Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Public Dollars Should Stay with Public School Students

...from the Indiana Coalition for Public Eduation.

7 Reasons Why Public Dollars Should Stay with Public School Students and Should NOT Be Diverted To Private Schools

(Click here to download a copy)

1) PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE OPEN TO ALL -- Public schools proudly take every student who comes to enroll. Private schools can pick and choose among applicants and can reject any student without an explanation. The inclusiveness of public schools requires support and resources.

2) PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE BEDROCK OF DEMOCRACY -- Public schools have been the key institution responsible for teaching about and perpetuating our democracy. Public schools are required by law to provide good citizenship instruction (IC20-­‐30-­‐5-­‐6), to display the flag, and to “provide a daily opportunity to for students of the school corporation to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance in each classroom”. In private schools, these matters are optional and unregulated.

3) PUBLIC SCHOOLS NEED FINANCIAL STABILITY -- Public schools need stable support to maintain and improve programs. Incentives created by the General Assembly to use public funds to attract students to private schools means less money for the public schools since the money follows the child. This dollar drain undercuts the stability of public school programs.

4) PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE CENTERS OF THE COMMUNITY -- Public schools bring the entire community together. Shifting to a publicly funded set of small private schools will fragment the community along religious and philosophical lines.

5) PUBLIC SCHOOLS SERVE ALL INCOME LEVELS -- Claims that vouchers are being directed to low income families ring hollow; the private school tax credit enacted in 2009 provides scholarships to families earning up to $82,000 for a family of four. The voucher program helps those making up to $62,000 for a family of four, which qualifies about two-­‐thirds of all Hoosier students.

6) PUBLIC SCHOOLS HAVE STEADILY IMPROVED -- Claims that Indiana’s public school performance is declining are simply untrue. Steady improvement over the past 20 years in Indiana’s public schools has been clearly documented. Currently, Indiana’s public schools stand at or near their highest marks in history on attendance rate, SAT math, ACT, National Assessment, ISTEP+, and percentage earning Academic Honors diplomas and Core 40 diplomas. Indiana outperforms Florida on 4th & 8th grade math, 8th grade reading, and 4th & 8th grade science on the National Assessment. Of course, more improvement is needed to meet global economic competition, but outsourcing students to private schools will undercut support and hamper further improvement in public schools. Parents who press leaders to fund improvements for their public schools will simply be told to take their child to a private school if they don’t like their public school.

7) PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE NOT SECTARIAN -- Regarding school choice, of course many families choose religious schools for their children for religious reasons. Taxpayers, however, should not be obligated to send students to parochial schools even if that is the choice of the parents. That is why the Indiana Constitution says: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” Our public policies must avoid financial entanglements with religious schools. School choice should be offered within the arena of public schools, through neighborhood schools, magnet schools, tuition transfer to nearby districts, charter schools and virtual schools now available.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Book Review: Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling

Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling by Alfie Kohn.

Reviewed by Susie Berry

Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling is Alfie Kohn’s newest book; he has written eleven others. It is a collection of nineteen essays on children and schooling.

Kohn hits the controversial topics of homework, grades, and standardized tests. One of his essays discusses learning, motivation, and creating non-readers. Another essay presents data about setting up wellness programs and the financial incentives to promote these programs. He compares research with these wellness programs and the motivations used with children in our schools. He questions the use of rewards in both places.

This book will cause you to rethink your beliefs, especially ideas about the use of rewards and punishments. These nineteen essays make this a very readable book for parents, educators, and those key leaders who make so many decisions pertaining to our children.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Book Review: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

The Death and Life of the American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch.

Reviewed by Susie Berry

The Death and Life of the American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education was written by Diane Ravitch in 2011. Dr. Ravitch is Research Professor of Education at New York University and a historian of education. She is the featured speaker on March 13 at the Omnibus Lecture Series at IPFW.

In this book, Ravitch reviews the No Child Left Behind legislation which promised
a “new era of high standards, testing, and accountability in which not a single child would be overlooked”. Five years after this legislation was enacted, a panel of scholars and representatives from a conservative think tank presented evidence that none of the remedies advocated in NCLB were making a difference. According to Ravitch, choosing your child’s school also did not improve test scores. The information learned that day and the thorough research conducted after that presentation were really the basis for Ravitch’s change in thinking and the motivation for writing this book.

Ravitch addresses the newest information about charter schools, vouchers, the standards movement, accountability, and the “billionaire boys’ club”. She questions how corporate leaders – and many politicians – can write blanket prescriptions for restructuring schools without consulting educators.

The author’s research also indicates that the real problem facing schools is poverty and advocates for family involvement in education from an early age.

Based on Ravitch’s thorough research and keen insight into the educational needs of students, teachers, and families, her presentation on March 13 will surely impress.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Poverty and Race in Education

Two videos dealing with Poverty and Race in America's Public Education.

1. From An Urban Teacher's Education

Education in Light of Poverty

2. From Schools Matter.
Perfect Hour for Parents, Ed Students, and Teachers During Black History Month

Brian Jones is a teacher, actor, and activist in New York City. He is the co-narrator of the film, The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman...

Still Separate, Still Unequal: Racism, Class and the Attack on Public Education, with Brian Jones
from N Alexander on Vimeo.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Diane Ravitch in Fort Wayne

The Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) has announced some events of interest to everyone concerned about Public Education.

Diane Ravitch author of The Life and Death of the Great American School System and a strong advocate for public schools will be speaking at the Auer Auditorium on the IPFW campus at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 13. Dr. Ravitch will be part of the Omnibus Lecture Series. Tickets, though free, are needed for this event. Call the IPFW box office at 481-6555 for further information.

As a prelude to Dr. Ravitch's appearance, NEIFPE has arranged for the showing of two films at the downtown Cinema Center.

Waiting for Superman will be shown on Sunday, February 26 at 4:15 p.m and on Monday, February 27 at 4:00 p.m.

As a response to "Superman," Cinema Center is showing The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman on Sunday, March 4 at 4:00 p.m. and on Monday, March 5 at 4:00p.m.

Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Educations will lead a discussion of the two films following the two Sunday showings. There will be no charge for these showings, but donations will be accepted to help the producers of The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman defray their production and distribution costs.

A flyer with information about NEIFPE will be distributed at the Cinema Center events. You can download a copy HERE.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NEIFPE Beginnings, by Phyllis Bush

I have been asked numerous times why I went to the SOS March in Washington. I have given this much thought. I have been bothered by the direction of the “Education Reform” movement ever since No Child Left Behind became law. The latest “reform” movement, The Race to the Top, appears to be a punitive extension of the No Child Left Behind. Given the rapid nature that Indiana has passed so called education reforms, I am appalled that those who have never taught and those who have never worked in education seem to be deciding the direction of how reform should be addressed. I am also appalled that those who are on the front lines of working with young people seem to be the target of all of the reform.

I am bothered that no one who is making all of the charges about our "failing schools" seems to address the fact that learning is a collaborative effort which must include students, parents, teachers, and a community that values education. I am also bothered that no one making policy has addressed poverty as an issue. While no one would ever suggest that poor children cannot learn, how important is learning to a child who is hungry, to a child whose school has substandard facilities, to a child who is homeless?

Many imply that teachers only want the status quo, job protection, 3 months of summer vacation, no accountability -- the list of red herrings goes on and on. I do not know any teacher who wants to keep lousy teachers in the classroom because the handful of teachers who are not doing an adequate job give a black eye to all of the teachers who are doing a good job. However, most teachers would like to see their unit head (principal, superintendent) work with ineffective teachers either to help them improve or to help them out the door. Teachers are not looking for special privileges to keep them in lifetime employment. They are looking for due process, so that they cannot be fired unjustly.

Most public school teachers don't feel threatened by charter schools or vouchers. However, they feel threatened by the non-level playing field that school “choice” represents. If there is fair and equitable funding among schools, public schools can easily compete. However, when tax dollars go to private schools which do not have to accept all students, which do not have to provide services to special needs students, and which do not have to have the same accountability, something is wrong.

Accountability is another issue. I cannot imagine that most teachers resist accountability; however, the accountability police seem to think that testing and testing and more testing is the same as learning. To my mind, there are only two good reasons for testing. One is for diagnostic purposes; the other is for evaluation. Accountability should be judged on something over which teachers have some control. If a child has decided that he/she cares not about the test being given, then why should his/her teacher be held accountable for that?

One of the things which I find most bothersome about “education reform” is that I have heard very little from critics talking about the joy of learning, the intrinsic value of an “aha” moment, or the creative process.

After we returned from the SOS March, several of us here in Indiana gathered together to see if we could channel this energy. We decided that we needed to inform our community about what is happening in public schools. When we found out that Diane Ravitch, noted education historian and critic of the current reform movement, would be speaking here in March, we decided to work with the Cinema Center to bring some films about education so that we could begin a community conversation.

First, the Cinema Center will be screening, free of charge, the movie Waiting for Superman on Sunday Feb 26th at 4:15 pm and Monday Feb 27th. 4 pm. The Sunday showing will be followed by a discussion.

The next weekend, Cinema Center will show The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman at 4 pm, Sunday March 4th and Monday March 5th. Again a discussion will follow Sunday’s movie.

On Tuesday March 13th, the Omnibus Lecture Series at IPFW will be hosting Dr. Diane Ravitch, one of the nation’s most important voices in the education debate. Tickets are required for her lecture and are available free of charge from the box office at 481-6555 beginning Feb 21st.