Archives for category: Education Reform

Veteran teacher Nancy Bailey offers some common sense advice about how to help students become better readers and writers. Her advice is meant for students with or without disabilities.

Here are first two suggestions:

I welcome teachers and parents to add whatever they’d like to share, what works for you, or special resource pages or links.


Teachers don’t always focus on handwriting because of other skills they are made to address. The focus on technology has sometimes pushed handwriting out of the picture. So, helping students, especially students with reading or writing (dysgraphia) disabilities, become better at handwriting at home, might be a beneficial exercise at this time.

Teachers struggle to understand what students mean when they turn in sloppy papers. Even if students misspell words, it’s much easier to see the breakdown of their errors and help them correct their papers, when letters are neatly printed or written in cursive.

***Don’t push a child to write if they have difficulty holding a pencil or if they are too young.

Holding a pencil.

This may seem strange, but many students don’t know how to hold a pencil! My husband teaches college students and remarks about the many strange ways he has observed students holding pencils and pens in a cramped and uncomfortable manner.

The pencil should be held between the thumb and middle finger with the index finger riding the pencil. The pencil should be grasped above the sharpened point. Pencil grippers are helpful, or some tape or a rubber band wrapped around the pencil can help with gripping.

Younger children work better with larger pencils.

As a left-handed writer with horrible handwriting, I should remain silent. But I have noticed young adults who literally don’t know how to hold a pencil and whose handwriting is even worse than mine.

The Washington Post reported that Trump made clear that he would reward those governors that are “appreciative” of him and punish those who were not.

Have we ever had a president who was so petty, so vain, so desperately in need of praise?

President Trump is a commander in chief dealing with a coronavirus outbreak in which many difficult decisions have to be made. And on Friday, he seemed to suggest some of those decisions could be made according to who has run afoul of him personally.
Appearing at the daily White House briefing, Trump disclosed that he has told Vice President Pence, who is leading the coronavirus task force, not to call the governors of Michigan and Washington state because those governors had been critical of Trump and the federal response.
“When they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right,” Trump said.
He then added: “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington; you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan. It doesn’t make any difference what happens.’ You know what I say: ‘If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.’ He’s a different type of person; he’ll call quietly anyway.”

Those states are particularly important. Washington state was the first real hot spot in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan, which has among the nation’s highest rates of the virus, is also a key swing state in the 2020 election. You wonder if Trump’s comments about not wanting to communicate with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a crisis might be used against him in his reelection campaign.
Asked what more he wants from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in particular, Trump said he just wants more gratitude.
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“All I want them to do — very simple: I want them to be appreciative,” he said. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative.”

John Merrow rightly says that the new stay-at-home schooling is not homeschooling.

There are no bells, no crowd control, and very few real teachers.

It is home LEARNING, and there is a wealth of resources available to parents.

He offers many activities and links to resources.

A parent recently said on Twitter that the current situation cannot be compared to homeschooling, because those parents who exercise that option have access to museums, libraries, and other community activities that are mostly closed for the same reason schools are closed.

Politico reported this information from the Wall Street Journal this a.m.:

SIDEBAR — WSJ: ” Mr. Trump has told people he wants his signature to appear on the direct payment checks that will go out to many Americans in the coming weeks, according to an administration official. The White House didn’t comment. Normally, a civil servant—the disbursing officer for the payment center—would sign federal checks, said Don Hammond, a former senior Treasury Department official.”

ON TAP Today from the American Prospect
MARCH 27, 2020

Kuttner on TAP

Oh, No! Better Unemployment Benefits Raise Low Wages. The Republican senators who tried a last-ditch effort to water down the stimulus bill had one major concern: If federal unemployment benefits were increased, companies that depend on low-wage labor might have trouble coaxing people back to work for a pittance. Oh, the horror!

As The Wall Street Journal lead editorial put it, in inimitable fashion, “Amazon, Walmart, CVS and delivery services are seeking to hire hundreds of thousands of workers to meet a surge in demand even as the virus spreads. Many are boosting pay, but how are they supposed to compete with workers who can stay at home and make more?”

And the Journal warned gravely, “The enhanced benefits expire after four months, but we’ll bet Speaker Pelosi’s pension that Democrats will be back demanding an extension through the end of the year and calling Republicans ‘cruel’ if they disagree.”

Duh—how prescient of the Journal. Democrats should indeed take full advantage of this crisis to get reforms that are long overdue: more adequate replacement of lost wages for laid-off workers; full unemployment coverage for gig workers, freelancers, and other 1099 employees.

As for poor Amazon, Walmart, and others of the world’s most profitable companies that may find it harder to get workers to risk their life and health for lousy jobs, there is a remedy that the Journal may recognize as part of standard economic supply-and-demand theory: Raise their wages!

And don’t tell us that this would be inflationary. The crisis that this economy faces is deflation.

The historic function of unemployment comp is not just to keep idle workers from starvation, but to raise what economists call the “reservation wage,” otherwise known as a desperation wage, that workers are compelled to take to survive. And if the corona crisis raises that wage to $15 an hour or more, it’s one of the very few good side effects. ~ ROBERT KUTTNER

Today is the birthday of Patty Smith Hill, who wrote “Happy Birthday to You.”

I recall that she was a leading advocate for early childhood education and play while a professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York.

Garrison Keillor wrote this about her.

It’s the birthday of the woman who wrote “Happy Birthday to You,” Patty Smith Hill, born in Anchorage, Kentucky (1868). Most of her life was spent as a kindergarten teacher. She began teaching in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was there, in 1893, that Hill first wrote the lyrics to the song. But it was originally meant as a welcome to start the school day and was first called “Good Morning to All.” Hill’s sister Mildred, an accomplished musician, provided the melody. Hill was 25 when she wrote the lyrics to the famous song.

But wait? Where is her professional life?

Wikipedia says this:

Hill taught nursery school, kindergarten, and was a “key founder of the National Association for Nursery Education (NANE) which now exists as the National Association For the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).”

Not only was she famous for composing the Happy Birthday song, but she was a prominent advocate for early childhood education.

Hill was an authority and leader in the progressive education movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Patty developed the Patty Hill blocks and in 1924 helped create the Institute of Child Welfare Research at Columbia University Teachers College.[2] The Patty Hill blocks were large blocks with which children could create giant constructions. She was a member, President, and lifetime support of the Association for Childhood Education International.

Garrison Keillor tells this story at “The Writer’s Almanac”:

On this date in 1915, the woman known as “Typhoid Mary” was put into quarantine in a cottage in the Bronx. Her name was Mary Mallon, and she was a large and fiery Irish-American woman about 40 years old. She worked as a cook in and around New York City, and every household she worked in seemed to suffer an outbreak of typhoid fever. Typhoid is caused by a form of Salmonella bacteria, and is usually spread by contact with human or animal waste. It was common on battlefields — it may have killed more than 200,000 soldiers during the Civil War — and in poor and unsanitary housing conditions, but it was rarely seen in the wealthy households like the ones where Mallon worked.

The first outbreak associated with Typhoid Mary occurred in 1900, in Mamaroneck, New York. She had been cooking for a family for about two weeks when they started to become ill. The same thing happened the following year, when she took a series of jobs in Manhattan and Long Island. She helped take care of the sick, not realizing that her presence was probably making them worse.

In 1906, a doctor named George Soper noticed this strange pattern of outbreaks in wealthy homes. He went to interview each of the families, and found that they had all hired the same cook, but she never left a forwarding address when she moved on to other employment. He finally tracked her down after several cases in a Park Avenue penthouse, so he interviewed her. She didn’t take it well, and swore at him, and threatened him with a meat cleaver when he asked her to provide a stool sample. He finally called in the police and had her arrested.

Urine and stool samples were taken from Mallon by force, and doctors discovered that her gall bladder was shedding great numbers of typhoid bacteria. She admitted that she never washed her hands when cooking, but she didn’t see the point, as she was healthy. No one had ever heard of a healthy carrier of typhoid before, and she refused to believe that she was in any way sick. They wanted to take out her gall bladder, and she refused. They demanded that she give up cooking, and she refused to do that too. They confined her for a while and put her to work as a laundress for the Riverside Hospital, and in 1910 — after she promised to give up cooking and only work as a laundress — she was released. It wasn’t long before she changed her name to Mary Brown and took a job as a cook. For the next five years, she stayed one step ahead of the doctors and the law, spreading disease and death in her wake, until they caught up with her on Long Island. Authorities placed her in quarantine on North Brother Island in the Bronx for the rest of her life, and she died of pneumonia in 1938.

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio is a former legislator and is currently the most astute analyst of the legislature’s efforts to undermine public education.

In this post, he describes the legislature’s current approach to vouchers.

He writes:

Yesterday, Ohio’s legislature passed their COVID-19 emergency package. And while there were some much needed and positive things in it (no standardized tests this year, no report cards), the bill also settled the contentious debate over what to do with next year’s EdChoice perofrmance-based voucher program.

A bit of background. Next year, due to legislative changes, 1,227 school buildings would have been labeled by the state as “failing”. Families with students in those buildings could therefore receive publicly subsidized private school tuition vouchers to leave these schools. The problem for districts is the way this program is funded, the state removes state revenue meant for the students in the districts and instead provides a private tuition subsidy — an amount that on average is abot $1,300 more per pupil than the student would have received from the state if he or she had remained in the school district. This forces many districts to use local revenue to make up the difference.

Also, it is obvious that more than 1/3 of Ohio school buildings are not “failing” students, as the current 1,227 building calculation would conclude. And legislators on all sides of the aisle agreed that the state report card that made this determination is fatally flawed.

However, families were gearing up by Feb. 1 to request vouchers for next school year based on the expanded school building list. The legislature put off that deadline to April 1 and included $10 million in state funding to help offset the cost of increased vouchers. They were hoping to hash out a plan to address this issue before that date.

Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed.

The solution included in yesterday’s bill was essentially freezing the number of buildings at this year’s 500+ buildings, and limiting new vouchers to siblings of current recipients and incoming kindergarten students, as well as any 8th graders who want to take the voucher in high school.

But it’s all based on this current school year’s building list — which is still about double the amount of the 2018-2019 school year, but is far fewer than the 1,227 it could have been.

This solution also did not include the $10 million state infusion to help districts cope with the increase in vouchers.

So the immediate question became: Will this “freeze” really be a cost-neutral freeze on the program? Or do we still need an infusion of state cash to offset new vouchers?

Looking at the data, it appears we could be looking at an increase in voucher funding next year, but it could also be cost neutral. It all depends on how the math works out.

According to the latest state funding printouts, there are currently 3,264 kindergarten voucher students. In addition, there are an average of 2,324 voucher students in 12th grade this year.

The kindergarten students cost $4,650 per year. The 2,324 12th graders cost $6,000 a year.

When advocates of vouchers assert that all children should have the “same choices” as rich people, they are lying. The private schools that Trump, Gates, and others of their wealth choose do not charge $6,000 a year. They charge $30,000-$60,000 a year.

Ohio is offering a subsidy to religious schools, including to children who have never attended a public schools. These schools do not necessarily require that teachers are certified. The education they offer is typically inferior to public education.

Ninety percent of the children of Ohio choose to attend public schools. Their legislators ignore them.

Several days ago, I was interviewed by Dr. Randy Tobler of radio station KFTK in St. Louis about SLAYING GOLIATH, which is pro-public school and anti-privatization.

When the interview was scheduled by my publisher, I wasn’t familiar with the station or the host.

As I waited a few minutes for the show to start, I heard an advertisement for Rush Limbaugh, whose syndicated talk show would air later that day.

As a defector from conservative think tanks, I started to worry whether this interview would be unpleasant. I remember years ago being on a talk show in Chicago with a foul-mouthed shock jock and feeling trapped. I remembered a “debate” on FOX with Judge Napolitano and a right wing hater of public schools, teachers, and unions.

As I waited for the show to start, these bad memories resurfaced.

But I was in for a wonderful surprise. I had a great talk with Randy. He told me that everyone in St. Louis is obsessed with vouchers and charters, and he invited me to respond. I learned that his father taught music at a public school, and we hit it off. We discussed the hot topics, and he understood that vast amounts of money are wasted on consultants. He believes that teachers should have more autonomy. I expect he heard that from his dad.

We ended up having a good conversation, and I felt that he was one of the few radio interviewers who actually read the book. I can’t tell you how often I have been interviewed by people who have not read the book. They ask uninformed questions, and it is frustrating.

I enjoyed talking to Randy Tobler.

John Richard Schrock was a professor of science education at a Emporia State University for many years. He also taught in middle and high schools, as well as in Hong Kong. He frequently writes about education issues.

Screen Reading and Online Coursework Inferior

The forced closure of classrooms and shift to online learning from home has revived the hopes of big Ed-Tech companies that they can regain some legitimacy in education. Meanwhile, the general response of teachers and professors is exposing their extensive negative experiences with distance learning.

In the early 2000s, computer enthusiasts predicted the end of “brick-and-mortar” K-12 schools; students would study from home in their pajamas, using online links to teachers who would also teach from home. New digital readers were predicted to totally replace printed books by 2015. And massive open online colleges (MOOCs) would deliver all coursework online and free, replacing university coursework and making college classrooms obsolete a decade ago.

None of these predictions came true. Our armed forces kept track of their training dropout rate for high school students who graduated from online high schools; they performed as poorly as GED students who never completed genuine high school. Citizens who bought digital book devices temporarily increased but then fell back to a smaller number who found advantages in enlarged texts or backlit nighttime reading for recreation.

But university students need intense “deep reading.” Using on-screen textbooks meant printing off the text to avoid eye strain. The vast majority preferred printed texts for in-depth study and comprehension. Ironically, the high cost of college textbooks was due to the publishers covering the cost of added electronic services. American college textbook publishers ignored student concerns and moved to all-online texts in order to pay for tutors, course outlines, quizzes and testing services as professors were evaluated more on research and less on bothersome teaching.

While K-12 administrators found it easy to buy the latest electronic gadgets and sit youngsters in front of screens to impress naive parents, the actual evaluations of student learning on the NAEP, ACT, SAT and other measures show less, not more learning is occurring with on-screen media.

And while the Chronicle of Higher Education just came out with a clueless recommendation that universities should begin making comparisons of online learning with standard face-to-face teaching, there is already over two decades of solid research. It confirms what most teachers and professors already know: face-to-face teaching and reading-print are clearly superior.

In the last two decades there have been hundreds of rigorous studies comparing reading on screens to reading print. A “meta-analysis” is an analysis of previously published research articles and data, selecting just those studies that meet rigorous research criteria. There have been three major meta-analyses, including “Reading From Paper Compared to Screens: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” by Virginia Clinton and just published in 2019 in the Journal of Research in Reading.

As with the prior studies, she found there was a statistically important benefit to reading print for reading performance, metacognition and efficiency. And despite the fact that online learning using screens has now been in operation in the U.S. for over 20 years, surveys of college professors who have experienced both conventional classroom teaching and online delivery still prefer face-to-face classroom teaching by over two-thirds, a percentage that has not budged for a decade.

We also now know that the student who listens and then writes out class notes understands much more than the student who is transcribing the words they hear a teacher speak onto a laptop, a relatively thoughtless typing process.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) compares educational systems of developed countries and administers the international PISA, a test that involves 15-year-olds across 31 nations. OECD found that students who used computers had both lower reading and math scores. “Those that use the Internet every day do the worst,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills and author of the report. While that study was published in 2015, the Reboot Foundation released a study in June 2019 that followed up using the most recent data and again found a negative connection between each nation’s performance on the PISA and their students’ use of technology in school. The more they used computer screens in schools, the lower the nation’s rank in educational achievement. In addition, the Reboot Foundation found a negative relationship between using electronic tablets in school and fourth-grade reading scores.

But you do not have to resort to extensive research to know that this shift to distance learning, albeit necessary, will produce minimal outcomes. Every teacher and isolated student knows in these upcoming months that there is far less learning going on.