Monday, September 23, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Sep 23, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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.


PA: Zombie Board Says Charter Free To Do Whatever The Heck It Wants

See the similarities with Indiana?

From Curmudgucation
The charter in question is Franklin Towne Charter. The charter has attracted attention in the past for a variety of reasons.

There's the time a fired principal filed a whistle blower suit, charging that he's been terminated because he pointed out that some Franklin Towne practices such as non-serving ESL students, serious nepotism, and billing the Philly school district for a non-existent all-day kindergarten program. Also, that they had lied to him in his initial interview in order to cover up their high principal turnover rate (it was only later that he learned that the Chief Academic Officer who helped interview him had been removed from the principalship because of outcry over shoplifting and excessive use of force against students). After a pattern of retaliation developed against him, he took it to the board president who allegedly replied, "You know we cannot move forward with you as principal."

Franklin Towne's CEO also pulled the old "rent the building from yourself" dodge, a great way to rake in those public taxpayer dollars (Franklin Towne was not the only charter to pull this stunt). You can (and they apparently did) make even more money by mortgaging the building to the hilt-- essentially extracting the equity value, converting it to cash, and sticking the cash in your pocket.


How a Minnesota Foundation Wasted $45 Million on a Failed Plan to Reform Teacher Education

From Diane Ravitch
Rob Levine, a Resistance-to-Privatization blogger in Minneapolis, reports here on the failure of the Bush Foundation’s bold “teacher effectiveness” initiative, which cost $45 million. All wasted.

The foundation set bold goals. It did not meet any of them.


One-third of Indiana 10th graders passed ISTEP in 2019. Find your high school’s results.

A great thing to ponder about both ILEARN and ISTEP is how the cut scores are decided upon. And what do those scores show or prove exactly? It also might be good to ponder the overall question of why we are wasting our tax dollars on these tests and how they are used against our public schools in terms of funding.

From Chalkbeat*
Low-income students saw a passing rate more than 25 percentage points lower than students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.


Meet the Democrats Who Support the Betsy DeVos Agenda

Democrats at these meetings have included Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennett, Former Secretaries of Education Arne Duncan and John King, Senator Chris Murphy, and for 2019, former US Attorney General Eric Holder.

From Diane Ravitch
Every year since 2014, Democrats who fervently support the privatization of public schools have gathered at a conference they pretentiously call “Camp Philos.”

Check the agenda of meetings present and past.

There you will see the lineup of Democrats who sneer at public schools and look on public school teachers with contempt.

These are the Democrats who support the DeVos agenda of disrupting and privatizing public schools.


Hidden dropouts: How Indiana schools can write off struggling students as home-schoolers

Charter Schools USA doesn’t seem to be a good choice for Indianapolis.

From Chalkbeat*
A Chalkbeat analysis of Indiana Department of Education data found that of the roughly 3,700 Indiana high school students in the class of 2018 officially recorded as leaving to home-school, more than half were concentrated in 61 of the state’s 507 high schools — campuses where the ratio of students leaving to home-school to those earning diplomas was far above the state average. Those striking numbers suggest that Indiana’s lax regulation of home schooling and its method for calculating graduation rates are masking the extent of many schools’ dropout problems.

“There’s no accountability or follow up or monitoring” of students who leave public education to home-school, said Robert Kunzman, managing director of the International Center for Home Education Research and a professor of education at Indiana University. “That’s clearly working against children’s interests.”


Want better readers? Spend less time teaching kids to find the main idea, ‘Knowledge Gap’ author Natalie Wexler argues

This is why teachers, not legislators, should determine how to teach Indiana's students. Excessive testing has caused (and will continue to cause) great harm to students. When we focus only on reading and math -- because those are on "the test" -- we're hampering our children’s ability to read by cutting out all the learning of background knowledge (science, social studies, the arts, etc.) that allows them to comprehend what they read. If you are not outraged about this, you are not paying attention.

From Chalkbeat
In the average public elementary school, third graders spend nearly two hours a day on reading instruction, according to a recent federal survey. That far outstrips any other subject, with math coming in second at around 70 minutes a day, and science and social studies getting about half an hour a day each.

Teachers may think this approach is the best way to improve students’ reading ability. But in her new book “The Knowledge Gap,” journalist Natalie Wexler argues against skimping on science and social studies and emphasizing specific reading skills. She says that this approach, paradoxically, hurts students’ ability to make sense of what they read. (Find an excerpt of the book here.)

She builds her case with cognitive science that suggests that once students have learned to sound out words — “decode” — the key to understanding a text is having solid background knowledge on the subject.

In other words, if you already know a lot about education, you’ll probably have an easier time making sense of articles in Chalkbeat than, say, in Foreign Policy.

The implication, Wexler says, is that schools should start teaching science and social studies content early and often. Wexler draws from the work of E.D. Hirsch, the University of Virginia professor and prominent advocate of these ideas.


Over 99% of Indiana voucher money goes to religious schools

From the Indiana Coalition for Public Education -- Monroe County
Since there are no financial reporting requirements for voucher schools, Indiana’s citizens have no way of knowing. Unlike public schools, which are held to transparency standards, private schools do not publish budgets and are not subject to public records requests. Neither are the private schools receiving vouchers audited by the State Board of Accounts. Are schools spending the money on teachers, curricular materials, and academic programs? Are they constructing new buildings, like the St. Nicholas School in Ripley County?

Are they directing some of it to the churches that historically supported them? Are they providing deserved benefits to their employees or outsized salaries for administrators? The legislators who lifted the voucher legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council model bill did not think the public deserved to know.


Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change Plead for End to Backlash Against School Choice

From Diane Ravitch
The backlash against school choice, the demand to halt charter expansion, comes from an outraged public that supports their community public schools.

Only 6% of the students in the U.S. attend charter schools, most of which perform no better than or much worse than public schools. An even smaller number of students use vouchers, even when they are easily available, and the research increasingly converges on the conclusion that students who use vouchers are harmed by attending voucher schools.

The claim that poor kids should get “the same” access to elite private schools as rich kids is absurd. Rich parents pay $40,000-50,000 or more for schools like Lakeside in Seattle or Sidwell Friends in D.C. The typical voucher is worth about $5,000, maybe as much as $7,000, which gets poor kids into religious schools that lack certified teachers, not into Lakeside or Sidwell or their equivalent.


Finally, Democratic candidates talk about education in a debate. But nobody raised this key issue.

From the Answer Sheet
Finally, after three debates among Democratic presidential candidates with scarcely a question about education, a moderator, Linsey Davis of ABC News, raised the issue Thursday night. She asked some good questions — even if some candidates tried to skirt them or stated as fact things that may not, in fact, be true...

Some important issues were briefly raised, such as when Julián Castro, the former housing and urban development secretary in the Obama administration, said that improving schools cannot be divorced from housing, health care and social policy: “Our schools are segregated because our neighborhoods are segregated.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) raised another key issue when he noted that the United States has one of the world’s highest child poverty rates, which is a factor in academic achievement.

But the one thing that nobody discussed onstage is what many public education activists see as the root of public education’s problems: the funding system, which relies heavily, though not exclusively, on property taxes. The obvious result is that poorer neighborhoods have fewer funds and more cash-strapped schools. Federal money intended to help close the gap hasn’t come close.


Indiana: West Lafayette Public Schools Sues the State for Taking Their Property and Giving It to Charter Industry for $1

From Diane Ravitch
Rocky Killion, superintendent of the West Lafayette, Indiana, public school district, is a fighter for public schools. A few years ago, he helped to launch an outstanding film about the extremist assault on the public schools by privatizers; it is called Rise Above the Mark, and it showcases the good work done in Indiana’s public schools.

Now Rocky Killion is suing the state of Indiana for permitting an “unconstitutional land grab.” The legislature passed a law in 2011 declaring that any unused schools must be sold to charter operators for $1. Rocky Killion says this is wrong. The schools were paid for by the taxpayers, and they belong to the district, not to charter operators.


Texas Charter Schools: Don’t Believe the Boasting and Hype

From Diane Ravitch
William J. Gumbert has prepared statistical analyses of charter performance in Texas, based on state data.

Charters boast of their “success,” but the reality is far different from their claims. They don’t enroll similar demographics, their attrition rate is staggering, and their “wait lists” are unverified.

Their claims are a marketing tool.

They are not better than public schools.

They undermine and disrupt communities without producing better results.

Yet Texas is plunging headlong into this strategy that creates a dual system but benefits few students.


Two excellent articles about the charter privatization industry from blogger Steven Singer.

Charter School’s Two Dads – How a Hatred for Public School Gave Us School Privatization

From Gadflyonthewall Blog
...Nathan and Kolderie proposed that schools be authorized by statewide agencies that were separate from local districts. The state had the power, not communities or their elected representatives. That meant charters could be run not just by teachers but also by entrepreneurs. And that’s almost always who has been in charge of them ever since – corporations and business interests.

This was the goal Friedman and the deregulators had been fighting for since the 1950s finally realized – almost the same goal, it should be noted, as that behind school vouchers.

From the start, this was a business initiative. Competition between charters and authentic public schools was encouraged. And that included union busting. Thus charters were free of all the constraints of collective bargaining that districts had negotiated with their unions. The needs of workers and students were secondary to those of big business and the profit principle.

Shanker eventually realized this and repudiated what charter schools had become. But by then the damage was done...

Charter Schools Were Never a Good Idea. They Were a Corporate Plot All Along

From Gadflyonthewall Blog
America has been fooled by the charter school industry for too long.

The popular myth that charter schools were invented by unions to empower teachers and communities so that students would have better options is as phony as a three dollar bill.

The concept always was about privatizing schools to make money.

It has always been about stealing control of public education, enacting corporate welfare, engaging in union busting, and an abiding belief that the free hand of the market can do no wrong.
*Note: Financial sponsors of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Monday, September 16, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Sep 16, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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.


Play v. Reading: How Flawed Thinking About Preschool Has Become Accepted Practice

Play is the way young children learn. We've all but taken play out of K-12 schools in the name of "rigor" and "accountability" and the same developmentally unsound practice is seeping into our preschools.

For further reading see:
From Nancy Bailey
"...DEY and the Alliance for Childhood have outlined the important role play still has for young children. The research indicates play is more likely to lead to reading than pushing children to do academic work during preschool and kindergarten.

Unfortunately, the talk is now about neurological studies and brain science. The claim is that we live in a new technologically advanced world, so this is justified. But this doesn’t justify pushing children to learn more advanced work where they become frustrated. Nor does it indicate that children need to be pushed to learn faster.

Scientists have known for years that learning happens in rich play environments where children have access to the kind of play found in the Roseville Cooperative Preschool. We know play is not a frivolous waste of time. Serious cognitive learning takes place when children have to think for themselves, and when they are given the kinds of opportunities to raise questions and wonder about the world they see around them.

It’s troubling that replacing play with reading is now the norm..."


Why some students with special needs struggled with ILEARN accommodations

From Chalkbeat
In past years, Bryant said she could read the directions and questions aloud to students who had a visual impairment. But last spring her students had to go to a dropdown menu at the top right of every question and select the speaker symbol. Bryant, who teaches for a special education co-op in southern Indiana, watched as some had trouble accessing it, or gave up trying.

“It wasn’t user-friendly,” she said. “To have to do that every time is just insane.”

Chalkbeat Indiana recently surveyed parents and educators on their experiences with ILEARN. Of the more than 50 respondents, 11 shared concerns related to special education accommodations. Some said problems with appropriate accommodations — including the clunky dropdown menus, lack of American Sign Language interpreters, and the decision to disallow calculators for grades 3-5 — were, in part, responsible for the statewide drop in test scores...


NY State Teachers Retirement Invests In K12 Inc.

One has to wonder why otherwise intelligent and educated people actively work against their own interests.

From Diane Ravitch
Why do teachers’ pension funds invest in stocks of corporations that are actively undermining public schools and their teachers?

K12 Inc. manages a chain of online charter schools that are noted for low performance, high attrition rates, and low graduation rates. Their teachers never meet students. They have large classes, no union.


Which Name Belongs On The List Of Modern Education Philanthropists? Dolly Parton.

Learn more on Dolly Parton's Imagination Library web site.

From Peter Greene (Curmudgucation) on Forbes
Parton the philanthropist has been busy ever since Parton the singer hit the big time. Much of her giving is done anonymously, but some of her projects include scholarships for high school students and a birthing unit for the local hospital. And while you may think of the Dollywood Amusement Park as a piece of country kitsch, it is also a reliable employer and economic engine in a high-poverty region.

But her crowning achievement may well be the Imagination Library.


‘If you love helping kids, do it!’ This retiring Colorado teacher has advice for the next generation

Retiring Colorado teacher featured on Chalkbeat, Indiana has a message for new teachers. It should be a message to our legislators and the public as well. “They need to realize this is an 80 hour a week job...”

From Chalkbeat*
Why did you decide to retire now — and how are you feeling about leaving the classroom? I wanted to do 35 years and ended at 33 years. Part of the reason was that the demands and meetings seemed endless — hours spent writing plans, standards, and collecting data. Class sizes of 30 to 32 kids were daunting. Getting around to each child, building relationships, communicating with all parents (regardless of what language they speak), it all took its toll on me. I will definitely miss the classroom but am tutoring and planning on subbing.

*Note: Sponsers of Chalkbeat include pro-privatization foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.


Monday, September 9, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Sep 9, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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.


What students do after graduating could determine their high school’s rating

Indiana already misuses standardized tests, developed to measure student achievement, to rate teachers and school. Here we find an absurd proposal to grade schools based on the success or failure of students after graduation -- as if there are no out-of-school variables to success.

From Chalkbeat
High schools in Indiana may soon be rated on what their students do after graduation — not just how many of them pass state tests and earn a diploma.

A committee of educators and lawmakers is considering changing Indiana’s high school grading system to account for the percentage of students that are enlisted, employed, or enrolled in post-secondary education within a year of graduating.

This approach is meant to align with the creation of graduation pathways, which offer Indiana high schoolers multiple options for completing the requirements to graduate. Students choose their path based on their interests, such as going to college or earning a technical certification.


Alabama Only Had 4 Charter Schools, So Betsy DeVos Gave The State $25 Million to Get More

From Diane Ravitch
Betsy DeVos was sad to see that Alabama had only four charter schools. So she awarded $25 million to an organization tasked with generating more private charters to drain money away from the state’s underfunded public schools.

The state charter commission has been mired in controversy since giving its approval to a Gulen charter school in a rural district where it was not wanted.


The biggest news items from the past week were about the new Indiana test, ILEARN.

Harmless? Hardly: Hurt spread wide by new standardized test

Speak Up! Speak Out! for your children and grandchildren! They, and their teachers and schools, are so much more than this test!

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
Taxpayers: You're picking up the bill for the state's broken assessment system. Indiana paid $39.7 million to the American Institutes for Research for the new ILEARN test. The British-owned Pearson Education was paid $38 million for the last version of the ISTEP+ assessment. When legislators boast of the large proportion of tax dollars spent on K-12 education, the figure includes the money paid to test vendors.

Hold harmless? Too late. Let's hold someone responsible.

Superintendents: Make one-year pause on ILEARN scores, school grades permanent

From the Journal & Courier
Standardized test scores should only be used for diagnostic purposes and nothing more. Remember former state Rep. Ray Richardson? Thirty-five years ago he created the legislation that called for a standardized test specifically designed to help teachers figure out which of their students needed help. Thus, ISTEP was born. Now, 35 years later, he regrets getting that legislation passed. As reported by Matthew Tully in the Indianapolis Star on Jan. 28, 2016, Richardson says, “It’s being used exclusively to grade schools and teachers. … That was never the intent.”

Allen County superintendents urge community to look past low ILEARN results

Even with the lower scores, the superintendents said that they are not overly concerned with the low scores because they do not use the results in any way. The tests are administered at the end of one school year and the results do not come until the start of the next, so there is no way to follow up with students who may of been struggling.

Search for your school’s 2019 ILEARN results

This article has a link so you can look up your school’s ILEARN scores. Not happy with what you see? Call a legislator and tell them they need to listen to and value the input of actual educators over business leaders and politicians.

From Chalkbeat
The first year of ILEARN scores were released Wednesday. As many educators warned, results were low, with only 37.1% of students passing both math and English.

The new test is more rigorous than previous versions because it is computer adaptive, meaning questions get harder or easier as students get answers right or wrong, and focuses on different skills more closely linked to college and career readiness.

Indiana education officials delay release of A-F grades amid poor ILEARN scores

From Chalkbeat
Such a move undercuts the test’s role as an accountability metric for the state. It also has fueled debate over whether the test is a useful measure of student achievement.

This year’s test scores didn’t go down as significantly as they did in 2015, but did see the lowest statewide passing percentages in recent history. State officials said they were expecting to see a drop because of the tests new format and increased rigor.

Fewer than half of Hoosier students pass ILEARN

"When asked why Indiana finds itself here again, McCormick said, 'we are who we vote for.'"

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Fewer than half of Indiana's students passed the new ILEARN standardized test – a significant drop that state officials already are trying to combat.

In all, 47.9% of students in grades 3 through 8 were deemed proficient in English Language Arts and 47.8% in math. Just 37.1% passed both.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick acknowledged that implementation dips usually come with a new assessment. Compared to last year, scores dropped 16% in English and 11% in math.

But she defended the students – noting college entrance scores and those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress show improvement.

“Their performance is not backsliding,” McCormick said. “There are promising trends of student performance. This assessment and threshold was much more rigorous.”

ILEARN fails as effective student measuring stick

From Chris Himsel, Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools wrote this op-ed in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
To stop perpetuating the fallacy of state-mandated testing, we need your help.

We need your help in demanding that policymakers reduce and deemphasize state-mandated testing. We need your help in demanding that policymakers refocus on investing in the development of the many unique talents possessed by each child.


Monday, September 2, 2019

In Case You Missed It – Sept 2, 2019

Here are links to last week's articles receiving the most attention in NEIFPE's social media. 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.


ILEARN fails as effective student measuring stick

From NACS Superintendent Chris Himsel in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
ILEARN represents the sixth time the state tests, the standards tested on the tests, or the company administering the tests has changed since 2009, and the third since 2015. Each change resulted in a new state-defined passing score. For this and many other reasons, the “passing” results are arbitrary.

Schools and districts have been informed that the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the newly defined “passing” scores is much lower than in previous years.

The lower scores do not reflect a lack of performance by our students, teachers or schools.

Instead, the scores highlight the misuse of standardized tests and the fallacy of one-size-fits-all testing and accountability systems. Indiana began implementing the fallacy with PL 221 more than 20 years ago after passage of the federal law, No Child Left Behind.

McCormick: It’s time to change school grading system

From School Matters
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick is tapping into the alarm over results of Indiana’s new ILEARN standardized assessment to call for changes in how the state evaluates schools.

She said the test scores “once again show us the importance of developing a modernized, state-legislated accountability system that is fair, accurate and transparent.”

5 times problems derailed Indiana’s standardized tests

How much would you pay for something that has no real use or value to you and doesn’t even work a lot of the time? Asking for some Hoosier legislators.

From Chalkbeat
Standardized testing in Indiana has been called into question repeatedly over the past decade. ISTEP, which was given for 30 years through 2018 and is still being used in Indiana high schools, was plagued with technological issues. And now, following the transition to ILEARN, state test scores are said to be low in both English and math; those scores are set to be released publicly on Sept. 4, though schools received them earlier this month.

This time around, the decline isn’t the result of a technical glitch. School officials are attributing it in large part to ILEARN’s new computer-adaptive format and its introduction of some new content.

ILEARN results: déjà vu all over again

From School Matters
Here we go again. Indiana has a new standardized test, the results sound bad, and educators are calling on the state to hold off on imposing consequences on schools or teachers using new test scores.

Today, Gov. Eric Holcomb joined the call for a “pause” in accountability based on the tests. House and Senate leaders concurred, which means it’s almost certain to happen. Results from the new assessment, called ILEARN, are scheduled to be made public at the Sept. 4 State Board of Education meeting.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because we went through the same thing just four years ago. Then, Indiana adopted new, more stringent learning standards, and the state test, called ISTEP, was revised to incorporate them. Test scores plummeted, and lawmakers approved “hold harmless” legislation that prevented the new test from hurting schools’ letter grades.

ILEARN scores are expected to be low. Holcomb, McCormick don’t want that to hurt teacher pay, school grades.

Not only should we hold our teachers and schools harmless, we should also hold the students harmless.

From Chalkbeat
With the scores for Indiana’s new standardized test expected to be low, state officials fear that what was supposed to be a more reliable measure of student, teacher and school performance may prove meaningless.

ILEARN scores are said to be low across the state in both English and math. As a result, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is asking legislators to pass a “hold harmless” exemption, which would protect schools and teachers from being negatively affected.

Such a move undercuts the test’s role as an accountability metric for the state. It could also fuel the debate over whether the test is a useful measure of student achievement, especially if it isn’t comparable year-over-year.


GEO charter network to get a second chance in Indianapolis

Why are the people in Indiana ok with this waste of money?

From Chalkbeat*
The GEO Academies is returning to Indianapolis eight years after the mayor’s office sought to close one of their schools for poor performance — a conflict that eventually pushed the charter operator out of the city.

The Indiana Charter School Board voted 6-2 Friday afternoon to authorize the new school, which hopes to open its doors in 2020.

Board members quit after two embattled Indiana virtual schools lose their charters

It seems that the people involved with these charters are not the kind of people who take responsibility for their actions on their own. It would be nice to have a legislature which wouldn’t give our tax dollars and free rein to these types of folks.

From Chalkbeat
After losing their charters Monday night, two embattled virtual charter schools were scheduled to hold board meetings Tuesday night to discuss finishing the process of shutting down.

But that discussion never happened because Indiana Virtual School and Indiana Virtual Pathways Academy no longer had any board members.

“There’s no one left,” said the schools’ attorney, Mary Jane Lapointe.

Two board members, Thomas A. Krudy and Sam Manghelli, resigned during an executive session held in the lobby of an Indianapolis office building because they were locked out of the virtual schools’ fourth-floor suite.


Teachers across northern Indiana speak out, demand increased pay: 'It's grim, very grim'

Teachers from across northern Indiana packed the cafeteria at Concord Junior High Tuesday night.

They were there to speak to a commission put together by Governor Eric Holcomb. It's tasked with finding ways to increase teacher pay in Indiana.

Indiana has a reputation as one of the worst states for teacher pay.

Our Operation Education team reported a couple of weeks ago that Indiana teachers rank last in the country for salary growth since 2002.

*Note: Chalkbeat sponsors include pro-charter foundations and individuals such as EdChoice, Gates Family Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, and others.