Archives for category: Students

Whenever a superintendent speaks truth to ower, their voice should be heard. What is more, they deserve to be honored. I am glad here to honor William G . Hochgesang, Superintendent, Northeast Dubois public schools and to add him to our honor roll as a champion of public education. The politicians are hurting children, hurting teachers, and decimating public education. Thank you, Superintendent Hochgesang, for speaking up with courage and clarity for our kids and our democracy.

This letter from Superintendent Hochgesang came from another Indiana superintendent, Dr. Terry Sargeant:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

Over the weekend, I received this letter through the Indiana Small & Rural Schools Association. It was written by Dr. Bill Hochgesang, Superintendent of Northeast Dubois Schools, to his school board the evening he asked them to approve their new teacher contract. In a nutshell, I have not heard the circumstances currently faced by Indiana Public Schools expressed any better. This letter is beginning to go viral in Indiana and I thought you might enjoy reading it. I agree with Bill 100% and I only hope that the political pendulum in Indiana will begin to swing the other direction soon – for the sake of our kids.

Most sincerely,

Terry

Dr. Terry R. Sargent
Superintendent
Jennings County School Corporation
34 W. Main Street
North Vernon, Indiana 47265
(812) 346-4483
tsargent@jcsc.org

“All children are gifted; some just open their packages earlier than others.”

– Michael Carr

​”​ Board,

I am recommending to the board this evening that they ratify the contract as presented. This contract for the second year in a row has a zero increase . Our Classroom Teachers Association does this fully knowing that zero isn’t in reality a zero. It is a negative as our insurance rate increased by 4% in 2013 and increased 8% for the 2015 school year. In the past there was a salary schedule for teachers that had an increment in place for experience . That option was taken away two years ago by our legislature. So this is a true pay cut for the second year in a row. Along with our teachers, all employees of Northeast Dubois have taken this same cut in salary the past two years . It saddens me to have to ask for this and accept this. But that is the reality of what we are currently dealing with.

It does however give me great pleasure to work in this school system where kids truly come first. Our school corporation is a system where people honestly put students’ needs ahead of their own as evidenced by these actions. Our school corporation is innovative as shown by our technology, our atmosphere and, of course, our success . Still we are never satisfied and continuously work to improve. Our school system strives to provide students the opportunity to pursue their passions and excel in many areas! Our school system is one where there is no talk of cutting any programs or enlarging class sizes in order to save money-yet. I worry about this trend continuing. Staff has shown their dedication to students by forgoing pay in order to protect these programs and class sizes.

I only wish I lived in a state where legislators cared as much for students as we do at Northeast Dubois. In 2009, $300,000,000 was taken from the education budget and never returned. Yet we all read in the news that the state has a $2,000,000,000 surplus. One doesn’t have to be a math expert in order to see where 75% of that money came from. Take five years times $300,000,000 and it is crystal clear that $1.5 Billion has come at the cost of the schools in Indiana. Many schools have turned to referendums, just to make ends meet. In fact, after the May election one out of every three schools in Indiana has run a referendum on the voting ballot. Yet, what do we as educators get from our legislators? We get higher standards, more accountability and forced competition, competition for money that is not increasing. We are forced to compete for students, as the money follows the child . We get forced competition where students are ranked, teachers are ranked and schools are ranked. Ranking always produces winners and losers, there is always a top and always a bottom, and in education there cannot be any losers! The education of every child in this state is critical. I am a firm believer that every school in this state is giving their best effort! I wish the legislators would truly see what great things are happening in our schools and begin to support our efforts . I feel they have forgotten the essential role education has played in the success in their own lives and that an education is the most important aspect in leaving a legacy for our children. Public education as we know it is in grave danger. Our legislators need to know just how much we care about our schools and we need their support!

Northeast Dubois is surviving like every other school corporation in this state; we are surviving by a slim margin. We are surviving because of our dedicated, caring and giving people. To all Northeast Dubois employees: Thank you for truly putting kids first! I am humbled to be a part of this school corporation. And hopefully better days are ahead! Let’s keep working together for all our students!

Thank you,

William G . Hochgesang,
Superintendent, Northeast Dubois ​”

Sarah Jaffee attended the October 11 meeting of Public Education Nation in Brooklyn, convened by the Network for Public Education, and she saw the emergence of a new and vital spirit of resistance and dedication to public education.

 

She noted the well-known bloggers and advocates on the stage and in the crowd, but the show-stopper, she said, was a student activist from Newark named Tanaisa Brown.

 

Tanaisa Brown of the Newark Student Union perhaps best set the tone for the day when she told the crowd that the movement needs to have a central message, a central idea. “Remember that there’s other people fighting for the same causes that you are,” she said. While each location has its own specific fights – in Newark, she noted, they’re fighting against the “One Newark” plan being imposed by Chris Christie and his appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson – the movement, she suggested, needs a positive vision to anchor it.

 

“We want community schools,” she said. “Not a community school that is now a charter school, but a school that is embedded in the community and helps out the parents, the teachers, and anyone else who lives there that can benefit from wraparound services at those schools.”

 

This idea came up again and again throughout the day. It is no longer enough to simply say no to the top-down reforms, high-stakes tests, charter schools and school closings. It is no longer even enough to strike, to hold dramatic actions, to speak out. The movement, the day seemed to suggest, needs to take the next step and figure out what it is for.

 

Tanaisa is an articulate representative of students. And she is right. Saying no is not enough. But she also knows that you can’t begin to build positive change until the negative forces now crushing students, teachers, administrators, and public schools are stopped. Cami’s “One Newark” must be stopped, and students are trying their best to stop it. It is hard to climb when someone keeps cutting out the rungs on the ladder beneath you. It is hard to make progress when someone keeps beating you with a whip and threatening your job, your income, your pension, your reputation.

 

Perhaps Jitu Brown said it simplest when he said that we can’t work an inside-outside strategy. We must directly confront and block the damaging movement that calls itself “reform.” Closing schools is not reform, it destroys families and communities. Jitu Brown and his group Journey for Justice are bringing civil rights complaints against the school-closing, privatization “reforms” in New Orleans, Newark, and Chicago.

 

When Tanaisa Brown was asked for her own vision, she said she would like to go to a school that had the arts, that had dance and music. She would like to go to a school that had foreign languages and a library. She would like a school that offered the liberal arts.

 

That doesn’t sound radical or crazy or far out. Why is that so far out of reach for students in cities like Newark and Detroit and Philadelphia? Why?

 

We must continue to stop what is wrong and we must continue to fight for what is right.

 

 

 

 

EduShyster had a conversation with Ruby Anderson, a high school senior who belongs to the Philadelphia Student Union.

 

If you read this interview, you will be astonished at how knowledgeable and insightful Ruby is.

 

She explains why and how the students disrupted the SRC showing of a pro-charter, anti-union film.

 

She understands that Governor Corbett cut the education budget in the state by $1 billion.

 

She doesn’t think that teachers should have to sacrifice to make up the state’s neglect of the Philly schools.

 

She knows that the School Reform Commission’s ultimate goal is to get rid of public schools and she knows it is wrong and she knows why it is wrong.

 

Ruby thinks that Philly should have democratic control of its schools.

 

This is a wise student. If only the grown-ups on the SRC and in the Legislature were as wise as she.

The Philadelphia Student Union held a demonstration in support of their underfunded, beleaguered schools and their teachers, whose contract was summarily terminated by the SRC. According to this story, a member of the School Reform Commission–the state-appointed board that runs the schools–shouted at the students that they should be in jail, that they probably go to failing schools. Wow.

Meanwhile, the SRC screened the anti-public school, pro-charter propaganda film “Won’t Back Down” as part of Parent Appreciation Night. The film, produced by rightwing billionaire Philip Anschutz, depicts a parent and a teacher using the parent trigger to turn their public school over to a charter operator. The teachers’ union is portrayed in the film as the bad guys. Not only was Anschutz a producer of “Waiting for Superman,” he is a major player in the fracking industry, which is huge in Pennsylvania. He doesn’t like unions or public education. “Won’t Back Down” was a total bomb when it was released a few years ago. It disappeared from the nation’s screens within 30 days with the worst box office of any national film in decades. Funny that the SRC disinterred this stinker to show appreciation for parents.

According to the story:

“Things turned ugly when members of Philadelphia Student Union interrupted a film screening at the School District of Philadelphia’s headquarters with School Reform Commissioner Sylvia Simms.

“In a video posted on YouTube, Simms began shouting at students sitting-in on the screening of “Won’t Back Down,” chanting, “SOS, save our schools,” and, “Philly is a union town.” While in the video there is too much noise to make out what Simms said, students reported that the SRC commissioner told them, “you all probably go to failing schools,” and, “you belong in jail.”

The National Science Foundation has awarded grants of $4.8 million to several prominent research universities to advance the use of Big Data in the schools.

Benjamin Herold writes in Education Week:

“The National Science Foundation earlier this month awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools.

“The project, dubbed “LearnSphere,” highlights the continued optimism that “big” educational data might be used to dramatically transform K-12 schooling.

“It also raises new questions in the highly charged debate over student-data privacy.

“The federally funded initiative will be led by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, who propose to construct a new data-sharing infrastructure that is distributed across multiple institutions, include third-party and for-profit vendors. When complete, LearnSphere is likely to hold a massive amount of anonymous information, including:

“Clickstream” and other digital-interaction data generated by students using digital software provided to schools by LearnSphere participants;

“Chat-window dialogue sent by students participating in some online courses and tutoring programs;

“Potentially, “affect” and biometric data, including information generated from classroom observations, computerized analysis of students’ posture, and sensors placed on students’ skin.

“Proponents say that facilitating the sharing and analysis of such information for research purposes can lead to new insights about how humans learn, as well as rapid improvements to the digital learning software flooding now flooding schools.”

Whoa! The Gates-funded “galvanic skin response monitors” are back! Two years ago, it seemed to be a joke but it’s no joke. Researchers are still trying to gauge biometric reactions with sensors placed on students’ skin.

This really is Brave New World stuff.

Just think: Your tax dollars will help to fund a project to mine your children’s data and turn that data over to for-profit vendors to sell things to the children and their schools.

What can we do about it? Refuse to use digital learning tools in school. Don’t give them the data. Use pencils and pens. Now we understand why the two federally-funded Common Core testing consortia must be tested online and online only. This is the means of producing the data that will be mined.

This is all very sick. It has nothing to do with education and everything to do with violating the rights of families and children. No child will be better educated by mining their data, observing their posture, and monitoring their skin responses. this NOT ABOUT LEARNING. This is about money. Greed. Profits. And we are paying for it.

Our reader and commenter Chiara writes:

“Just so we’re clear, the SIIA is a trade organization:

“We introduce this Pledge as a clear industry commitment to safeguard the privacy and security of all student personal information,” said Mark Schneiderman, senior director of education policy, Software & Information Industry Association. “Current law provides extensive restrictions on the use of student information, and this industry pledge will build on and detail that protection to promote even greater confidence in the appropriate use of student data.”

And this is their mission:

“PRINCIPAL MISSION:

Promote the Industry: SIIA promotes the common interests of the software and digital content industry as a whole, as well as its component parts.

Protect the Industry: SIIA protects the intellectual property of member companies, and advocates a legal and regulatory environment that benefits the entire industry.

Inform the Industry: SIIA informs the industry and the broader public by serving as a resource on trends, technologies, policies and related issues that affect member firms and demonstrate the contribution of the industry to the broader economy.”

#1 is promote the industry, #2 is protect the industry, and # 3 is inform the industry.

They “advocate a legal and regulatory environment that benefits THE INDUSTRY”

http://www.siia.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=159&Itemid=6

Several tech companies promised not to compromise the privacy of student data. Advocates of student privacy were not reassured by their promises. See here and here and here. As Politico points out, neither Apple nor Google signed the pledge.

Here is a statement by leaders of the student privacy movement.

Parent Coalition for Student Privacy Not Satisfied with Tech Industry “pledge”

While parents and advocates involved defeating inBloom are appreciative that the voluntary pledge released by members of the software industry bars the selling of student data and its use for targeting ads, its provisions fall far short of what would be necessary to uphold the rights of parents to control access to their children’s personal information and protect their privacy. It appears that technology vendors and their supporters are trying to forestall stronger federal and state laws that would really hold them accountable.

The provisions do not include any parental consent or notification requirements before schools hand over the highly sensitive personal data of their children to vendors, and contain no specific security or enforcement standards for its collection, use or transmission. It would also allow for the infinite disclosure or sale of the data from one company to another, when the first one goes bankrupt, is merged or acquired by another corporation.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters based in NYC and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said: “We need legally enforceable provisions requiring parental notification and consent for the disclosure and redisclosure of personal student data, as well as rigorous security standards. This pledge will not achieve these goals, and will not satisfy most parents, deeply concerned about protecting their children from rampant data sharing, data-mining and data breaches.”

As Rachael Stickland, Colorado parent and co-chair of the Coalition pointed out, “The pledge explicitly allows for the use of student personal information for ‘adaptive learning.’ Parents are very worried that predictive analytics will lead to stereotyping, profiling and undermining their children’s future chance of success. At the least, industry leaders should support full disclosure of the specific student data elements employed for these purposes, and understand the need for informed parental consent.”

Said Melissa Westbrook, moderator of the Seattle Schools Community Forum and co-founder of Washington State’s Student Privacy Now, “This so-called pledge, filled with mumbo-jumbo, has one glaring item missing – legally enforceable punishment for K-12 service providers who don’t protect student data. Without that, students and their data have no real protections. ”

Concluded Josh Golin, Associate Director for the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, “Across industries, self-regulation has been proven inadequate when it comes to protecting children, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that students’ most sensitive information can be safeguarded through voluntary pledges. Only federal and state legislation that have clear enforcement mechanisms and penalties will give students the protections – and parents the peace of mind – they deserve. It’s disappointing the ed tech industry’s main takeaway from the inBloom fiasco is that they need better PR.”

Leonie Haimson, leonie@classsizematters.org; 917-435-9329

Rachael Stickland, info@studentprivacymatters.org; 303-204-1272

http://www.studentprivacymatters.org
###

Arne Duncan issued waivers to 43 states to allow them to avoid the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Law, passed in 2001, signed into law in January 2002. NCLB is an utter disaster, recognized as such by everyone except the people who had a direct hand in writing it. It requires that 100% of all children in grades 3-8 must be “proficient” on state tests of reading and mathematics or the school will face dire consequences.

 

In no nation in the world are 100% of all children proficient in reading and math. Congress’s mandate was a cruel joke on the nation’s public schools.

 

In order to get Duncan’s waiver, states had to agree to Duncan’s terms. One of them was that the state had to create a teacher evaluation system based on test scores. Washington State initially agreed, but as the research accumulated showing that this strategy was not working anywhere, the legislature refused to pass such a system.

 

Duncan revoked the waiver he had in his lordly manner extended. Now almost every school in the state is a failing school and must spent at least 20% of their federal funding on private tutoring or allow students to transfer to “non-failing” schools, if they can find one.

 

This article by Motoko Rich in the New York Times shows the ugly consequences of Duncan’s policies have been on the public schools of Washington State. Schools that have shown dramatic improvement in recent years are now declared failures. Duncan says the state must suffer the consequences of its failure to follow his orders.

 

This man is not fit to be Secretary of Education. He is a promoter of privatization and high-stakes testing. His period in office has been marked by massive demoralization of teachers and educational stagnation (his own term). From his actions, it appears that he doesn’t care for public education and hopes it will be replaced by privately managed charters and vouchers. His action in this case has caused harm to the students and teachers of Washington State. The headline of the article says he put schools “in a bind.” It would be more accurate to say that Duncan has rained chaos on the schools and children of Washington State. The sooner he is out of office, the sooner we can turn to realistic ways of helping children and schools.

By a vote of 3-2, the school board of Jefferson County, Colorado, passed its controversial proposal to adopt an American history curriculum that removes references to dissent and social disorder and anything else that diminishes a sense of patriotism. This idea was cooked up by a radical rightwing majority that took control of the board at the last election.

The meeting was noisy and fractious. Students turned out in large numbers to oppose the sanitized curriculum, and by their actions, showed that dissent is alive and well.

Luckily, there is a website devoted to watching the JeffCo school board. The Jeffcoschoolboardwatch says the word of the day now is: Recall!

The students have gained national and international attention. The school board majority and its allies say they are “pawns” of the teachers’ union. Fox News called them “punks.”

Peter Dreier, a professor at Occidental College in California, proposes that the major historical associations honor these students for demanding a history curriculum that is not saddled with ideological bias. They have stood up for academic freedom.

I call them heroes. Students cannot be fired. They can stand up for their right to learn and for their teachers’ right to teach. Teachers and principals can’t do that. Student protests can awaken the public. They can alert the people of JeffCo and Colorado about radical efforts to remove controversy from the teaching of U.S. history. They can save our schools from the reactionaries who want to hand them over to Walton-funded, Broad-funded, Gates-funded, NewSchools Venture-funded profiteers. They can stop data-mining.

Their voices cannot be stilled by threats and intimidation. They have the idealism of youth and the freedom to act and speak without fear. Go, students of JeffCo!

Did you know that your child is constantly data mined? Adrienne Hill writes about how extensively most children are now tracked, usually without their parent’s knowledge or consent. The federal government has given states hundreds of millions of dollars to help build a giant database, called a “statewide longitudinal data system.”

Hill writes:

“The government isn’t the only one trying to figure out what’s working by investing in and gobbling up data about your kid.

“Sales of educational technology software for kids in kindergarten through high school reached nearly $8 billion last year, according to the Software and Information Industry Association.

“One of the biggest players is the field is Knewton. It analyzes student data that it collects by keeping track of nearly every click and keystroke your child makes during digital lessons.

“Jose Ferreira is Knewton’s CEO. In a video posted by the Department of Education, he says “We literally know everything about what you know and how you learn best, everything.”

“Knewton claims to gather millions of data points on millions of children each day. Ferreira calls education “the world’s most data-mineable industry by far.”

“We have five orders of magnitude more data about you than Google has,” he says in the video. “We literally have more data about our students than any company has about anybody else about anything, and it’s not even close.”

“Five orders of magnitude more data than Google is a whole lot of data.

“The promise is that all that data can be used to tailor lessons to individual kids, to their strengths and weaknesses. They will become better learners, and that will lead to higher grades and better graduation rates.

“Ferreira imagines a day when “you tell us what you had for breakfast every morning at the beginning of the semester, by the end of the semester, we should be able to tell you what you had for breakfast. Because you always did better on the days you had scrambled eggs.”

“If the right breakfast makes for a better behaved child, that will be measured, too.”

And more:

“We live in a 24/7 data mining universe today,” says Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media. “And I think most of us parents and teachers and kids don’t realize how much of our data is out there and used by other people.”

“Steyer is also a parent. He says what worries him most is that “information that’s very personal to me and my family, for example my kids disciplinary record or health record or something like that, is made available to somebody who it’s no business to have that.”

What will be done with all this data? Sell stuff to your child? Monitor her behavior? For what ends? For whose benefit? What brave new world is this?

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