Archives for category: Stupid

Steve Hinnefeld is a veteran reporter on Indiana education.

In this post, he describes the shift from a simplistic A-F rating system (the one devised by Jeb Bush) to the federal rating system, which includes more factors.

The problem with both ratings systems is that they accurately measure student income.

The highest rated schools have students with the highest income.

The lowest rated schools have students with the lowest income.

So if teachers choose to teach the neediest students, they will be teaching in a “failing” school, no matter how dedicated they are.

If teachers land a job in an affluent suburb, they can consider themselves successful.

He writes:

For example, at schools that exceeded expectations, the overall rate of students who qualified by family income for free and reduced-price school meals was 17.6%, compared to the state average of about 48%. At schools that did not meet expectations, the free-and-reduced meal rate was 74.2%. The correlation between poverty and federal ratings held for charter schools as it did for public schools.

What worthless junk!

 

Back when conservative Republican Governor Matt Bevin was riding high, back when he was set to promote charter schools across the state, back when Betsy DeVos visited Kentucky to tout charter schools, every school district was required to take training on how to authorize charter schools. The applications, Bevin’s hand-picked state board assumed, would be pouring in and local boards needed training.

As it happened, the legislature never funded any charter schools, and a Democrat was elected Governor who promised to support public schools and throw out the state board and the state commissioner.

Some local school districts sought permission NOT to be trained to authorize charter schools, but the Bevin state board and state commissioner refused their request. Despite the lack of charter funding, despite the election, all districts must be trained to authorize charters! 

This is an example of stubborn and delusional ideology.

Eight Kentucky school districts on Wednesday asked to skip mandatory charter school training for their school board members, but the charter-friendly state board of education unanimously voted to deny the requests.

Officials in one of the districts, Bell County, said in its request, “Any talk of creating a charter school would not get off the ground in this environment,” according to Kentucky Board of Education documents.

Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis, an advocate of charter schools, and the Kentucky Department of Education staff, recommended that the school districts should not be excused from the training. Under Kentucky law, local public school boards have to approve or authorize and oversee charter schools and must receive training to do that job.

Lewis told the Herald-Leader that he made the recommendation because under current law, every local school in the state is required to serve as an “authorizer” of charter schools and any one of them can receive an application at any time.

 

Peter Greene reports that Betsy DeVos won an award from an anti-feminist women’s group. She used the occasion to lambaste public schools (again).

You won’t hear her complain about the Ohio legislators who hope to outlaw facts. You won’t hear her complain about the religious schools that use the Bible as a science textbook.

Perhaps you laughed, perhaps you were astonished when you read that Republicans in Ohio in the House voted for a law that would allow a student’s religious beliefs to give the wrong answers on science tests.

Peter Greene shows that the proposed bill is even worse than we thought.

He begins:

It’s called the “Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2019” and it sets out to accomplish a few things:

It removes the limits on exercising expression of student religious beliefs. The old, struck-out language  said the board of education could limit said expression to lunch period or other noninstructional time. That’s the piddly stuff.

Under the new language, “religious expression” (the stuff no longer limited to non-instructional time) includes prayer, gatherings (clubs, prayer groups, etc), distribution of written materials, and, well, anything religious, actually, including wearing religious gear or “expression of a religious viewpoint” (as long as it’s not obscene or indecent or vulgar). Cue the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster and the local Satanic Temple; if a student offers a prayer to Satan in the middle of English class and some Christians in the class find that indecent and vulgar, can it be suppressed? Congratulations to the first batch of lawyers and judges that are going to have to sort this out. Double congratulations to whatever government body ends up being responsible for determining which religions are state-certified to be protected under this law.

Students hall have access to school facilities before, during and after school that school hours to the same extent that secular activities may do so. Place your bets now on how many schools will simply ban all before and after school activities in order to sidestep this.

Forget about separation of church and state. The Good News evangelicals will convene their meetings in the middle of math and science classes.

The Founders were wiser than we when they sought to separate church and state, to be sure that every individual was free to practice their own religion (or lack thereof) in their own way outside of the public school.

Thus continues our nation’s slide into a pit of religious intolerance and invasions of religious liberty, all–ironically– in the name of religious freedom.

William Mathis is managing director of the National Education Policy Center and a member of the Vermont Board of Education. He says that you can take the model below and apply it to any state; the result will be the same. The high schools in affluent communities are the “best,” and the high schools enrolling students in low-income communities don’t make the cut. That is about the way both NCLB and Race to the Top determined which schools needed to be closed: the schools attended by poor kids. It was knowing and heartless malpractice.

He writes:

Evaluating High Schools: Born on Third Base or hit a Triple?

If you were lucky, you missed it. But U.S. News and World Report recently committed their annual statistical malfeasance by offering up a rank order of what it proclaims as the nation’s “best” high schools. They amalgamated state tests, participation in AP/IB classes (Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate), and graduation rates. For the tests, they weighted scores “on what matters most,” which they defined as reading and math scores. Don’t search for anything about rich, engaging curriculum; committed teachers, community involvement or piano concertos. These don’t count. And don’t search for any recognition of the reality that their “best” schools serve students who have enormous opportunities to learn outside of school while schools you won’t find on the list serve students on the opposite end of our society’s appalling opportunity gaps.

Statisticians have long protested this improper use of ordinal scales because they purport to measure something they don’t – the purpose of high schools. Few parents and fewer students would say the highlight and the most useful part of their high school experience was tests.

But again, the real problem with these – and many other – rankings is that test scores do a good job of measuring kids’ socio-economic status, but they are a pathetic measure of school quality. Yet U. S. Newsranks the nation’s schools, making the amusing distinction that the 6701stschool is better than the 6702nd.

This year, the magazine went a step further and rated schools within states. To illustrate, here’s Vermont’s top ten, in order, along with information about area wealth:

Vermont’s Best Schools: Community Income and Economic Deprivation

School                                      Town per                      Percent

Capita Income               Economically Challenged

Stowe $48,065 9%
Mt Mansfield 43,248 10%
S. Burlington 47,716 18%
Lake Region 21,065 52%
Colchester 40,041 25%
Craftsbury 27,236 42%
Middlebury 37,339 19%
Champlain Valley 40,724 12%
Proctor 28,004 51%
Milton 32,641 35%
“Top Ten” Average $37,649 27%
Worst Ten Average 27,245
Vermont $33,436 41%

 

 

Note that the per capita income in the “top ten” is more than $4,000 above the Vermont state average. For a family of four, this means an extra $16,000 per household. That is a sizable piece of change and likely indicates a highly educated community as much or more than it does a successful school.  To avoid the senseless public shaming of rank orders, I will not list the bottom ten or the “worst schools.” But their per capita income is $27,245 – a full $10,000 per person per year less.

Looking at the low income side, 41% of the state’s children are living in economic deprivation (defined here as eligible for free and reduced lunch) but our top ten must have been born on third base, as their poverty rate is a staggering one-third lower.

The low population schools of Lakes Region, Proctor and Craftsbury made the cut even with high poverty. Missing from the list is Leland and Gray, which won a national honor for educating all the children regardless of their circumstances. They actually hit the triple. Yet they don’t get the honor.

This is not to deny the fine and diverse work of many of the state’s more affluent schools. But nationally we know that, on the whole, schools serving affluent communities almost always have strong outcomes. When children are given valuable learning resources in their communities and their homes, this shows up in their outcomes just as it does when those learning resources are in the school. Look at the concentration in Chittenden County, for example. When poverty and discrimination deny children those resources, then the load carried by their schools is much heavier. The policy lessons that adults must learn are equally weighty: we must revisit our educational programs as well as our method of evaluating (and ranking!) schools.

At the turn of the century, it became law that the secretary annually determine if all schools provide substantially equal educational opportunities to all students. The language is punitive in that it singly holds the school responsible. But doesn’t the state have an ethical obligation to make sure that all children have the right to be born on third base?

 

William J. Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center and serves on the Vermont State Board of Education. The views expressed are strictly those of the author.

 

 

https://tax.vermont.gov/sites/tax/files/documents/income_stats_2017_town.pdf

AGI based on the school’s home town.

https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-data-allowable-tuition-report-2015-2016.pdf
https://education.vermont.gov/sites/aoe/files/documents/edu-nutrition-2019-free-reduced-eligibility-report.pdf

https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/how-us-news-calculated-the-rankings

 

In a statement posted last month, the Southern Poverty Legal Center clearly described the high price paid by students and citizens for vouchers.

Public schools serve all students, no matter their backgrounds. Private schools do not – they can cherry-pick which children they serve.

What’s more, when families take a private school voucher, they lose known academic standards, certified teachers, civil rights protections, services and accessibility for disabled students, free and reduced lunch options, building code regulations, and free transportation.

The Legislature passed the bill to create a fifth voucher plan, despite the fact that the state already spends $1 Billion a year to send children to voucher schools where they abandon their civil rights protections, have no guarantee of services if they are disabled, are likely to have uncertified teachers, and are likely to learn science from the Bible. Eighty percent of voucher schools are religious. Their students are not prepared to live in the modern world.

Why is the Florida GOP determined to miseducate the rising generation? Is it religious fervor? Greed? Stupidity?

When they say that “parents always know best,” are they aware of the near daily stories of parents who abused, tortured, murdered their children? Did A.J.’s parents “know best,” the parents in Illinois who abused and murdered their five-year-old? Did the parents of 13 children in California who abused them over many years also “know best?”

The voters of Florida elected these fools. They will have to take responsibility and replace them with people who care about the children and the future of their state.

 

 

 

Bob Shepherd is teaching in Florida after a career in education publishing. He left this comment on the blog about his teaching experience in Florida. His contributions to the blog are consistently brilliant. On a personal note, Bob reached out to me and offered to edit my new book. We have never met. Knowing how amazing he is, I happily accepted his offer. For weeks, Bob and I exchanged chapters and emails, sometimes in the middle of the night. His edits were excellent. His sensibility, his deep knowledge of education, and his feel for language are incomparable. He made the book much much better. Publication is scheduled for January. I am in his debt forever and in awe of his knowledge and skill.

 

Bob Shepherd wrote:

Life as a Teacher in the Age of the Ed Deform Hamster Wheel

Many years ago, I got a degree in English from Indiana University (Phi Beta Kappa, with High Honors) and completed the education requirements, including student teaching, to get my certification to teach English in that state. I also took the Graduate Record Examination in English and received a perfect score on this. I was awarded a “Lifetime Certificate” to teach English in Grades 6-12. I taught high-school English for three years.

When I started a family, the pay simply wasn’t enough, so I took a job in educational publishing. In the course of a 25-year career in educational publishing, I planned, wrote, and edited over 50 highly successful textbooks and online instructional programs in reading, 6-12 literature, grammar and composition, and African-American literature. I also wrote a widely used book on writing the research paper, designed standardized tests, and wrote tests in ELA for many of the large textbook houses. I worked for a while as educational director for a major foundation and ended my publishing career as Executive Vice President for Development at one of the country’s largest textbook houses. At one time, it was almost impossible to find a K-12 English program, anywhere in the country, that wasn’t using one or more of my books. Throughout my career, I immersed myself in studies in my field. When I wasn’t working at my job, I was studying linguistics, rhetoric, literature and literary criticism, prosody, stylistics, educational statistics, assessment theory, the cognitive psychology of learning, pedagogical approaches, the history of education, and so on.

Then, at the end of my career, I decided that I wanted to go back to teaching, my first love, for a few years. I had spent a lifetime designing, writing, and editing materials for teachers, and deepening my knowledge of my subject, and I wanted to finish my working life sharing the accumulated knowledge of that lifetime with kids in class. So, I decided to renew my certification, in Florida this time, and go back into the classroom. Little did I know the insane hurdles I would have to go through to make this happen.

In order to get my certification in Florida, I had to pay $750 to Pearson and take seven different tests:

General Knowledge Test, Essay
General Knowledge Test, English Language Skills
General Knowledge Test, Reading
General Knowledge Test, Mathematics
Professional Education Test
English 6-12 Test, Multiple Choice
English 6-12 Test, Written

The Professional Education Test, in particular, was an obscenity. Basically, it was written from the point of Ed Deformers, and to get a good score on it, I had to adopt the Ed Deform point of view and pretend that the Common Core wasn’t a puerile joke and that standardized testing in ELA wasn’t an unreliable, invalid scam. I did that and passed. The reading test was also a complete joke. The questions were so poorly written that one had to choose the answer that the test preparer thought was correct, not one that actually made sense, if there was such a thing.

Then I had to complete 400 pages of documentation, over the course of a year, as part of something called the TIP program, that contained samples from my teaching showing various kinds of compliance (that I diversified my instruction, that my instructional appealed to multiple intelligences, that I used ESOL strategies, that I analyzed my students’ data, and so on. An enormous amount of busy work.

I also had to complete 300 hours of online ESOL instruction. The instructional materials were riddled with errors in grammar, usage, mechanics, sense, and fact and appeared to have been put together by remedial students with no education in linguistics or in English. In my responses to the materials, I took to writing long lists of the errors in grammar and usage and fact in the instructional materials. They passed me anyway. All this busywork taught me nothing that I didn’t already know. 300 hours! Mind you, in most undergraduate programs, 60 hours of instruction is sufficient to graduate with a major in a given subject.

I also had to complete a number of state-mandated “trainings” (roll over, sit up, good boy) on gangs, drugs, medical emergencies, and much else, from which, again, I learned nothing that wasn’t common knowledge.

Twice a year, I had to complete a lengthy Individualized Professional Development Plan, an inane, useless exercise in educational gobbledygook and bs.

I was required to sit through countless “professional development trainings” (roll over, sit up, good boy) of such mind-numbing stupidity that one would have thought the presenters were talking to second graders about My Little Ponies.

I was required to submit Byzantine two-page lesson plans for every class that I taught and to have a copy of these plans available for inspection at all times. One year, I had five preparations and had to prepare 15 of these (30 pages total) every week.

Each day, I had to write on one of my whiteboards, for every lesson, for every class, an enormous amount of material that included bellwork, student outcome, vocabulary, higher-order thinking skills addressed, an essential question, and homework. This alone took between half an hour and 45 minutes each day. In the year when I had five preps, I had to use two whiteboards for this.

I had to submit to three separate formal evaluations and countless informal pop-in evaluations every year, each involving a lot of paperwork. (In my nonteaching career, I always had one formal evaluation per year.)

I had to maintain and regularly update a student “data wall” in my classroom.
I had to update, weekly, a “word wall” in my classroom.

Half of my students had IEP plans, 504 plans, gifted student plans, ESOL plans, or PMPs, and I had to do regular reporting on all of these and to keep an enormous binder of all this material. I also had to attend parent meetings on all these.

I had to maintain a separate binder with paperwork related to every parent contact and yet another binder with paperwork related to any student disciplinary action—even something as minor as marking a student tardy.

I had to keep both a paper gradebook and an online gradebook and post at least two grades for every student every week. In addition, I had to record attendance for every class on paper and online.

I was required to proctor standardized tests and do daily car line duty at no additional pay. (When I taught years earlier, car line was handled by people hired and paid for this purpose.)

All of this was an enormous waste of time, effort, and money. Almost none of it had any positive effects, and the opportunity cost, in terms of time taken from actually doing my job, was enormous. When I taught years before, almost none of this was required, the teachers were no worse, and the kids didn’t learn any less.

The other thing that had changed since I taught years ago was the general attitude that was taken toward teachers. When I taught at the beginning of my career, teachers had a great deal of autonomy in choosing their materials and in planning their classes. Today, they are treated as children, not as professionals, and are continually micromanaged.

Basically, in the job as it exists today, I spent so much time doing administrative crap that I had very little time left over for doing my job. I literally spend all day, every Saturday and Sunday, simply completing paperwork. And somewhere in all this I was supposed to do grading. I taught 7 classes, with an average of about 28 students in each. If I assigned a single five-paragraph them, I would have 980 paragraphs to read and comment on—roughly two large novels’ worth of material.

So how did we get to this place? Well, I suppose that over the years, every time some person at the district or state office got a bright idea for improving teaching, it was implemented, and the requirements kept being piled on until they became literally insane. Hey, you know, we’ve got this state program that provides teachers with $70 a year for buying supplies, but we’re not doing a very good job of tracking that, so let’s create a weekly “Whiteboard Marker Usage and Accountability Report (WMUAR). It will only take a few minutes for a teacher to prepare. Great idea! You know how these teachers are. They will just run through markers like crazy unless you monitor this.

In the teacher’s bathrooms in my school, there were literally posted instructions on how to use the toilet. You know how teachers are, they can’t use the toilet properly without instruction in flushing.

Interestingly, NONE of this crap had anything to do with whether I actually knew the subject that I was teaching. Oh, I forgot. I also had twice-yearly “evaluations” by the District Reading Coordinator. This person approved the novels that we were allowed to teach. She thought that “classical literature” was anything considered a classic and that The Odyssey was a novel. So, one had to deal continually with such people—ones who were profoundly ignorant but a) made the major curricular decisions, b) did evaluations, and c) treated teachers in a profoundly patronizing and condescending manner.

Yes, we need professional standards. But these should start with teacher and administrator training programs requiring that these folks demonstrate, via studies outside those programs, mastery of the materials that they are going to be teaching or that are taught by those whom they manage. A person overseeing English teachers ought to know something about literature, grammar, and so on.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that the secret to getting something done is to hire someone who knows how to do it and then get the hell out of his or her way. The best publishing manager I ever worked under, a fellow with the altogether appropriate name of Bill Grace, once told his assembled employees, “I’m a successful guy. And I’m going to tell you the secret to my success. I hire people who are smarter than I am and leave them alone to do their jobs.”

We need a lot more of that.

 

 

 

At a recent rally in Texas, Donald Trump Jr. lashed out at teachers as “losers” because, he said, they want to indoctrinate their students into socialism.

Did Trump Jr. ever meet a teacher? If he had teachers, did they try to make him a socialist? Oh, yes, he went to the Hill School, where tuition is $50,000 a year. Probably no socialist indoctrination there.

Peter Greene tries through parody to describe a day in the life of a socialist indoctrinator, who just can’t seem to find the time to get much indoctrination into the day.

Trump Jr. must have embarrassed his teachers with his public display of ignorance and contempt for teachers.

i don’t know about you, but whenever I think of him, I think of the pictures of him as a big-game hunter, smiling alongside the corpses of the animals he slaughtered. Google his name and big-game hunter. He and his brother pose with creatures they killed. The most disgusting is the one where he holds the tail of an elephant he killed. But others might choose other photos as even more revolting. Did he Major in Animal Abuse with a Minor in Stupidity?

 

David Gamberg is a child-centered, progressive school superintendent on Long Island. He was superintendent in Southold on the North Fork of the Island and was so highly regarded that when a vacancy occurred in Greenport, the district next door, Gamberg was invited to become superintendent of both districts.

His districts have high opt out rates, not because he tells them to, but because he tells parents they have the right to opt out.

Now, because of the high opt out rate at Greenport High School, where 83% of the students did not take the test, the state has labeled GHS a failing school. 

This is the work of the State Education Department and State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who never met a test she didn’t love.

How can a school be punished because parents and students exercised their right to opt out?

Ask Commissioner Elia.

As a nation, we are hypnotized by standardized tests and the scores they produce. We forget that the tests and the answers are written by human beings. The tests are not objective, except for the scoring, which is done by machine. Giving the same bad questions to all students does not reveal who learned the most or who is smartest. They do reveal who is best at figuring out what the person who wrote the question wants them to answer.

Bob Shepherd, who has written about curriculum, assessment, and is now teaching in Florida, writes:

“the field testing that ensued laid bare the intellectual bankruptcy of the testing”

It’s been 18 years now since the passage of NCLB. We’ve had this two-decade-long national “field test” of standardized testing–a study larger in duration and scope than any other, ever. The verdict? Standardized testing has been far worse than a failure. Not only has it failed, completely, to improve educational outcomes. It has narrowed and distorted curricula and pedagogy and produced a whole generation of kids who think that studies in English aren’t about writing essays and poems and stories or reading and discussing great poems and plays and novels but about scanning text snippets to figure out what the correct answers are to convoluted, tortured, indefensible multiple-choice questions.

“My teachers should have ridden with Jessie James
for all the time that they stole from me.”
–Richard Brautigan

Who should write tests? Teachers should write their own tests. They know what they taught.

Who should grade tests? Teachers should be trusted to grade tests.

Any test without diagnostic value should be banned.