Archives for category: Poverty

This year, for the first time, North Carolina followed Jeb Bush’s lead and gave each of its schools a letter grade, A-F. The grades reflect poverty and also the state’s failure to support the schools with the greatest needs. The idea that a complex institution can be given a single letter grade is nonsensical. If a child came home with a single letter grade, his or her parents would be outraged. How much stupider it is to stigmatize schools with a single letter grade.

Here is a letter from North Carolina teacher Stuart Egan on this subject:

“The North Carolina State Board of Education (SBOE) and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released performance grades for all public schools on February 5th. According to the formula, a high percentage of each school grade was based on a single round of tests, assessments rushed into implementation to satisfy Race to the Top requirements.

“These performance grades serve as a clear indication of what our leaders are not doing to help students in public schools. Of the 707 schools that received a “D” or an “F” from the state, 695 qualify as schools with high poverty; meanwhile, more than half of the schools that achieved an “A” were early colleges, academies, and charter schools whose enrollments are much smaller and more selective than traditional public schools.

“What the state proved with this grading system is that it is ignoring the very students who need the most help—not just in the classroom, but with basic needs such as early childhood programs and health care accessibility. These performance grades also show that schools with smaller class sizes and more individualized instruction are more successful, a fact lawmakers willfully ignore when it comes to funding our schools to avoid overcrowding.

“My prediction is that the results next year will be even more polarized but not because of any real improvement. Instead of a fifteen-point scale, the state will use a ten-point scale. Gov. McCrory and Sen. Berger will tout the strength of charter schools and other “reforms” for election-year platforms. It becomes confirmation bias.

“So as a parent, teacher, voter, and taxpayer, I want to offer my own grades to the very officials who control the conditions of school environments and manipulate how schools are graded:

The General Assembly receives an “F” for the following actions:

· The denial of Medicaid expansion for students who live in poverty. It is hard to perform academically when basic medical needs cannot be met. 1 in 5 students in Forsyth County are in poverty. WSFCS had an overall rate of 41.1 percent of schools with a “D” or “F”.

· The financing of failed charter schools that have no oversight and are, in many cases, acts of financial recklessness. New oversight rules are being requested in light of questionable use of taxpayer money as 10 charter schools are currently on a watch list.

· The funding of vouchers (Opportunity Grants) that effectively removed money for public education and reallocated it to charter schools.

· The underfunding of our public university system, which forces increases in tuition, while giving tax breaks to companies who benefit from our educated workforce.

· The removal of longevity pay for all veteran teachers, who now are the only state employees without it.

· The dismantling of the Teaching Fellows Program that recruited our state’s brightest to become the teachers of our next generation.

“The SBOE and DPI receive an “F” for the following actions:

· The emphasis on publicizing favorable graduation rates rather than on addressing the social factors that impede learning, particularly at the preschool or elementary levels.

· The removal of the cap for class size for traditional schools and claiming it will not impede student learning.

· The administration of too many tests (EOCT’s, MSL’s, CC’s, NC Finals, etc.). These change every year, take more time away from instruction and measure very little.

· The constant change in curriculum standards (Standard Course of Study, Common Core, etc.).

· The appointment of non-educators to leadership roles in writing new curricula.

· The engagement with profit-motivated companies that dictate not only what teachers are allowed to teach but also how students are assessed. Pearson, for example, provides not only curriculum standards for many of the subjects taught in North Carolina but also insists you use Pearson-made standardized tests many which require that Pearson employees grade them—for a price.

· The continuous change in how teachers are evaluated (Formative/Summative, NCEES, True North Logic, Standard 6). The system that many teachers are now subjected to is actually being implemented before it is even finalized.

“Officials who support the school performance grading system claim that it gives parents a better view of how our schools are performing. But if that is the case, why have EVAAS growth models and accreditation requirements? Never mind that those measures offer a more complete view of a school’s competence.

“Schools provide a great reflection of a society and how it prioritizes education. When our schools are told that they are failing, those with the power to affect change are really the ones who deserve the failing grades.”

Stuart Egan
West Forsyth High School
Clemmons, NC

I sent this to each Senate Committee member:

 

 

Dear Sen. xxxx

 
I am a TN educator and I’d like to ask that you consider some facts about public education reform in TN generally and the proliferation of charter schools in particular.

 

The testing & accountability measures in TN were written by ALEC and by for-profit entities that have an interest in privatizing public education.

 

The value-added model (TN version is TVASS), marketed as an indicator of teacher quality, is junk science according to the American Statistical Association and by a majority of independent researchers: The lit review is here:

 

http://vamboozled.com/recommended-reading/value-added-models/

 

How can an education system improve if Congress allows junk science to dictate the direction of our education system? Test scores are designed to sort & rank. Testing is not learning- it’s a tool that teachers know when & how to use. Congress doesn’t dictate to any other profession how to use the tools of their profession. Why should teaching be any different?

 

All around the country VAM & standardized test scores are being misused to close schools, disperse, destabilize poor communities, sort out high needs (e.g. expensive children in SPED or at-risk) and privatize. The Dept of Education is now promoting VAM junk-science for colleges of Education.

 

Accountability has been in short supply for TN’s charter authorizer Achievement School District (ASD) and for outside consultants sucking up our tax dollars for invalid teacher evaluations and useless standardized tests(e.g., TEAM/TAP was developed by convicted felon Michael Milken & his brother and has no valid research line to support it’s claims)

 

Here are some persistent problems with charter schools & education privatizaion that deserve greater accountability and compliance.

 

1. Increased Segregation

 

• The vast majority of high-poverty charters fail due to racial & socio-economic segregation. The high-poverty model has not met with success at a national level.

 

• The most comprehensive study of charter schools completed to date found that only 17% of charter schools outperformed comparable traditional pubic schools.83% of public schools are better than charters. New Orleans Charter Schools have the lowest ACT scores in the country.

 

• Many families now believe- as do virtually all leading colleges & universities- that racial, ethnic, & income diversity enriches classrooms.

 

• The main problem with American schools in not their teachers or their unions, but poverty & economic segregation.

 

Reference:

 

Kahlenberg (2013). From all walks of life: New hopes for school integration. American Educator. Winter 2012-2013, pp. 2 – 40.

 

2. Sanctioned Discrimination or Whose Choice?

 

• The first choice of most parents is to send their child to a high-quality neighborhood school; it is unclear how this bill supports that choice. In fact, we have seen how the rapid expansion of the charter sector has undermined neighborhood schools, drawing resources from them and at the same time expecting them to serve our most at-risk students. –

 

• Charters take public money yet have the legal status of private schools.

 

• Charter organizations have gone to court to protect themselves from educating & retaining ALL children.

 

• Charters discriminate against children with disabilities, children who do not test well, or who do not fit into inflexible discipline policies. Such children may be admitted to bolster enrollment but are expelled or counseled out after BEP funds are distributed, Public schools lose $6,000/child and face class overloads near testing time.

 

• Charters advertise ‘choice’ but overwhelmingly exclude parent voice.

 

• Parents have no legal recourse to challenge harmful charter school practices. Charters may legally ignore the key aspect of parent involvement: school level decision- making.

 

• Parents and the public are consistently misled about the community desires for a charter school. Charter waitlists cannot be confirmed and many records are slipshod.

 

• In New Orleans where all public schools have disappeared, the most difficult to teach children have been abandoned.

 

References:

Green, P. C., III, Baker, B. D., & Oluwole, J. O. (2013) Having it both ways: How charter schools try to obtain funding of public schools and the autonomy of private schools. Emory Law Journal, Vol. 63.303.

 

Parents Across America (PAA) http://parentsacrossamerica.org/parents-america-hr2218-%e2%80%9cempowering-parents-quality-charter-schools-act%e2%80%9d/#sthash.Ch0TKntq.dpuf

 

Welner, K. G. & Miron, G., (2014). Wait,wait. Don’t mislead me! Nine reasons to be skeptical about charter waitlist numbers. National Education Policy Center, University of Colorado, Boulder. http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/charter-waitlists

 

Gabor, A. (2013) The great charter tryout. The Investigative Fund. http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/investigations/politicsandgovernment/1848/

 

What we support:

 

More community schools just like the highly successful Pond Gap in Knoxviile, TN.

 

To improve the schools we have, rather than shutting down or turning around traditional schools to make way for more charter schools.

 

All charter schools to have neighborhood boundaries and accept all children from within those boundaries whose parents choose to enroll their child at the charter school. Charter school enrollment processes should be consistent with and as simple as those of neighborhood public schools.

 

Charter schools should be held accountable for their enrollment, discipline, transfer, and other practices.

 

Charter schools and all other schools receiving public funds must be equally transparent and accountable to the public.

 

Finally, TN has a shameful 45% child poverty rate. My state has one of the highest rates of low wage & minimum wage jobs in the country. Our public schools in TN need resources- not privatization- to compensate for failed political & economic policies.

 

Thank-you for your work & consideration,

 

 

Joan Grim

An economist recently predicted trillions of dollars of increased productivity if schools raised test scores and thus eliminated poverty.

This teacher has a different view, grounded in reality, not speculation.

“As a teacher in a high poverty urban school, I would like to weigh in here. My school is not set up to eliminate poverty. That argument is rubbish. Would any of these economists like to put a price on the psychological toll of poverty? My kids are worried about getting shot. It is a common occurrence in the neighborhood. They eat the school breakfast totally lacking in nutrition as if it were mana from heaven. Some wear the same clothes day after day. The vast majority are not focused on their studies due to shouldering the unrelenting burdens of poverty.”

The Néw York Times posted a blog debate about how to “fix” NCLB.

I was one of the contributors. My view is that the best way to fix the law is to remove its testing and punishment mandates. Testing is a state function.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests national and state samples of students. It reports state-to-state comparisons. It disaggregates data by race, English language learners, gender, disability status. It reports on achievement gaps. In effect, it audits learning in every state.

Restore ESEA (aka NCLB) to its original purpose: Equity. Sending money to poor kids’ schools. Helping the neediest children.

If you think that international test scores are a valuable indicator of educational success (I don’t), you should read this article. When poverty is recognized as an important variable, the scores of U.S. students are among the best in the world.

I don’t consider international test scores to be an accurate meassure of school quality. I am persuaded by Yong Zhao’s work that high test scores may be the result of relentless test prep, which distorts education and discourages creativity.

The report released today–titled “Schools in Context”– by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League tells a different story about international comparisons by looking at a broad range of indicators, not just test scores.

 

One part of the report is called “The Iceberg Effect,” and it shows what happens when you look only at the tip of the iceberg–test scores. A more complex and more interesting portrait of schools and society emerges when you look at the whole iceberg, not just the part that is easily measured by a standardized test. See the pdf here.

 

The full report of “Schools in Context” may be located in this pdf file.

 

The countries included in this contextual study are the United States, China, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan.

 

 

The National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League released  a report called “School Reform in Context,” based on data about children, schools, and the social context of schooling in the U.S. and other nations. This study challenges the conventional claim that our education system is falling behind the rest of the world. Seen in context, our school system has performed admirably in creating the world’s most highly educated workforce, but faces ongoing challenges of high levels of child poverty, inequity, and violence in society.

 

 

New study finds U.S. has the world’s most educated workforce—but students face unparalleled levels of poverty, inequity and violence

 

Washington, DC. January 20– A new study released today challenges the practice of ranking nations by educational test scores and questions conventional wisdom that the U.S.educational system has fallen badly behind school systems abroad.

 

In their report, School Performance in Context: The Iceberg Effect, the Horace Mann League (HML) and the National Superintendents Roundtable examined six dimensions related to student performance—equity, social stress, support for families, support for schools, student outcomes, and system outcomes—in the G-7 nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Finland and China. They then examined 24 “indicators” within those dimensions.

 

Of the nine nations, the United States remains the wealthiest with the most highly educated workforce, based on the number of years of school completed, and the proportion of adults with high school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees.

 

“Many policymakers and business leaders fret that America has fallen behind Europe and China, but our research does not bear that out,” said James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable.

 

Despite high educational levels, the United States also reflects high levels of economic inequity and social stress compared to the other nations. All are related to student performance. Measures included rates of childhood poverty, income inequality and violence. For example, in American public schools today, the rate of childhood poverty is five times greater than it is in Finland. Rates of violent death are 13 times greater than the average for the other nations, with children in some communities reporting they have witnessed shootings, knifings, and beatings as “ordinary, everyday events.”

 

The study is a unique analysis, which for the first time compares K-12 education internationally on an array of social and economic indicators, not just test scores. The goal was to look at the whole iceberg, not just the tip—and provide a clearer snapshot of each country’s performance, including its wealth, diversity, community safety, and support for families and schools.

 

 

Some key findings:

 

  •   Economic Equity: The United States and China demonstrate the greatest gaps between rich and poor. The U.S. also contends with remarkably high rates of income inequality and childhood poverty.
  •   Social Stress: The U.S.reported the highest rates of violent death and teen pregnancy, and came in second for death rates from drug abuse. The U.S.is also one of the most diverse nations with many immigrant students, suggesting English may not be their first language.
  •   Support for Families: The U.S. performed in the lowest third on public spending for services that benefit children and families, including preschool.
  •   Support for Schools: Americans seem willing to invest in education: The U.S. leads the nine-nation group in spending per student, but the national estimates may not be truly comparable. U.S. teachers spend about 40 percent more time in the classroom than their peers in the comparison countries.
  •   Student Outcomes: Performance in American elementary schools is promising, while middle school performance can be improved. U.S. students excel in 4th grade reading and high school graduation rates, but perform less well in reading at age 15. All nations demonstrate an achievement gap based on students’ family income and socio-economic status.
  •   System Outcomes: The U.S. leads these nations in educational levels of its adult workforce. Measures included years of schooling completed and the proportion of adults with high-school diplomas and bachelor’s degrees. American students also make up 25 percent of the world’s top students in science at age 15, followed by Japan at 13 percent.
  • “Too often, we narrow our focus to a few things that can be easily tested. To avoid that scoreboard mentality, we need to look at many measures important to shaping our future citizens. Treating education as a horse race doesn’t work,” said HML President Gary Marx.
  • A call for more nuanced assessments
  • American policymakers from both political parties have a history of relying on large, international assessments to judge United States’ performance in education. In 2013, the press reported that American students were falling behind when compared to 61 other countries and a few cities including Shanghai. In that comparative assessment—called the Program for International Student Assessment—PISA controversially reported superior scores for Shanghai.
  • “We don’t oppose using international assessments as one measure of performance. But as educators and policymakers, we need to compare ourselves with similar nations and on a broader set of indicators that put school performance in context—not just a single number in an international ranking,” said Harvey.
  • “Our study suggests the U.S. has the most educated workforce, yet students confront shockingly high rates of poverty and violence. Research shows that those larger issues, outside the classroom, are serious threats to student learning,” noted HML Executive Director Jack McKay.
  • The report, a summary and a video are available at: http://www.superintendentsforum.org and http://www.hmleague.org.
 
 

About the sponsors

The Horace Mann League (hmleague.org) is an association of educators

 

committed to the

 

principles of public education. Its members believe the U.S. public school system is an

 

indispensable agency for strengthening our democracy and a vital, dynamic influence in

 

American life.

 

The National Superintendents Roundtable (superintendentsforum.org) is a learning community of school superintendents who learn, discuss and meet regularly with worldwide experts,

 sharing best practices and leading for the future.

National Superintendents Roundtable Contact: Rhenda Meiser
(206) 465-9532
rhenda@rhendameiser.com

###

Horace Mann League Contact: Gary Marx, President
(703) 938-8725 gmarxcpo@aol.com

Yohuru Williams, professor of history at Fairfield University, has written a brilliant and powerful piece about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the current effort to privatize large sectors of public education, especially in urban districts.

 

He scoffs at the idea that turning public schools over to private management is “the civil rights issue of our time,” as so many “reformers” say. He cites a number of statements by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that claim the mantle of civil rights for policies that actually exacerbate segregation.

 

He cites Dr. King at length to show that he would  not have supported the use of standardized testing as a means of “reform.”

 

Dr. Williams writes:

 

“We must remember,” King warned, “that intelligence is not enough . . . Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” He asserted, “The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

 

King saw the goal of education as more than performance on high-stakes tests or the acquisition of job skills or career competencies. He saw it as the cornerstone of free thought and the use of knowledge in the public interest. For King, the lofty goal of education was not just to make a living but also to make the world a better place by using that production of knowledge for good. “To save man from the morass of propaganda,” King opined, “is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.” The notion that privatization can foster equality is fiction.

 

Dr. King understood the dangers of privatization, writes Dr. Williams:

 

King saw how school privatization was used to maintain segregation in Georgia. He witnessed the insidious efforts of Eugene Talmadge’s son, Herman, a distinguished lawyer, who succeeded his father in the governor’s office. Herman Talmadge created what became known as the “private-school plan.” In 1953, before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Talmadge proposed an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to empower the general assembly to privatize the state’s public education system. “We can maintain separate schools regardless of the US Supreme Court,” Talmadge advised his colleagues, “by reverting to a private system, subsidizing the child rather than the political subdivision.” The plan was simple. If the Supreme Court decided, as it eventually did in Brown, to mandate desegregation, the state would close the schools and issue vouchers to allowing students to enroll in segregated private schools.

 

What we are seeing in the name of “reform” today is the same plan with slight modifications: brand schools as low-performing factories of failure, encourage privatization, and leave the vast majority of students in underfunded, highly stigmatized public schools.

 

This effort will create an America that looks more like the 1967 Kerner Commission’s forecast, two societies separate and unequal, than Martin Luther King’s Beloved Community.

 

Dr. Williams says that the corporate education reform movement is the opposite of what Dr. King sought:

 

For King, the Beloved Community was a global vision of human cooperation and understanding where all peoples could share in the abundant resources of the planet. He believed that universal standards of human decency could be used to challenge the existence of poverty, famine, and economic displacement in all of its forms. A celebration of achievement and an appreciation of fraternity would blot out racism, discrimination, and distinctions of any kind that sought to divide rather than elevate people—no matter what race, religion, or test score. The Beloved Community promoted international cooperation over competition. The goal of education should be not to measure our progress against the world but to harness our combined intelligence to triumph over the great social, scientific, humanistic, and environmental issues of our time.

 

While it seeks to claim the mantle of the movement and Dr. King’s legacy, corporate education reform is rooted in fear, fired by competition and driven by division. It seeks to undermine community rather than build it and, for this reason, it is the ultimate betrayal of the goals and values of the movement.

 

Real triumph over educational inequalities can only come from a deeper investment in our schools and communities and a true commitment to tackling poverty, segregation, and issues affecting students with special needs and bilingual education. The Beloved Community is to be found not in the segregated citadels of private schools but in a well-funded system of public education, free and open to all—affirming our commitment to democracy and justice and our commitment to the dignity and worth of our greatest resource, our youth.

 

 

 

 

The Southern Education Foundation reports, based on the latest federal data, that the majority of students–51%–in American public schools qualify for free/reduced price lunch, which is the federal definition of poverty. There is a large difference between reduced price lunch and free lunch, in terms of income, as you will see if you look at the federal guidelines. Under these guidelines, a family of four qualifies for free lunch if its annual income is $23,850. A family of four qualifies for reduced price lunch with an annual income of $44,123. It is always useful when comparing the demographics of schools to see what percentage of the students are “free lunch,” which means that family income is very low, as compared to “reduced price lunch.” The Southern Education Foundation counts students who qualify for either  free or reduced price lunch as “low income,” which is appropriate.

 

In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students in 2013.

 

Most of the states with a majority of low income students are found in the South and the West. Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West.

 

Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: ­71 percent, almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi, were low-income. The nation’s second highest rate was found in New Mexico, where 68 percent of all public school students were low income in 2013.

 

Here is the full report. Here is the description of the report in the Washington Post. Here is the summary in the New York Times.

 

“Reformers” think that testing and charter schools are the best way to combat poverty. They often say that we must “fix” schools before we address poverty. They say we must create many charters and voucher programs so that students can overcome poverty on their own. Yet the evidence is clear that charters and vouchers do not, on average, outperform public schools, and often are worse in terms of test scores. “Reformers” also say that if students have low test scores, their teachers must be held “accountable,” i.e., fired, based on the assumption that the teacher is the cause of low test scores or low growth scores.

 

None of the reformer policies make sense. Scores on standardized tests are highly correlated with family income. The best way to improve test scores is to address the root cause of low scores, which is family income–or lack thereof. Children who live in poverty are less likely to have regular or timely medical care, less likely to have educated parents, less likely to live in a stable neighborhood, more likely to miss school because of illness, more likely to be hungry, more likely to be homeless. Taking tests more frequently, taking tests annually, having intense test prep, does not change the conditions of their lives.

 

Certainly, schools matter, and teachers make a difference in the lives of children. We must do whatever we can to help children of every background succeed in school. Because test scores are lower in schools where most children are low-income, these children are likely to have an intense regimen of test prep and testing and less likely to have the arts, physical education, field trips, projects, and the kinds of school experiences that make kids want to come to school. All children too need the opportunity to play in a band, dance, draw, sing, make videos, participate in exercise and sports, learn a foreign language, and use their imaginations. Yet test prep eats up the time, making it less likely that children of low-income will have these opportunities.

 

Some low-income children will succeed no matter what the obstacles in their lives, but they are outliers. Sending more low-income students to college is a wonderful goal, but it does not address the persistence of poverty and deepening income inequality as a structural feature of American society. High expectations are important, but they can’t take the place of jobs and social supports for families in need. Sadly, our policymakers are unwilling to tackle the biggest problem in our society today, which is poverty and inequality. Anyone who truly puts “students first” would insist on reducing poverty; anyone who acts “for the kids” would demand action to improve the conditions of their lives. More testing will not reduce poverty;  it is a dodge and an escape from responsibility.

 

 

 

 

Peter Greene poses a question in this post. If poor children get low test scores, does that mean that all those who teach poor children are bad teachers?

 

Peter is always funny in the way he presents the “a-ha!” moments in educational research, which are usually either obvious or dumb. Here he looks at a study in Education Next that considered a teacher evaluation program in Chicago. It worked best for the reading scores of advantaged children. It had zero effect on the reading scores of impoverished children. One conclusion might be that poverty matters. But the researchers instead reach a different conclusion.

 

Peter writes:

 

“Even though the data points to poverty as the big flashing neon sign of “Hey, here it is!” Steinberg and Sartain walk right past the blinking brightness to select again the teachers and principals as the cause. This is not so much mis-reading data as simply ignoring it. I’m not sure why they bothered with the big long article. They could have just typed, one more time, “Poor students do worse on standardized tests, therefor we conclude that the only possible explanation is that all the bad teachers in the world teach in high-poverty schools.” Also, I’ve noticed that whenever a building is on fire, there are firefighters there with big red trucks, so if you never want your building to burn down, keep firefighters and big red trucks away.

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