, those who are against teaching facts about the racial history of the United States, those shouting the loudest against the "tyranny" of having students wear masks during a pandemic, and those refusing to get vaccinated, is nearly a perfect circle.

America - Exceptionalism or Ignorance?

From Live Long and Prosper
Many of the same science-denying activists and legislators who are trying their best to "protect" American school children from climate change, public health efforts, and evolution, are now trying to "protect" students from actual history which doesn't always present the "American Experience" in a good light.

Instead of teaching children that the freedoms so eloquently described in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution should be taken as goals, not reality...that such freedoms were not available to women, native people, and hundreds of thousands of Africans and their descendants enslaved throughout the entire country, they want us to focus on "American Exceptionalism" -- that the USA is somehow God-ordained to lead the world morally as well as militarily. Somehow, if we hide the ugly side of our history it will be ignored and forgotten.

...There is a concerted effort on behalf of many Americans to hide the truth from our children...the truth about science, and the truth about our history. How "exceptional" can America be when we're sending our children to school and encouraging them to remain ignorant?

Ohio Governor Signs Bill To Ban Schools and Universities from Requiring COVID Vaccinations

From Diane Ravitch
America, we have a problem. The COVID is spreading, largely through a highly contagious variant called Delta, but only 48.3% of the population is vaccinated. More than 600,000 Americans have died. In five states—Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Wyoming, and Louisisna—less than 36% are vaccinated.

Despite the resurgence of this deadly disease, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation barring schools and universities from excluding unvaccinated students. The results are predictable: more hospitalizations, more deaths.

GOP legislators say they prefer to wait until the vaccines have received full approval from the Centers for Disease Control. The three in wide use-Moderna, Pzifer, and J&J-were approved on an emergency basis by the CDC and have been highly effective.

SUMMER HELP FROM FWCS

FWCS partnerships help students

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Placing FWCS teachers at various community sites – the Euell A. Wilson Center, Parks and Recreation centers, YMCA locations and other Boys and Girls Clubs facilities – for two four-week sessions is a first for the 30,000-student district, said Matt Schiebel, a secondary education director.

The effort helps broaden FWCS' summer reach to children not participating in Jump Start, the district's academically focused K-8 summer program at Blackhawk and Memorial Park middle schools, Schiebel said.

The school district's renewed focus on summer learning followed a nontraditional school year marked with remote learning, quarantines and other challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now 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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, July 19, 2021

In Case You Missed It – July 19, 2021

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 new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.

TESTS SHOW US WHAT WE ALREADY KNOW

As usual, standardized tests show us what we already know. In this case, that the ongoing pandemic has hurt children's test scores and hurt the test scores of poor children worse than those with more resources.

It's time we end our obsession with tests and focus on the needs of children. We've known for decades that students in poverty, often attending schools that are poorly resourced, score lower on standardized tests. That's not due to poor teaching but to poverty itself. The main target should be alleviating the poverty of children living in low-income homes, approximately 1 out of every 6 American children, not shaming children, schools, and districts for the number of low-income students they educate.

ILEARN results show pandemic had an impact

From School Matters
COVID-19 clearly impacted learning, as everyone expected it would. Between 2019 and 2021, the share of students who scored proficient on the tests declined by about 8 percentage points in English/language arts and by about 11 percentage points in math. The share of students who were proficient in both English/language arts and math declined from 37.1% to 28.6%. (The test wasn’t given in 2020).

This isn’t entirely an apples-to-apples situation, and the department cautioned against comparing 2019 and 2021 scores. For one thing, the 2019 scores included only students who were enrolled at the same school for 162 days, while the 2021 scores apparently included all students who were tested. State officials said they’re thinking of 2021 as a “new baseline” for measuring future improvement.

But it’s not surprising that test scores, overall, were lower in 2021. Schools moved online for the last two months of the 2019-20 school year, when the pandemic began. While circumstances varied by school district, many students were fully or partially online in 2020-21.

Indiana ILEARN test scores plunge unevenly

From Chalkbeat*
As education officials had warned, Indiana elementary and middle school test scores plunged this year, with only a fraction testing proficient in English and math, much fewer than two years ago.

Results of the annual ILEARN state tests released Wednesday show that 28.6% of students statewide in grades 3 through 8 tested proficient in both English and math. In 2019, the last time the test was given, 37.1% passed.

In Indianapolis Public Schools, which has a high proportion of students from struggling families, only 10% showed proficiency in both English and math.

Last spring, states debated whether testing students amid a pandemic was fair to them and schools. Indiana decided to test, and required even students learning remotely to take the annual standardized exams in person— though state lawmakers won’t punish schools for the results.

The results highlight the uneven toll that the pandemic and economic shutdown have exacted, hitting students of color and those from low-income families particularly hard. That in turn has left a wide chasm in performance between those students and their wealthier peers.
THE POLITICS OF COVID-19 STILL PLAGUING SCHOOLS

Conspiracy theories about the danger of masks are still causing trouble for America's public schools. Sadly, as the coronavirus delta variant increases its hold on the country, it's possible that masks will become necessary again. Groups of parents fueled by right-wing conspiracy theories deny that masks are effective, claim that masks cause CO2 poisoning, carry 5G antennas, or at the very least, inhibit "freedom," have been attacking school boards around the country demanding that children be allowed to go to school mask-free.

Of course, teachers are caught in the middle.

NACS board condemns threats to staff

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The Northwest Allen County Schools board – which has drawn months of heated public comment that began over the mask mandate – issued a statement Wednesday condemning threats to its educators.

The statement, which board President Kent Somers first read at the June 28 meeting, asks people to demonstrate respect towards those with whom they may disagree.

“We are issuing this statement after learning that threats may have been made, or at least implied, against NACS representatives,” the board said. “To be clear, we fully support the First Amendment and the right to engage in legitimate disagreement, but we must unequivocally condemn any threat to our educators.”

SACS board votes to make masks optional

A free article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
Southwest Allen County Schools is planning a year of traditional, in-person classes where masks will be optional for all students and staff.

Masks will only be required on buses per federal order.

The five-member school board unanimously endorsed these and other changes – including welcoming school visitors again – to the district's return to classroom plan Tuesday night.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's revised guidance on mask-wearing in schools wasn't mentioned. The agency said Friday vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear masks inside school buildings.

The Government Should Make Unvaccinated Students & Staff Mask Up in Schools

From Gadfly on the Wall Blog
As a classroom teacher, I cannot enforce safety protocols in my school all by myself.

I can’t make students and coworkers wear masks.

I can’t require people to show me their medical records to determine with any degree of certainty who is and is not fully vaccinated.

But when it comes to Covid-19, the federal government is again throwing up its hands and leaving all safety protocols to small town government officials, local school directors, and schmucks like me.

The result is a patchwork of inconsistent and inadequate safety directives that put far too many at risk.

Here we go again.
CHARTER SCHOOL SCANDALS - SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

Suit: Online charters bilked state of millions

The loosely regulated charter school sector has been scandal-ridden for years. The Network for Public Education has documented charter school scandals going back more than a decade and has detailed hundreds of them on their website under the title, Another Day Another Charter Scandal.

States with a large charter presence haven't paid much attention to the scandals since pro-charter donors line the campaign coffers of many legislators. Now, however, with the privatization movement emulating former Ed Secretary DeVos, and focusing more on vouchers, the charter sector is in danger of losing out to its more profitable privatization competitor. To that end, Indiana has filed suit against a couple of virtual charters for doing what charters do...pocketing taxpayer dollars.

Maybe it's time for Indiana and other states to rethink school privatization.

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
The leaders of two now-closed Indiana online charter schools are accused in a new lawsuit of defrauding the state of more than $150 million by padding their student enrollments and inappropriately paying money to a web of related businesses.

The lawsuit announced Monday by the Indiana attorney general's office comes almost two years after Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy shut down amid a state investigation that found the two online schools improperly claimed about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity.

The lawsuit seeks repayment of about $69 million it claims the schools wrongly received in state student enrollment payments. It also seeks $86 million that officials say the schools improperly paid to more than a dozen companies linked to them by common business officers or relatives and did so with little or no documentation.

“This massive attempt to defraud Hoosier taxpayers through complex schemes truly boggles the mind,” state Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement.

Indiana sues ex-virtual schools and officials for $154 million in alleged fraud

From Chalkbeat*
Indiana officials have filed suit against two defunct online charter schools and their officers for allegedly defrauding the state of $154 million by padding student enrollment.

State Attorney General Todd Rokita alleged that former officers and others related to the Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy fraudulently received and spent tuition paid to educate online students.

Last winter, a state audit covering eight years alleged that the schools dramatically inflated enrollment over their actual number of students, thus wrongly receiving more than $68 million in state payments.

A Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 found financial conflicts of interest at Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy as well as dismally low academic results. The two virtual charter schools shut down in 2019 after the allegations of enrollment fraud.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now 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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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Monday, July 12, 2021

In Case You Missed It – July 12, 2021

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 new Follow Us By Email box in the right-hand column to be informed when our blog posts are published.
THIS WEEK

The battle over Critical Race Theory is not over, but this week's list of articles includes more than CRT focused pieces. There are other issues which still interest our readers -- Common Core, teaching homeless students, celebrity sponsorship of schools, and more.

RACE, RACISM, AND CRITICAL RACE THEORY

As states place new limits on class discussions of race, research suggests they benefit students

Right-wing pundits and voters are raging against Critical Race Theory, yet it may surprise you to learn that discussing race and how racism exists in our society is actually good for students. Unfortunately, the anti-CRT crowd isn't really interested in helping students. They, apparently, are only interested in white-washing the nation's history.

From Chalkbeat*
A handful of recent studies have found that students are more engaged in school after taking classes that frankly discuss racism and bigotry — just as some educators like Mason fear such discussions could be threatened by a wave of broad state laws designed to limit the teaching of what some are calling “critical race theory.”

“These experiences where [students] grapple head-on with issues of identity and race and racism … does something to their level of engagement,” said Emily Penner, a professor at University of California, Irvine who has studied courses that include discussions of racism. “That process is really useful to them in an academic sense, probably in a personal sense as well.”

A handful of recent studies offer evidence of those benefits.

Douglass’ speech should be in school libraries

It seems that state AG Todd Rokita is unaware that Indiana requires schools to keep a copy of Frederick Douglass's famous speech about Independence Day. If he did, he might have thought twice about publishing his divisive Parents Bill of Rights.

From School Matters
Did you know that Indiana schools are required to keep a copy of Frederick Douglass’ speech “What to a Slave is the Fourth of July?” in their school libraries? I wonder how many schools actually do this. And how many Hoosier teachers assign their students to read or hear Douglass’ powerful words.

The speech, delivered 169 years ago today, is one of 15 “protected writings, documents and records of American history or heritage” identified in Indiana law. The expected documents are on the list: the U.S. and Indiana constitutions, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, etc. But it also includes Douglass’ speech, Chief Seattle’s letter to a U.S. president (which may be apocryphal) and abolitionist David Walker’s “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World.”

Learn from the past...or repeat it.

“If Black children are old enough to experience racism, then other children are old enough to learn about critical race theory.”

From Live Long and Prosper
...Those who object to CRT (including their cable news allies) have redefined it to encompass anything that has to do with race, a Marxist incursion into K-12 education, a communist plot, or any number of other anti-American plots to indoctrinate our children. Even if CRT isn't being taught in America's K-12 classrooms, it is being rebranded as a danger to America.

The protests against the non-existent CRT threat come at the tail-end (hopefully -- but beware, the delta variant) of the coronavirus pandemic...which, in turn, arrived at the end of the previous political administration. Are people more susceptible to conspiracy theories after four years of the Cult of Trump? Are parents so frustrated by the forced educational adjustments of the pandemic that they are exploding in rage at...anything? Are right-wing politicians searching for something to enrage "the base" to replace the declining interest and anger against caravans, Dr. Seuss, socialism, and other political manipulations?

For whatever reason, it's apparently time to attack education -- again.
IGNORING EXPERTISE

The Single Biggest Scourge of Education Reform

Only teachers, among all the professions, are told how to do their jobs by people with no experience in the field. Only teachers are micromanaged by legislators, state school board members, and other politicians, who have never set foot in a classroom as an educator.

From Curmudgucation
Privatization? Profiteering? Vouchers? Charters? Teacher-proof classrooms? High-stakes testing?

No, these issues, in their worst forms, all have their roots in the same soil, the same fertile ground from which all rotten education fruit grows.

Amateurs.

The current flap flying under the banner of critical race theory panic is just the freshest example of people who really, truly don't understand how schools actually work.
REACHING OUT TO STUDENTS WHERE THEY ARE

An Indianapolis tutoring program meets homeless students where they are

This seems to be a great program, but it would be nice if Indiana addressed the problems of the homeless.

From Chalkbeat*
...working with School on Wheels, an organization that brings tutors to unhoused students. After a year of working virtually with them, the group returned to schools and more recently to shelters, seeking to replicate that human connection that sparked Novak’s distracted student.

Karen Routt, who directs the group’s work in schools, said the pandemic created challenges. For one, the organization struggled to locate students.

Staff members combed apartment complexes and motels in search of their students, sometimes conducting tutoring sessions in parking lots. They read to children outdoors while socially distant, conducted tutoring sessions via Zoom, and in Washington Township created a learning pod for virtual studies. But safety measures kept volunteers from meeting with children face to face.

Partner schools, which normally identify unhoused families and refer children to School on Wheels, lost touch with students in unstable housing — as did many school districts nationwide during the pandemic. Because of pandemic precautions and public fears, homeless shelters remained below capacity, further shrinking the number of families referred to the program.

CELEBRITIES WORKING WITH PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEMS

Celebrities Fund Public Schools, Not Charter Schools

Celebrities from Tony Bennett (the singer, not the former Indiana schools chief), to George Clooney, to Dr. Dre, have invested in public schools.

From Diane Ravitch
The chair of the California State Board of Education, Linda Darling-Hammond, disparaged these efforts as “charity,” when what is need is justice.

Since so many media stars like John Legend and a bevy of billionaires from the Walton family to the Broad Foundation to the DeVos family to Charles Koch, and billionaire hedge funders with less familiar names have spent hundreds of millions to support alternatives to public schools, I salute those celebrities who put their money into public schools, not charter schools.

“The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, founded by the singer Tony Bennett, has operated for decades within New York’s public school system, for example. And LeBron James has opened a highly successful public school with wraparound social services in Ohio. But a group of Texas charter schools founded in 2012 by Deion Sanders, the former N.F.L. player, closed in insolvency after three scandal-plagued years.”

It seems unfair to criticize private philanthropy to public schools while remaining silent about the billionaires (and the federal government with its Charter Schools Program, funded at $440 million annually) pouring hundreds of millions every year into the aggressive expansion of corporate charter chains that defund public schools.
THE COMMON CORE IS NOT DEAD

Nicholas Tampio: Whatever Happened to the Common Core?

From Diane Ravitch
On June 16, Emily Richmond of the Education Writers Association led off a lively social media exchange by tweeting: “Hey, remember the Common Core?”

One special education researcher replied that the Common Core is “implemented now in every classroom in America just under another name.”

Another teacher tweeted: “You mean what NY conveniently rebranded as “Next Generational Learning Standards”? It’s never gone away. 😞”

People also responded with memes of actors saying “Shhh!” and “We do not speak his name.”

Here, I would like to explain how the Common Core is implemented in nearly every classroom in America, and why people rarely say its name anymore.

INDIANA SCHOOLS JUGGLE FUNDS

8% Of schools miss state goal

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette**
After years of providing billions to fund K-12 schools, legislators in 2019 established a guideline that districts shouldn't transfer more than 15% of the tuition support dollars sent by the state to the operations fund. That was because they had been accused of not giving enough money for teacher pay raises.

“It was a simple piece of legislation about oversight,” said Sen. Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond. “The 15% was somewhat arbitrary. We needed a starting point.”

The highest transfer rate was 28.2% by Cannelton City Schools in Perry County – one of the smallest districts in the state.

Now that a baseline has been established Raatz said state and local education officials can begin to watch for problems. “If we are transferring too much does it indicate there is something wrong with the district? Are they heading in the wrong direction?” he said.

*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.

**Note: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has changed its online access and is now 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 fortwayne.com/subscriptions/

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