Everyone is back in school, the privatizers are not letting up but parents, students and teachers are fighting back. Diane Ravitch is coming out with her new book on September 18th, a book that is totally awesome by the way. I will have a review posted on September 17th. We’ve got some great forums and events happening this Fall in Seattle, see the right hand column for information, and I am rested up, revved up and ready to go.
First up, It’s the poverty stupid.
Diane Ravitch in her new book, Reign of Error, points out very clearly how poverty is many times a determining factor in the success of a student. It’s common sense, I know, but the corporate reformers choose to ignore that fact.
To follow is an example of how poverty erodes at the bright promise of our children’s futures and therefore the future of our nation.
While Congress and President Obama are debating bombing Syria as part of their “bomb everything bad” program and the corporate media continues to focus on nothing more than mindless chatter, the rest of us, particularly our children, are hurting.
How Sequestration Is Scaling Back Early Childhood Education Programs
Sequestration is moving our country away from economic recovery. In the Head Start program alone, sequestration is costing tens of thousands of jobs and denying our youngest and most-vulnerable citizens the benefits of a high-quality early learning program. Rather than across-the-board cuts, Congress and the administration should focus on strategic investments in areas that will grow our economy and our workforce over the long term. Early childhood education offers both a short-term payoff by creating jobs and an opportunity to improve the workforce for the next generation.
As this summer draws to a close, children, parents, and teachers across the country have begun the annual ritual of returning to school. Stores are advertising sales on school supplies, and schools have reopened so that teachers can begin decorating classrooms and readying their lesson plans. Bright yellow school buses are once again a mainstay of the morning commute. Many children across the country are beginning a new school year, as their parents wave goodbye and send them off to new learning experiences.
Unfortunately, in many communities across the country, some children won’t be showing up for school this year. Classrooms will shut down and teachers will look for other employment opportunities. This school year approximately 57,000 of our youngest children in the Head Start program won’t be going back to school. These cuts are the result of sequestration. In March 2013 a sequester order canceled $85 billion in federal funds, which included a $405 million cut to the Head Start program. Looking ahead, another sequester is possible in the next fiscal year if Congress cannot agree on how to meet established spending caps.
The Head Start program, established in the 1960s as part of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, provides comprehensive preschool services, along with medical, dental, and mental-health screenings and follow-up services, nutritional services, and social services for families. Head Start reaches nearly 1 million children across the country, the vast majority of whom are from families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level. In 2012 Head Start had a budget of almost $8 billion. In 1994 the Early Head Start program began serving pregnant women and children from ages 0–3; it now reaches more than 100,000 infants and toddlers.
While long lines at the airport and canceled White House tours have made national headlines, cuts to early childhood programs have been less visible. Media outlets have reported grim consequences, including a lottery in an Indiana Head Start program to determine which children were cut and program closures in Kansas and New York. When programs close their doors, children who attended them lose out on access to high-quality early learning opportunities, families aren’t able to work without access to child care, and staff are left looking for jobs.
Cuts to early childhood programs are particularly problematic because we know that early childhood education is a sound long-term investment that pays for itself and prepares our nation’s future workforce for success. Instead of discussing how to absorb cuts, the conversation should focus on how to expand early childhood education to more children, as President Barack Obama proposed in his FY 2014 budget. Sequestration’s impact on Head Start directly harms economic recovery by eliminating jobs and services to children and families that help them move into the middle class.
Children are losing early learning opportunities
As Head Start programs struggle to cut their budgets after the March sequester, the loss of children’s access to programs is an inevitable consequence. Families of the 57,000 children who completely lost access to Head Start will struggle to find alternate options, and most will likely lose access to high-quality early learning. In some communities—such as Neodesha, Kansas, where the Head Start program has to close down—Head Start is the only center-based program available to families. Families that live in states with robust preschool programs might be able to enroll their 4-year-olds, but nationally, only about one-fourth of children are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs, and only eight states serve more than half of their 4-year-olds in preschool. Three-year-olds are even less likely to find access to publicly funded programs, as only 4 percent of them are served nationwide. Low-income families that are unable to find state-funded preschool programs will be hard pressed to find other options. In the private child care market, the average annual cost of center-based care for a 4-year-old ranges from $4,000 per year in Mississippi to $12,000 per year in Massachusetts.
Of the children cut from Head Start, about 6,000 are infants and toddlers in the Early Head Start programs. These children are the least likely to find access to another program, as few states fund center-based programs for children under age 2. The average cost of center-based child care for an infant ranges from $5,000 per year in Mississippi to $15,000 per year in Massachusetts. Most children in Early Head Start come from poor families who cannot afford such high tuition rates. Many of these children will likely end up in unregulated or poor-quality care so that their parents can continue to work.
Latino and African American children are likely to be hit the hardest by cuts to Head Start. Of the 10 states that will lose the most children from the Head Start program, the top two states mostly serve Latino children. Two other states serve mostly African Americans, and the largest block of children served by most states are children of color. (see Table 1)
To read this article in full, go to The Center for American Progress.
It’s hard to focus on your work when you’re hungry. Tell that to your representatives. Suggest that they try going without food for a day and continue to work and meet all of their responsibilities and then take a standardized test at the end of the day just to top it off. Then ask them to consider how children who go to school hungry can manage to get through a day, let alone score well on a test.
From the New York Times:
As a self-described “true Southern man” — and reluctant recipient of food stamps — Dustin Rigsby, a struggling mechanic, hunts deer, doves and squirrels to help feed his family. He shops for grocery bargains, cooks budget-stretching stews and limits himself to one meal a day.
When Congress officially returns to Washington next week, the diets of families like the Rigsbys and the Adamses will be caught up in a debate over deficit reduction. Republicans, alarmed by a rise in food stamp enrollment, are pushing to revamp and scale down the program. Democrats are resisting the cuts.
No matter what Congress decides, benefits will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires.
Yet as lawmakers cast the fight in terms of spending, nonpartisan budget analysts and hunger relief advocates warn of a spike in “food insecurity” among Americans who, as Mr. Rigsby said recently, “look like we are fine,” but live on the edge of poverty, skipping meals and rationing food.
Surrounded by corn and soybean farms — including one owned by the local Republican congressman, Representative Stephen Fincher — Dyersburg, about 75 miles north of Memphis, provides an eye-opening view into Washington’s food stamp debate. Mr. Fincher, who was elected in 2010 on a Tea Party wave and collected nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies from the government from 1999 to 2012, recently voted for a farm bill that omitted food stamps.
“The role of citizens, of Christianity, of humanity, is to take care of each other, not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country,” Mr. Fincher, whose office did not respond to interview requests, said after his vote in May. In response to a Democrat who invoked the Bible during the food stamp debate in Congress, Mr. Fincher cited his own biblical phrase. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Department of Agriculture released a 2012 survey showing that nearly 49 million Americans were living in “food insecure” households — meaning, in the bureaucratic language of the agency, that some family members lacked “consistent access throughout the year to adequate food.” In short, many Americans went hungry. The agency found the figures essentially unchanged since the economic downturn began in 2008, but substantially higher than during the previous decade.
To read this article in full, go to the New York Times.
It looks like some of the 1% are beginning to understand that fiddling with things they know nothing about can cause more harm than good. Peter Buffett, author of “Life Is What You Make It” (particularly if you’re white, rich and male) seems to have had an epiphany of sorts.
Much of philanthropy today has become a weapon in the class warfare of the 1 percent.
Peter Buffett, the second son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, worries that the state of philanthropy in America “just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place.” At meetings of charitable foundations, he says “you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.”
Describing the stunning growth of what he calls a “charitable-industrial complex,” his recent New York Times op-ed reads in confessional style: “People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem.”
“Using measures of both absolute and relative inequality,” the study’s authors conclude, “we have shown that philanthropy may actually exacerbate inequality, instead of reducing it.”
To read this article in full, go to AlterNet.
So these wealthy individuals out of a sense of altruism, or greed, have decided to take on the public school system, making it into their own image, a business model with winners and losers. Problem is, that approach is not working. In fact it is becoming a spectacular failure and it’s unraveling before our eyes.
It’s not working because there are factors involved in a child’s life that are being willfully ignored, one of those factors is the impact of poverty on a family. Not having enough money means less opportunity, it means being hungry, cold, sick, afraid, and creates a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
I sometimes also want to ask corporate reformers how it feels when they’re hungry and yet they still have to complete a task. Is it hard to focus? What if you’re sick? How sharp are you at picking up new information and assimilating it? What if you just had an argument with your partner or saw someone be violent to someone else in your home, how well then could you concentrate on your work?
The reality is either too harsh for these folks to take or they understand that they are part of the problem and it would be too difficult for them to deal with. After all, things in their world would then have to change as well.
David Sirota chimes in on this in his op-ed:
Poor schools underperform largely because of economic forces, not because teachers have it too easy
In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students. In recent days, though, the faults in that premise are being exposed by unavoidable reality.
Before getting to the big news, let’s review the dominant fairy tale: As embodied by New York City’s major education announcement this weekend, the “reform” fantasy pretends that a lack of teacher “accountability” is the major education problem and somehow wholly writes family economics out of the story (amazingly, this fantasy persists even in a place like the Big Apple where economic inequality is particularly crushing). That key — and deliberate — omission serves myriad political interests.
For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.). Likewise, for conservative politicians and activist-profiteers disproportionately bankrolled by these and other monied interests, the “reform” argument gives them a way to both talk about fixing education and to bash organized labor, all without having to mention an economic status quo that monied interests benefit from and thus do not want changed.
Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).
In other words, elite media organizations (which, in many cases, have their own vested financial interest in education “reform”) go out of their way to portray the anti-public-education movement as heroic rather than what it really is: just another get-rich-quick scheme shrouded in the veneer of altruism.
To read this article in full along with the links, go to Salon.
Speaking of the disastrous effect that corporate reform has had on students, particularly the most vulnerable, all you have to do is look to Chicago where “education reform” started in a big way when Arne Duncan was the CEO of the schools and established the Renaissance 2010 plan. The now Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is a man with no experience in a classroom and was a rube for the developers who wanted to gentrify urban neighborhoods in Chicago by moving the minority students out of their schools and converting the buildings into charter schools for the wealthier residents of the city.
It’s also where the Chicago School of Economics led by Milton Friedman was born. To understand the link between Friedman and the charter school movement, I would recommend reading The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein. For a quick overview of how and why it all started in Chicago, see the introduction to Klein’s book and a Rethinking Schools article Arne Duncan and the Chicago Success Story: Myth or Reality?
Recently, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and his personally selected school board, see his most recent pick here, announced that 50 public schools would be closed due to a lack of funding. Most of those schools will be converted into charter schools and Teach for America, Inc. (TFA, Inc.) has a plan, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
Jasal Noor breaks it down in this report:
Chicago Closes 50 Public Schools, Spends $100 Million in Taxpayer Funds on Private College Stadium
Wendy Kopp, founder of TFA, Inc., is prepared and waiting in the wings. Edushyster got her hands on some interesting information about Kopp’s plan and shares it with us in her post:
An internal TFA document shows plans for a dramatic charter expansion in the Windy City
When news broke this summer that Teach for America was expanding its presence in Chicago amid the largest school closings in that city’s history and the layoffs of thousands of teachers and school staff, the reaction was swift, furious and extended well beyond the usual chorus of TFA detractors. At the time, I argued that the heated-back-and-forth, while welcome, missed the point. In city after city, TFA has largely abandoned its earlier mission of staffing hard-to-fill positions in public schools, serving instead as a placement agency for urban charters. In Chicago, however, TFA’s role appears to go far beyond providing labor for the fast-growing charter sector. An internal TFA document indicates that the organization has a plan to dramatically expand the number of charter schools in the city.
The document, a slide from Chicago TFA’s January 2013 Board of Directors meeting, is reproduced below. (You can view the original here or here). The five year charter management organization or CMO growth plan forecasts a dramatic expansion of privately-run charters in the city. The 52 new schools projected below would serve more than 30,000 students.
To read this post in full, go to edushyster.
What we are experiencing in the US, the push to privatize our public schools, is spreading to other countries and fortunately many are resisting. One of those countries is Mexico.
Tens of Thousands March Against Mexico School Privatization
And why didn’t the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) take to the streets many years ago in protest of ed reform in the United States? Could it have been because the AFT President at the time, Randi Weingarten, also sat on the Board of Directors for the Broad Foundation and had other financial ties with the Broad Foundation?
Every day I read a large volume of articles, posts and op-eds on all things education and I have noticed a trend. People in all walks of life are beginning to see that the Four Horsemen of ed reform, charter schools, high stakes testing, closing public schools and the Common Core Standards are not working and were the brainchild of a moneyed few with little to no experience in public school education.
From Anthony Cody:
Common Core proponents are mounting a full court press in a belated recognition that their testing juggernaut is running into some serious obstacles around the country. Former TFA CEO Wendy Kopp shared her opinion today that the Common Core test results are a “welcome wake-up call” that will “…finally give families an accurate barometer of whether our kids are mastering the skills they need to succeed in a knowledge-based global economy, early enough that we can intervene.”
Meanwhile New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday that “there has to be a death penalty for failing schools, so to speak,” making it clear that the dismal test scores will continue to be used to decimate schools in high poverty neighborhoods.
But some lawmakers have begun to connect the dots between the Common Core and the various people singing its praises. In Michigan, here is what representative Tom McMillin had to say two days ago, in response to testimony from Chester Finn, of the Fordham Institute, which can be counted among the architects of test-driven reform.
At around minute 26, McMillin points out that Chester Finn’s colleague at the Fordham Institute, Michael Petrilli, had stated that after Arne Duncan hired four Gates Foundation staffers to high level positions in the Department of Education, “the Gates Foundation’s agenda has become the country’s agenda in education.” Finn said he disagreed, however he acknowledged that “the Gates Foundation paid for the development of the Common Core standards. There’s no disputing that.”
And they also paid $6 million to Fordham (Institute) and then you guys evaluate the Common Core standards and decide if they’re any good or not. Don’t you see a real conflict there, when Fordham gets $6 million, and then they’re told to turn around and say Gates’ project is a great thing?
I have no idea where you got the $6 million figure from.
From the Gates Foundation web site.
Approximately three times too large in terms of any actual receipts that Fordham has gotten. We are evaluating the implementation of Common Core standards with Gates dollars, and that’s in the early stages ’cause implementation is only just beginning. The Gates Foundation had nothing whatsoever to do with our original 2010 evaluation of the standards themselves. We were not receiving any funds from Gates for that purpose at that time. Anybody that knows me and the Fordham track record knows we are not influenced by our funders.
NOTE: Since I posted this yesterday, it has come to my attention that the 2010 report that Chester Finn refers to above, available here, carries this acknowledgement on page 5:
Generous support for this massive undertaking came from four sources: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Louis Calder Foundation, The Brookhill Foundation, and our own sister organization, the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. We are grateful to one and all.
To read this post in full, go to Ed Week.
And some good news in New York:
Lawmakers will review New York’s recent education reform agenda, including Common Core national education standards, in public hearings this fall.
The quality of Common Core, state assessments, and student privacy are the main issues the hearings will address after widespread public outcry largely centered on testing.
“We are holding the hearings to see if we’re getting a good bang for our buck,” said Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown), chairman of the Senate’s education committee.
In New York, education policy and administration is monitored by a Board of Regents consisting of 16 members the legislature elects. In 2010 it adopted a new reform agenda in line with President Obama’s education policy priorities, centered on Common Core, student data systems, teacher and principal evaluations, and overhauling failing schools.
The relationship between the board of regents and legislature is mostly financial, with the legislature funding the board’s plans, Flanagan said.
One Test to Rule Them All
Long Island principal Carol Burris hopes she can testify at the hearings on state testing and Common Core standards. She has emerged as a public critic of both. Burris oversees South Side High School. In 2010 she was named Educator of the Year, and she was honored as New York State High School Principal of the Year in 2013. In 2012, U.S. New and World Report named South Side High School the 22nd best high school in the nation.
Long before New York agreed to implement the upcoming national Common Core tests, Burris argued tying myriad policies to student test results harms education.
Although assessments are important tools that help educators measure what students know and what they do with information, it is unwise to use them for other things, she said.
“Test scores are used to close schools, evaluate teachers, and to retain students,” Burris said. “When that happens, you have to be careful. They can cause teacher behavioral changes [in the classroom] which [are] not in the interest of the child.”
‘Climate of Fear’
This can mean a teacher tends to focus on students whose scores will improve and boost his or her evaluation, she said. Burris says PARCC testing incorporates the dangers of high stakes testing, a system that has been proven to be inefficient.
Mother and special education teacher Jia Lee, who teaches in New York City, said she became an activist because of testing research federal and local lawmakers have ignored.
“High stakes testing has made a climate of fear in schools,” she said. “It’s all about surviving.”
Other parents joined Lee to start Change the Stakes, an organization campaigning against high-stakes testing in New York.
Parents all over New York have also flocked to public meetings to complain about the state’s partnership with inBloom, a data-mining company partly funded by Bill Gates. The nonprofit initially partnered with eight states to use student information gained through academic tests. To date, five of the eight states have withdrawn from the partnership after public outcry over inBloom’s plans to amass data-points about millions of children, including Social Security numbers, hobbies, attitudes about school, learning disabilities, test scores, home addresses, and more.
“New York City has transferred the city’s information onto the data cloud without parents even knowing about it,” Lee said. “There is no transparency or accountability at the top.”
Mother Yvonne Gasperino, who initiated Stop Common Core in New York State, has partnered with parents in 36 of the state’s 62 counties to fight Common Core standards.
To read this article in full, go to Heartland.
One of the ways we can make a difference is in opting students out of high stakes testing beginning with the tests related to the Common Core Standards.
From Education Without Representation:
Good news: after sending an opt out letter (seen below) I received three letters back, from my high school student’s principal, math teacher and English teacher.
Each letter said that my child may take a paper-and-pencil alternative to the Common Core tests without any academic penalty. The school is apparently not enforcing the absurd current state law which states that schools must punish the student who opts out with a non-proficient score. Hooray!
I’m sharing this, so that anyone may create or adapt this letter for their use, if they like.
Dear Principal and Teachers,
Thank you for all you do for our kids. I sincerely appreciate your hard work, dedication and caring.
I am writing to let you know that ___________ my 11th grade child, will not be participating in the state’s new AIR/SAGE tests this year or next year. These are the Common Core aligned tests that feed into the federally funded State Longitudinal Database System and measure not only math and English, but also nonacademic, personal information including behavioral indicators (according to recent state law) and are to be used in grading schools.
I would like my child to have a pencil and paper alternative that is to be used ONLY at the school level, and not sent to the district or state levels.
I believe that this choice may be hurting this high school’s “school grade” so I apologize. It is not my wish to harm this excellent school in any way. I am also aware that it may hurt my child’s academic grade. Rather than getting an opt-out score, a non-test taker may get a non-proficient score. This is a tragedy for students and schools.
Our state leaders have created this situation that punishes schools and students when parents opt out of the tests.
(–You can quit reading here. But if you are interested in why I am writing this letter to opt my child out of the tests, please read on.)
Attached are PDF copies of the original bill SB175 and the amended bill put forth by the USOE at the Aug 2. meeting. On line 164 of the amended bill is what the USOE added. This is the part of the bill I find morally wrong.
164 (2) the parent makes a written request consistent with 165 LEA administrative timelines and procedures that the parent’s
166 student not be tested. Students not tested due to parent 167 request shall receive a non-proficient score which shall be
168 used in school accountability calculations.
A parent should be able to opt their child out of the invasive computer adaptive testing without the child receiving a non-proficient score, after that child has spent an entire year in school and has received grades for the work that could easily determine proficiency.
A single test should not determine the success of a child’s school year in one swoop, any more than it should determine the grade for that school for the year. There are too many variables to consider yet testing is the only criteria by which a school (or student?) will be seriously graded. I realize there are other minor components that will factor into the grading of a school, but the main emphasis will be on the test scores.
There are many things wrong in education not the least of which are laws that tighten control over our children while telling parents what’s good for them. I should not have to pull my children out of school in order to protect them from invasive and experimental testing.
WHY DO PARENTS WANT TO OPT OUT OF COMMON CORE TESTING?
1. The AIR/SAGE/Utah Common Core tests, which test math and English, are nontransparent and secretive.
2. I don’t believe in the Common Core standards upon which these tests are based. They are experimental. They snub classic literature. They dilute classical math. They were developed and copyrighted by two D.C. private clubs who have no accountability to me as a teacher or as a voter– (the NGA and CCSSO). They give power to a centralized system that is contrary to the constitutional concept of separating powers and empowering local control.
3. The tests feed the national data collection beast via the 50 nationally interoperable State Longitudinal Database Systems (SLDS), feed the P-20 child tracking/surveillance program, and will gather nonacademic, private information on students, including “behavioral indicators” according to Utah state law HB5.
4. It’s nobody’s business, even in Utah, how my individual child does in math and English –except the teacher’s business, and mine. My child’s not to be counted as the government’s “human capital” and the government’s not an invited “stakeholder” in my child’s education, career, or life. Too bad for Governor Herbert’s darling, Prosperity 2020! Remember this: business leaders, governments and legislatures don’t have authority to use tests and data collection to snoop on any child (or adult) for “collective economic prosperity” or for any other reason.
5. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts kids and wastes instructional time.
6. Overemphasis on high-stakes testing hurts teachers. They will be controlled by how students do on the tests; this limits teachers’ autonomy in the classroom and is an insult to teachers’ professional judgment.
I will leave you with this video of a student who feels as strongly as many of us do about what has been forced on us in what is supposed to be a democratic society. To know more about Ms Rhee, check out Michelle Rhee forum protest in Seattle.
SC Student Calls out Michelle Rhee