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What Advice Did Our Founders and First Presidents Offer On Preserving Our Democracy?

What Advice Did Our Founders and First Presidents Offer On Preserving Our Democracy? by Bill Honig

In today’s political arena many of the basic tenets of our democracy are being challenged  and there is evidence that too many young people (and adults) are not attaching to democratic ideas and responsibilities.  It is fitting on President’s day that Americans should revisit the ideas, warnings, and advice of our first leaders. They understood that governance resting on popular consent was a huge gamble since no previous efforts at creating a successful democracy had survived. The effort would be difficult and would require continued vigilance by each generation of citizens and political representatives to last.

Our early leaders were very specific about what was necessary for our great democratic experience to endure and tried to inoculate the country against three main dangers:  Majority rule degenerating into anarchy from irreconcilable conflicts, growing inequality re-instating oligarchy and corruption, and the democracy succumbing to tyranny from fear-based and dishonest demagoguery.

Building on the colonists experience in self-governing churches and local government they proposed a constitution based on representative government and majority rule which built a structure for the separation of powers, federalism, periodic elections to hold government accountable, and protections for individuals and the democratic system enshrined in our Bill of Rights.  That was their first line of defense against our democracy failing.

But Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton and Franklin also knew that the structure of government was necessary but not sufficient. They and those that followed made several other crucial suggestions. Citizens needed to be well-versed in democratic ideals and experience, willing to participate, exercise self-discipline and be law-abiding, and develop the habits of tolerance and democratic deliberation. Representatives needed to respect our institutions and be accountable for their actions and veracity.

James Kloppenberg in his masterful recent book, Toward Democracy chronicles the development of democratic ideas and beliefs culminating in the creation and subsequent development of our country. He found three main themes and three supportive ideas which are helpful in understanding how best to fight for and protect our democratic ideals.

First, representative government deriving from “the people” and how that could work was evidenced in our Constitution. The founders were aware of the danger of quick but misguided action and created mechanisms to increase deliberation and spread power such as an independent judiciary both at the national and state level. They also were cognizant of the tension between majority rule and the rights of minorities and individuals and attempted to balance those interests. They also knew that some protections against government were crucial for individuals and for the system to work such as a free press to hold those in government accountable and root out corruption, mendacity, and self-dealing, free speech for the free exchange of ideas, free expression of religion and a proscription of the government establishing one religion, due process, a fair and equal administration of our laws, and that everyone, even the president, should be subject to our laws. They thought that citizens and representatives must understand and value the legitimacy of these structures.

Second, increasing liberty or autonomy of individuals was a key purpose of our democracy. Free individual choices and spheres of action and protection from overbearing government or repressive majorities was part of it. But they were also aware of the dangers of untrammeled self-interest, ignoring the common good, and a lack of the individual self-discipline needed for a free democracy to survive.

Third, equality or respecting the humanity and brotherhood of all citizens, in practice limited at first, but setting the stage for the struggle for legal, political, social, and economic equality for all (liberty and justice for all from our Pledge of Allegiance). The history of the 228 years since our constitution was adopted has been the slow struggle in fits and starts and backsliding to broaden the definition of “We, the People”

The founders also believed that three other habits and beliefs were crucial for a democracy to survive.

First, a commitment to democratic deliberation. Most of our founders were well aware of the religious wars in Europe and oppressive countries which only tolerated one set of beliefs. In a successful democracy truth and policies should arise from discussion which necessitated respect for opponents, listening, and supporting decisions resulting from democratic deliberations.

Second, pluralism and tolerance of diverse groups—religious, racial, ethnic, national origin, class, and regional. The United States is attempting something unique in human history. A large country composed of diverse interests and groups comprised of the world’s populations who find enough common purpose to sustain a democracy. This goal requires a higher stage of ethical behavior than in more homogeneous countries. It is human nature to identify with our respective groups and become hostile to others and our country has gone through decades of racial, religious, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, and class prejudice, hostility, and legal discrimination even in the face of our democratic ideals. Keeping group ties while being tolerant and respectful of others is a difficult but crucial task for our country. This mission is undermined by leaders who appeal to group hatred which dishonors a basic principle of our heritage.

Our founders and first presidents confronted the dilemma of slavery knowing that slavery violated the democratic principles of representative government, liberty, and equality on which our country was created. It wasn’t until Lincoln and the Civil war finally determined that the continued existence of slavery sullied the ethical component to democracy and established that the idea that majority rules could mean a majority could oppress one group of humans (Stephen Douglas’s position in the Lincoln/Douglas debates) was morally unacceptable. It took another 100 years for equality and fair political and legal treatment to be established in reality by the Civil Rights movement—a position we are still struggling with. Similar efforts were made for other repressed groups such as women, ethnic and religious minorities, and gays and the working class.

Finally, Kloppenberg, enshrines the founders belief in idea of reciprocity as an essential ingredient of successful democracies. Our founders understood the importance to a democracy of the religious belief that all individuals were equal before God, the central Christian doctrine of love, (Love your neighbor as yourself) and the ubiquitous belief in the Golden Rule. In a democracy citizens must accept the underlying humanity, legitimacy, and significance of all even while disagreeing on specific policies. The founders thought that in successful democracies majorities didn’t try to crush their opponents but saw the importance of continued debate with them to reach better solutions.

Our country almost disintegrated in the harsh political atmosphere of the 1790’s. After flirting with wholesale demonization and false accusations of the opposition both Jefferson and Adams and their followers relented and the “era of good feelings” occurred with the election of Jefferson. Years later, Lincoln in his first Inaugural Address asked the South to discuss not fight and appealed to the “better angels of our nature” and when the war appeared won in his Second Inaugural was not vindictive to Southerners as many in the North wished but advocated reconciliation. (with malice towards none, with charity for all)

Our founders also strongly believed that an educated citizenry was essential to the success of a democracy to counteract the belief that the lack of education and perspective made people susceptible to demagogic appeals and unable to fully participate in democratic deliberations. Most importantly, each new generation needed to be well-versed and attached to democratic ideas, democratic history, democratic habits, and a willingness to participate in self-government and engage in ethical self-discipline. An educated citizenry was viewed as a key bulwark for democracy.

Our early leaders eventually proposed free public education as a necessary component to allow our democracy to succeed. This idea that the government not solely parents should provide a common education and that all citizens should pay for the education of children not their own was unsuccessfully resisted by many in the 19th century as public education became widespread.  Those advocating for the importance of a “common schools” won the debate. (Some people today want to re-litigate the issue decrying “government schools”, supporting large cuts for public schools, and advocating privatizing of public education.)

Benjamin Franklin when asked by a women after the Constitutional Convention what kind of government they decided on “a republic or a monarchy” he quickly replied “A republic if you can keep it.” Lincoln in his immortal Gettysburg address alluded to the fragile nature of our democracy and that our devotion to a continued effort to perfect our ideals of freedom and equality was necessary so that “government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth”. That fight goes on.

Bill Honig was Superintendent of Public Instruction in California from 1983-1993. He is currently Vice-Chair of the California Instructional Quality Commission which develops K-12 content frameworks and reviews instructional materials for the California State Board of Education. That board recently adopted a History/Social Science framework which incorporates many of the ideas in this article.

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entrepreneur. My perspective and beliefs about what we should and should not
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April Posts

April 21, 2017

SOME GOOD NEWS FROM CALIFORNIA

In the past two decades the number of students who qualify for California State University English and Math work has doubled. http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20170321/cal-states-incoming-students-better-prepared-for-college-level-classes-report-says

CHARTERS and CHOICE

Senator Patty Murray published a comprehensive paper on the dangers of the push for extensive public school choice and privatization at the expensive of our public schools entitled Real Choice vs. False Choice: The Repercussions of Privatization Programs for Students, Parents, and Public Schools   https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Murray_Privatization%20Caucus%20Memo.pdf

Are charters offering true choice? What about the historical beneficial choice of a common public good available to all? The Atlantic magazine published a perceptive article on this issue, How School Choice Turns Education into a Commodity. https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/04/is-school-choice-really-a-form-of-freedom/523089/

The Network for Public Education has published a toolkit explaining various issues of charter schools and privatization such as Do Charter Schools and School Vouchers “Hurt” Public Schools? https://networkforpubliceducation.org/9121-2/?link_id=0&can_id=cea050dcef20333abf235c3ba9bc6d51&source=email-the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out&email_referrer=the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out&email_subject=the-npe-toolkit-school-privatization-explained-is-out

Charter school marketing excesses and misleading claims are documented in this extensive report by researchers Jessen and DiMartino, Perceptions of Prestige: A comparative analysis of school online media marketing. http://ncspe.tc.columbia.edu/working-papers/OP. In a similar vein the podcast, Truth in Edvertising chronicles the huge emphasis on marketing by charter chains. One chain spends over $1000  per child on selling their brand. https://soundcloud.com/haveyouheardpodcast/truth-in-edvertising

Massive school choice expansion policies with weak oversight in Michigan have resulted in wide-spread segregation. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/04/17/how-school-choice-segregated-the-public-schools-of-michigan-home-of-the-devos-family/

Charters don’t work well in rural areas. Schools are sparse and charters divert substantial funds from the existing small number of existing public schools. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/04/are-charters-rural-solution.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

A troubling report by the Public Interest group Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/report-the-failure-of-policy-planning-in-californias-charter-school-facility-funding/, finds that California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. But much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.

In the report, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices. See also  http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/4/15/1652901/-California-is-undermining-public-education-by-spending-big-on-charter-schools-it-doesn-t-need#read-more

A report by Sephanie Farmer, Closed By Choice: The Spatial Relationship between Charter School Expansion, School Closures, and Fiscal Stress in Chicago Public Schools  https://greatschoolwars.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/closed-by-choice.pdf demonstrates the detrimental effect closing large numbers of public schools and replacing many of them by charters. A similar report by the Urban Institute gives chapter and verse on who gets harmed by closing schools. http://www.urban.org/features/subtracting-schools-communities

A recent book by Mercedes Schneider discusses the danger of unfettered school choice policies. https://www.amazon.com/School-Choice-End-Public-Education/dp/080775725X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490366320&sr=8-1&keywords=school+choice+the+end+of+public+education

Peter Greene (Curmudgucation blog) breaks down the various types of charter school supporters in this insightful article. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/04/field-guide-to-choice-advocates.html

VOUCHERS

A recent report “State Tax Subsidies for K12 Private Education.”  blew the whistle on the specious nature of voucher tax credits promoted as charitable contributions. Many states are enacting tax credit schemes which give the rich or corporations a 100% credit for scholarships to private schools (some then incredibly allow a further charitable deduction) thus depleting government revenues needed to support education, health, and other services. Some states such as Nevada and Indiana used a bait and switch approach. First pass vouchers for the poor and only those currently enrolled in public schools, then later take off the restrictions and pay all parents for any type of school. This essentially is a subsidy to those currently paying for a private school education. See the coverage by Mercedes Schneider https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/tax-credit-scholarships-neovoucher-profiteering-disguised-as-philanthropy/Neovoucher” Profiteering Disguised as Philanthropy.

Another bait and switch voucher scam, this time in Arizona. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2017/04/what-goes-around-comes-around-voucher.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+EducationInTwoWorlds+(Education+in+Two+Worlds)&m=1

HOW WELL DO WE SUPPORT OUR TEACHERS IN THE US?

Teachers in the US spend 40% more annual hours in the classroom (981) than the average of OECD schools (694). They don’t have the time to participate in the critically important team building that teachers in other countries enjoy. http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/education-at-a-glance-2016_eag-2016-en#page439   (Lower Secondary Teacher Annual Hours in 2014)  US 981; Germany 750; UK 745; Canada 740; France 648; Italy 616; Japan 611; Finland 581

DEVOS ANTICS

DeVos out to scuttle civil rights of our students? http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/early-signs-betsy-devos-will-not-support-civil-rights/

RESISTANCE TO TRUMP’S HOSTILITY TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS

A call to fight for public schools during the Congressional recesses. https://ourfuture.org/20170413/during-resistance-recess-join-the-fight-for-public-schools

SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING

The Learning Policy Institute issued a report on the value of socio-emotional learning. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/encouraging-social-emotional-learning-new-accountability-report?utm_source=LPI+Master+List&utm_campaign=357a30710e-Raikes-SEL_2017_04_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_7e60dfa1d8-357a30710e-42289731 and another on how to survey to improve SE learning for accountability and continuous improvement. http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20170321/cal-states-incoming-students-better-prepared-for-college-level-classes-report-says

THE DANGERS OF RETENTION OF THIRD GRADERS

Holding back third-graders has been a disaster in Mississippi for many students. A significant number are being held back twice. http://hechingerreport.org/repeating-third-grade-good-kids/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=5e0b761cef-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a4f3e0748b-5e0b761cef-296190865

THE CENTRAL IMPORTANCE OF CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

A new report from KnowledgeMatters http://knowledgematterscampaign.org/dig-deeper/ and StandardsWork https://standardswork.org/  demonstrates the importance of a rich curriculum, effective instructional materials, and attention to instruction. These should be central to any effort to improve our schools. Here is a description of David Steiner and his team’s working papers from Johns Hopkins University entitled,  “WHAT WE TEACH ISN’T SOME SIDE BAR ISSUE IN AMERICAN EDUCATION; IT IS AMERICAN EDUCATION” 

Two papers released today by the nonprofit StandardsWork, Inc., on behalf of the Knowledge Matters Campaign, shed new light on the questions raised by the proliferation of K-12 curriculum options. The papers affirm that curriculum choices make a major difference in students’ learning outcomes but also highlight the fact the current research provides little insight into why this is the case.

The first paper, entitled Do Curriculum Choices Matter?, contains results from the most exhaustive analysis to date of the impact of curriculum. The audit, conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Center for Research and Reform in Education, examined individual research reports and comprehensive meta-analyses that, all told, comprise more than 5,000 studies of the curriculum effect. While the methodological rigor of the studies varies greatly, the authors confirm the following general findings: curriculum is a critical factor in students’ academic success, and the cumulative impact of top-quality curriculum across a student’s academic career can be significant.

The second paper, a policy brief entitled, “Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go,” is a wake-up call to the research community. The paper identifies seven complex issues affecting the study of curriculum that will need to be tackled if we are, as author Dr. David Steiner says, “to make sense out of the chaos.” The issues include: the field has no shared definition of curriculum; curriculum created by individual teachers is almost impossible to research for collective impact; the absence of a taxonomy that identifies the salient features of a curriculum means it is difficult to isolate their effects; there is suggestive, but not yet confirmatory, evidence that content-rich curricula deliver better results than those that are largely skills-based; and professional development and fidelity of implementation can play a key role in a curriculum’s effectiveness but are often loosely described in the research.

“Perhaps the most important finding from this review is how messy the research on curriculum is,” said Barbara Davidson, President of StandardsWork. “Given its potential impact, and the fact that so much new curriculum is being developed in response to higher college- and career-ready standards, there is an urgent need to organize ourselves to better study the new materials, their methods, and their impact.”

Dr. Steiner, who is Executive Director of the Institute for Education Policy (IEP), notes that the impact of a student’s being taught through a high-quality curriculum can be a full years’ worth of additional learning over that achieved by a comparable student working with weak material – and that this impact only increases the longer a student continues to receive the advantage of a quality curriculum.

Citing mediocre results on the 12th-grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the past twenty-five years, the persistence of the achievement gap, and the disappointing impact of so many education reform efforts, What We Know and Where We Need to Go concludes by noting, “What we teach isn’t some side bar issue in American education; it is American Education,” and suggests that policymakers should “put the materials we use to teach at the core of serious education reform.”

The policy brief and the full working paper are available on StandardsWork’s website. For interviews, contact info@standardswork.org.  

StandardsWork, Inc. is a nonprofit consulting firm that has worked hand-in-hand with school districts, state agencies, and charter management organizations to improve student achievement for over 25 years. Known for leading collaboration and creating breakthrough solutions, StandardsWork is committed to advancing the vital role of strong curriculum, the importance of deep content knowledge in students, and the impact that evidence-based instructional practices can provide teachers.

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy exists to bridge the worlds of research, practice, and policy, and as such advises state chiefs, superintendents, and national membership organizations across the United States. The Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education’s primary goal is to improve the quality of education for children in grades pre-K to 12 through high-quality research and evaluation studies and the dissemination of evidence-based research.

Contact: Archana Sridhar 202-835-2000 info@standardswork.org

 

Evidence for Build and Support and Team Building; Problems with Charters and Vouchers

3/22/2017

Build and Support Works

Jeff Bryant writes about the success of Long Beach Unified School District in pursuing a build and support approach focusing on building capacity to focus on improving instruction. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/yes-schools-can-improve-heres-how/

Building teams and continuous improvement

A recent excellent book on building teams and continuous improvement—critical elements in improving teacher and school performance. The Internal Coherence Framework Creating the Conditions for Continuous Improvement in Schools by Forman, Stosich, Bocala with a foreword by Richard Elmore.

One of the authors Elizabeth Stosich, who studied the implementation of common core in several districts and then authored a very astute article in the AERA Journal. She states:

Recent research on the relationship between standards and teachers’ practice suggests that teachers are unlikely to make changes to practice without extensive opportunities for learning about standards with colleagues. This article extends this line of research, using a comparative case study of three high-poverty urban schools to examine the nature of teachers’ collaborative work around the Common Core State Standards and the conditions that support this work. It argues that collaborative practices that encourage joint examination of instruction and student learning against standards support teachers in noticing and attending to differences between their current practice and standards. In addition, it examines the role of teachers’ instructional knowledge and principals’ leadership in supporting teachers’ collaboration around standards. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/scope-author-stosich-joint-inquiry-article.pdf   

Another report on building effective teams and continuous improvement. https://learningforward.org/docs/default-source/pdf/teacheragencyfinal.pdf and https://learningforward.org/publications/blog/learning-forward-blog/2017/02/14/nyc-district-teams-use-improvement-science-to-strengthen-teaching-practice

A report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on implementation science, an important method for developing continuous improvement in schools. https://www.carnegiefoundation.org/blog/quality-improvement-approaches-implementation-science/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=list&utm_campaign=blog_3-16-17

An article about how a High-Tech charter elementary school in Chula Vista brainstormed how to improve literacy using implementation science techniques. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/learning_deeply/2017/03/using_improvement_science_to_think_deeply_about_literacy.html?utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=learningdeeply The article starts with a quote from Albert Einstein: If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

A whole issue of the journal Quality Assurance in Education was devoted to improvement science. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/toc/qae/25/1

A new report from the Center for American Progress on broadening accountability to examine school and district capacity building. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/reports/2017/03/03/427156/a-new-vision-for-school-accountability/

The report identified five broad categories into which states are organizing their reforms and used those categories to formulate a new concept for accountability. The categories are:

Measuring progress toward college and career readiness

Diagnosing and responding to challenges via school-based quality improvement

State systems of support and intervention

           Resource accountability

Professional accountability

A new PACE report finds a positive effect of social-emotional learning. http://www.edpolicyinca.org/publications/using-sel-and-cc 

Betsy DeVos Watch

DeVos has a skewed view of public education. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/what-betsy-devos-means-when-she-says-public-schools/

Charter School Problems

A charter school written up in USA Today brags about an 88% graduation rate, but just a rarified 38% of the students who started the cohort in sixth grade remain so the statistic is meaningless. Democracy Prep claims an 87.5% graduation rate. New York State has a pretty good public data system, so I investigated the numbers for Democracy Prep’s first cohort, the ones that 87.5% of their graduates are on track to graduate from college.  What I found was that in 2006-2007, they had 131 6th graders.  According to their testing data from that year where 127 students were tested, there were 63 girls and 64 boys tested.  Also, of the 131 students, 80% were Black while 20% were Latino.Six years later they had 50 12th graders.  This represents just 38% of the original 131 students.  Of those 50, 13 were boys and 37 were girls.  So they went from 50% boys to 33% boys.  Also of their 50 students, they went from 80% Black in 2006 to 66% Black in 2013. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/charter-school-with-38-high-school-completion-rate-brags-about-88-college-completion-rate-in-usa-today/

Lax accountability leads to self-dealing third-party transactions much like the Enron debacle even with non-profit charters. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2924886

More evidence that on-line charters substantially underperform, this time from Ohio. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.3102/0013189X17692999

Another example from Arizona where an unregulated for-profit on-line charter siphoned off $10 millions of dollars of profit and $84 million in revenue from a non-profit online charter in an egregious case of self-dealing. From Diane Ravitch’s blog. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/28/arizona-online-high-schoolcollects-10-million-profit-in-one-year-and-devos-wants-more-of-them/

Arizonans for Charter School Accountability:

The Consequences of Unregulated Charter Schools:

For-Profit American Virtual Academy Nets $10 Million Profit in 2016 After Siphoning $84 Million from Non-Profit Primavera Online. (Full report)

In its first year of operation as Primavera Online High School, for-profit charter holder American Virtual Academy (AVA) made an astounding $10 million profit in 2016. American Virtual Academy was given the charter for Primavera Online by non-profit Primavera Technical Learning Center (PTLC) in 2015 without compensation.

PTLC operated Primavera Online from 2002 to 2015 and had annual revenues of over $30 million a year with accumulated total cash assets of over $44 million with no debt. PTLC was the richest non-profit charter holder in Arizona in 2015.

On May 21, 2015 the PTLC Board suddenly decided to relinquish their charter to their software supplier, American Virtual Academy. There was no money exchanged in the transaction. PTLC is now out of the charter school business and is sitting on $44 million in assets.

Both PTLC and AVA were incorporated and directed by the same man, Damian Creamer. Creamer and his family members have received over $2 million in compensation as officers of PTLC. PTLC has employed Creamer’s software company, American Virtual Academy, since 2005 – paying AVA over $84 million from 2009 -2015 just to use software created by Creamer for Primavera Online.

In 2016 Primavera Online had a record year earning over $40 million. Creamer paid his new software company, FlipSwitch Inc., $13 million for software licenses and another $2.5 million for software support. Despite these huge expenditures, AVA cleared $10 million in profit that went to the company’s only stockholder, Damian Creamer.

Jim Hall, founder of Arizonans for Charter School Accountability commented, “This is worst case of a private citizen profiting from the actions of a non-profit organization imaginable. There is a charade going on in the charter school industry, both in Arizona and around the nation, that allows charter owners like Damian Creamer to control non-profit charter schools to enrich their for-profit subsidiaries – and themselves.”

The full report is at www.azcsa.org

A persuasive opinion piece by David Hornbeck about the problems with charters. His quote: chartering schools is not an education reform; it’s merely a change in governance.http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-hornbeck-charters-20150301-story.html

Heartbreaking testimony by a teacher who quit on the harsh atmosphere at a Success Academy charter in NY City from Diane Ravitch’s blog. https://dianeravitch.net/2017/02/28/jane-doe-why-i-quit-as-a-teacher-at-success-academy-charter-schools/

When I applied to teach at Success Academy Charter Schools, I was just out of college with little teaching experience, and I was interviewing at every school I could, hoping to get my first real teaching job. As soon as I walked into Success’s Wall Street office for the interview, I knew this was a different kind of school. The space looks and feels like corporate headquarters, complete with glass-walled conference rooms and a minimalist aesthetic.

I was called into a boardroom with five or so other applicants, and someone from the “Talent” team (in charge of hiring) showed us a slick marketing video: we were being seduced. Then, one by one, we were asked to deliver a mini-lesson to everyone present. After each turn, we were given explicit feedback, which the next person was expected to implement immediately. It became clear that this was less of an interview, and more of a practical test to determine how well we could emulate the specific teaching style Success subscribes to. It was also an early introduction to the network’s trademark language and unique demands: we were told that every employee pledges support for the “dual mission,” which is to say that our job description included advocacy for “school choice” in addition to our roles as teachers.

I was placed at Success Academy Cobble Hill, which made news last year after The New York Times released a video of “Labsite teacher” Charlotte Dial berating a first-grader for stumbling during “Number Stories,” before she publicly rips the young girl’s worksheet in half. (This practice is common enough to have a nickname within the network, the “rip and redo.”) Contrary to statements made by Ms. Dial, CEO Eva Moskowitz, and Principal Kerri Tabarcea, this type of interaction is not at all out of the ordinary at Success. Ms. Dial’s harsh classroom management was known – in fact, celebrated – by school leaders. Newer hires were even sent to Ms. Dial so they could learn to model her “no-nonsense” teaching, earning her the “Labsite teacher” title and a higher salary. Perhaps most disturbingly, Charlotte Dial is still employed as a first-grade teacher at Success Academy Cobble Hill, sending a clear message to students, families, and other teachers in the network.

One of the real and valuable benefits to working at Success is that there is remarkable focus on professional development. Teachers are observed often, given feedback almost constantly, and participate in formal professional development sessions at least once a week. The caveat is that this training is entirely geared towards the specific strategies developed by Success for the purposes of social control over “scholars” and high test scores for the network.

“Scholars” are taught to value urgency. Children are expected to complete transitions in a given amount of time, often as short as ten seconds – taking any longer is considered unacceptable. This teaches students that learning is precious. It also teaches that taking one’s time, moving at one’s own pace, is irresponsible. It was heartbreaking to know that I was imparting on my young students the very same constant pressure that I felt from my supervisors.

Teachers’ directions to students must follow a stubborn formula, and are enforced just as strictly. “When I say go, safely and silently walk to your desk, take out your book, and begin reading. You have ten seconds, go.” Once at their desks, students will already know the correct posture for reading; they know that to avoid a “consequence,” their feet need to be flat and still on the floor, with their backs straight against their chairs, and two hands on their books. When I allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere in my classroom, I was reprimanded and lectured about the value of posture while reading. Any wavering from Success philosophy is treated as heresy, and often encourages unwanted attention from administrators – for instance, a teacher who fails to maintain perfect silence while students are on the carpet might be ordered to participate in “live coaching,” wherein a superior stands in the back of the room during the lesson, whispering directions into a microphone, which the teacher hears through an earpiece. In the middle of a sentence, the teacher will hear, “narrate and consequence voice,” and is expected to immediately use pre-practiced language to correct a murmuring student in the corner. Part of the reason I accepted a position at Success was for the professional development, but this was not what I had in mind.

Most of the students I taught at Success dreaded coming to school, as did most of the teachers. It is a grueling, relentless atmosphere where every second is cherished as potential learning time, and every slip-up garners an immediate consequence. There is a small fraction of people – students and adults alike – who thrive in this extreme environment. More often, the constant pressure makes for tense relationships, high anxiety, and negative affects on health and behavior. During testing season, each Success school is shipped extra pairs of pants to keep on hand, because inevitably several third graders will be so scared to sacrifice test time for a bathroom trip, they’ll have an accident. Some students react to this extreme environment in extreme ways; at the strictest Success locations, it is commonplace to hear screaming and crying in the hallways throughout the day as children as young as five break down for one reason or another. Different Success locations have different ways of dealing with this behavior, ranging from the infamous “got to go” list at Fort Greene to School Safety interventions elsewhere. If there was screaming in the hallway, one of my students would silently get up to close the classroom door. Other students continued working, both because they were unfazed and because they knew they would be held accountable for being on-task regardless of what was happening around them.

Every teacher imparts learning to students outside of their explicit lesson content. Given the tenor of current events, I have been thinking about what priorities and values I want to model in my teaching and embody in my curriculum. I want my students to know the importance of empathy, respect, and generosity. I want them to know that they matter, and that every other human matters too. I want them to feel empowered to speak up to an authority figure – including me – if they feel they are being treated unjustly. These are crucial social-emotional understandings, and though they may not affect test scores, they will surely affect students’ lives. Not only does the curriculum at Success ignore social-emotional learning, but the structure of the day allows for such minimal peer-to-peer interaction that students are unable to learn such skills from each other.

Like so many others, I quit Success because the brand of teaching the network demands prevented me from providing the quality of education my students deserve. When I tried to accommodate a restless student by allowing her to fidget on the carpet, I was told I was doing her a disservice and was ordered to keep her still. When I tried to advocate for under-performing students to undergo psychological testing so that they might receive services they needed, I was ignored or admonished, and in one instance told flat-out that the school was not testing students so as to avoid being legally obligated to provide services to them. I watched coworkers struggle to decide whether to report suspected family abuse when leaders didn’t share their concerns, given that network protocol is for school administration to make such calls. (Legally, teachers and psychologists are mandated reporters and cannot be punished for reporting suspected abuse. But with no union representation, it is difficult for an employee to feel confident that this will hold true in practice.) I was sick of overlooking the profit-driven motivations of the network, and sick of being forced to comply with practices that I believed were damaging my students.

When I use the word scammed, I am not just talking about money, and I am not just talking about those who send their kids to Success. I’m talking about the whole country, because all of us are being scammed by Charter advocates like Betsy DeVos and Success CEO Eva Moskowitz. The changes they seek put public schools at a disadvantage, as they are being forced to fight with Charters for space, funding, and high-engagement/high-resource families. Meanwhile, not all Charters perform like Success. Some are much better, with more emphasis on experiential learning and less emphasis on strict behavioral expectations. Others, like those DeVos lobbied for in Detroit, have test scores similar to or worse than nearby public schools, with the same downsides of Success – no unions, poor treatment of special education students, and high suspension rates, to name a few.

What I want people to know when they see advertisements for Success Academy is that to enroll or apply to a charter chain is to propagate a very specific brand of education. Success is funded in part by private donors like the Koch brothers and the family that owns Wal-Mart, because conservatives and big corporations have a vested interest in chipping away at public education. I call upon all teachers, all parents and caregivers, and all who care about public education to resist this model of teaching and learning. Our students deserve better. NYT article on Dial vid: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/13/nyregion/success-academy-teacher-rips-up-student-paper.html

Charter school with a 19% graduation rate. http://www.bendbulletin.com/localstate/education/5030445-151/charter-school-killed-crook-county-grad-rate

Problems with Vouchers

Three big research reports on the largest voucher programs in the US show dismal results. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/upshot/dismal-results-from-vouchers-surprise-researchers-as-devos-era-begins.html?_r=0

A comprehensive article on why vouchers haven’t worked in this country or abroad— low performance, draining funds from public schools and re-segregation by Martin Conroy. http://www.epi.org/publication/school-vouchers-are-not-a-proven-strategy-for-improving-student-achievement/ Studies of U.S. and international voucher programs show that the risks to school systems outweigh insignificant gains in test scores and limited gains in graduation rates

More evidence demonstrating vouchers don’t work but cause considerable harm. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-miner-betsy-devos-education-voucher-schools-20170212-story.html

In a similar vein, a comprehensive report on the problems caused by Chile’s voucher plan. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/chiles-school-voucher-system-enabling-choice-or-perpetuating-social-inequality/ What lessons does Chile offer to the United States? First, it provides a cautionary tale on the potential for voucher programs to exacerbate school socio-economic segregation. Here in the U.S., schools in urban areas are not only racially segregated but have high levels of concentrated poverty and policymakers are right to be concerned that universal voucher programs may exacerbate this problem. Second, Chile’s recent reforms highlight the importance of considering equity up front and ensuring that private vouchers schools are held to the same standards as public schools. Evidence from Milwaukee’s voucher program suggests that holding private voucher schools to different standards can foster the creation of low-quality schools that do little to advance student learning and achievement. Finally, the inconclusive evidence on boosting student achievement is a red flag for policymakers who believe that simply shifting students into a private school will lead to stronger academic performance. Voucher systems are no cure for the inequities that plague our education system.

 

 

Vouchers would not help rural and sparsely populated counties. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/news/2017/03/03/414853/vouchers-are-not-a-viable-solution-for-vast-swaths-of-america/

Jeff Bryant warns that Trump’s and DeVos’s voucher plans are attempts at funding religious fundamentalism at taxpayers expense. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/trumps-school-choice-plan-religious-fundamentalism-at-taxpayer-expense/

Voucher plans become subsidies for up-scale private school parents or religious schools while not showing any performance benefit but draining large amounts from non-charter public schools. To quote from Diane Ravitch’s blog https://dianeravitch.net/2017/03/13/karen-francisco-indiana-and-the-great-voucher-scam/

 Karen Francisco, editorial page editor of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in Indiana, reviews the state’s disastrous experiment with vouchers. In 2011, state lawmakers started the voucher program with the promise of helping low-income children get better schooling. As time has passed, the income level for eligibility has gone up, the costs have gone up, but the vouchers have never fulfilled their promise. Instead, they have become a permanent drain on public school funding even as the schools remain unaccountable and non-transparent. Over time, they have become a subsidy for private school parents who never sent their children to public schools and never intended to. Over time, they have developed a strong political constituency in the legislature that is unwilling to hold voucher schools accountable for performance

Vouchers have been a disaster in North Carolina according to a report by Duke University. https://law.duke.edu/childedlaw/School_Vouchers_NC.pdf To quote from the executive summary:

The North Carolina voucher program is well designed to promote parental choice, especially for parents who prefer religious education for their children.  It is poorly designed, however, to promote better academic outcomes for children and is unlikely to do so.

In 2013, the NC General Assembly enacted the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program to make taxpayer-funded grants, or vouchers, available to low-income students to assist with payment of tuition at private schools.  A voucher can be a grant of up to $4,200 per year.  

The number of children receiving vouchers has increased from approximately 1,200 in the first year to 5,500 in 2016-17.  The General Assembly has authorized an additional 2,000 vouchers for each year over the next decade, bringing the total to 25,000 by 2017.  

The Opportunity Scholarship Grant Program is funded through general revenues.  The initial annual appropriation was $10 million; the current annual appropriation is $60 million; the anticipated annual appropriation by 2027 is $145 million. At this rate, the total expenditure by 2027 will be $900 million. 

Approximately 93% of the vouchers have been used to pay tuition at religious schools.  

  Based on limited and early data, more than half the students using vouchers are performing below average on nationally-standardized reading, language, and math tests.  In contrast, similar public school students in NC are scoring above the national average.  

Accountability measures for North Carolina private schools receiving vouchers are among the weakest in the country.  The schools need not be accredited, adhere to state curricular or graduation standards, employ licensed teachers, or administer state End-of-Grade tests.   

Because private schools receiving vouchers are not required to administer the state tests nor to publish detailed achievement data, researchers will be unable to develop thorough and valid conclusions about the success of the program at improving educational outcomes for participating students. 

Lax accountability for voucher plans leads to a $400,000 embezzlement of tax dollars in North Carolina. http://ajf.org/employee-states-largest-recipient-school-voucher-funds-accused-embezzling-nearly-400000-public-tax-dollars/

Similar disappointing results for the Louisiana’s voucher plan. http://educationresearchalliancenola.org/files/publications/ERA-Policy-Brief-Public-Private-School-Choice-160218.pdf

A passionate speech by a Texas superintendent on the dangers of vouchers on Anthony Cody’s blog. http://www.livingindialogue.com/john-kuhn-educates-texas-legislature/

An article by the blogger Russ on Reading decries vouchers as welfare for the rich, racist, and religious right. http://russonreading.blogspot.com/2017/03/school-vouchers-welfare-for-rich-racist.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RussOnReading+%28Russ+on+Reading%29

Problems with For-Profit Colleges

The cycle of scandal at for-profit colleges. https://tcf.org/topics/education/the-cycle-of-scandal-at-for-profit-colleges/?utm_source=TCF+Email+Updates&utm_campaign=99c814cf9e-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_03_09&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e5457eab21-99c814cf9e-92593749

Research on Turnaround Strategies

Massive Investment by the Feds in harsh turnaround strategies didn’t work. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/obama-administration-spent-billions-to-fix-failing-schools-and-it-didnt-work/2017/01/19/6d24ac1a-de6d-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html?utm_term=.3a356250c9a1  Contrary results occured in California with a more positive approach. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/es_20170209_loeb_evidence_speaks.pdf Two studies from California show not only that schools improved student learning outcomes as a result of participating in the SIG program, but also some of the mechanisms by which this improvement occurred. In particular, rich data on SIG schools in one of the studies shows that schools improved both by differentially retaining their most experienced teachers and by providing teachers with increased supports for instructional improvement such as opportunities to visit each other’s classrooms and to receive meaningful feedback on their teaching practice from school leaders. https://www.brookings.edu/research/continued-support-for-improving-the-lowest-performing-schools/ 

High-School Grades Are a Better Predictor of College Performance Than College Admission Tests

Which predicts college performance better—grades or college admission tests?  Study after study finds grades are a better predictor. https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4546

Test and Punish Federal Policy Didn’t Work

Another report on the failures of test and punish. No Child Left Behind: A Deeply Flawed Federal Policy by Helen Ladd. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pam.21978/full

California Education: Students Rank 5th in the Nation on Advanced Placement Exam Scores.

https://edsource.org/2017/california-students-again-rank-5th-in-latest-ap-exam-scores/577500

Merit Pay Didn’t Work

Another study, this time in Florida, that finds merit pay plans don’t work. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/17/trump-backs-merit-pay-for-teachers-but-one-florida-school-system-now-says-it-doesnt-work/?utm_term=.3a3208634a7d

 

January 2017 Updates–Charters, Vouchers, Content, and Build and Support.

2/10/2017

More Damaging Examples of Charter and Voucher Excesses

Many vouchers don’t improve education, some fund discriminatory schools, exacerbate segregation, and drain public school funds.  https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/01/can-vouchers-save-failing-schools/515061/

A study in Indiana found that discrimination is rampant in voucher supported schools. https://inschoolmatters.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/study-confirms-voucher-programs-discriminate/https://inschoolmatters.wordpress.com/2017/01/30/study-confirms-voucher-programs-discriminate/

A study finding widespread exclusions of students from religious schools in North Carolina’s voucher program. https://tcf.org/content/commentary/second-class-students-vouchers-exclude/

Chapter and verse of financial and other scams in Arizona’s non-accountable charter schools sector. http://www.azcsa.org/

A study of a Pennsylvania district severely harmed by charter expansions. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/09/a-disturbing-look-at-how-charter-schools-are-hurting-a-traditional-school-district/?utm_term=.3c04fa05378e

New Orleans bloated charter school bureaucracy http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/02/nola-charters-and-bloated-bureaucracy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

Consistent with this website, an article by Henry Levin finds across the planet vouchers and choice have not improved educational performance and have resulted in a marked increase in segregation. http://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2017-01-30/little-global-evidence-suggests-school-choice-helps-performance

For a balanced article on other countries use of choice strategies see Marc Tucker’s comments. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/01/choice_vouchers_and_the_trump_education_agenda.html  Here is a quote: Summing up to this point, we can say that there is no evidence anywhere that a country, state or province can enter the ranks of the top performers using choice strategies alone.  There are certainly countries that have both high achievement and strong policies favoring choice. However, there appears to be a trade-off between choice and equity, and, crucially important, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find examples of countries that have high achievement at scale in which government does not play a very strong role in both designing and running the system using a broad spectrum of strategies.

A powerful video showing the damage DeVos’s choice policies wreaked on Detroit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47OC7wZbwzM&feature=youtu.be

Low performance by many of Texas’s Kipp charter schools. https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/the-student-progress-at-kipp-is-small-and-dim-clap-clap-clap-clap-deep-in-the-heart-of-texas/

 

Build and Support

Build and Support strategies have substantially improved schools in New Zealand. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2017/02/the_new_zealand_way_an_interview_with_minister_of_education_hekia_parata.html?r=204686366&utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers

 

Content Knowledge is a Key to Reading Comprehension

Discipline Content Knowledge not generic skills is a crucial driver of reading comprehension. http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2017/02/01/why-knowledge-counts-more-than-skill/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCoreKnowledgeBlog+%28The+Core+Knowledge+Blog%29

Huge Research Project Demonstrates that after learning to decode, discipline Knowledge is the largest contributor to reading comprehension. Seven years ago IES (the federal research institution) started a focused research program to address how to improve reading comprehension the US classrooms.  They spent about $120 million, engaged many dozens of researchers, have by now over 200 referred journal articles etc.   These studies  find that the steady build-up of discipline specific knowledge and deep engagement with that knowledge are the main determinants of reading comprehension.  Here is a quote from Catherine Snow, one of the main author of the studies which gives the flavor of much of the research—debates, discussions, papers, and projects specific to the disciplines are crucial:

The demands of literacy tasks change appreciably after students have mastered the basics of reading words accurately and with reasonable automaticity. At about age 10 reading becomes a tool for acquiring information, understanding a variety of points of view, critiquing positions, and reasoning. The results of international and US assessments show that many students who succeed at early reading tasks struggle with these new developmental challenges, focusing attention on the instructional needs of adolescent readers.  Commonly used approaches to comprehension instruction in the post-primary grades, such as teaching reading comprehension strategies, do not adequately respond to the multiple challenges adolescents face. One such challenge is the need to acquire discipline-specific ways of reading, writing, and thinking, often from teachers who are themselves insufficiently aware of how reading literature differs from reading science or history. We argue that appropriate attention in instruction to discipline-specific literacy practices, to maintaining an authentic purpose for assigned literacy tasks, and to the role of focused discussion as a central element in teaching comprehension would improve reading outcomes and would revolutionize current theories about the nature of reading comprehension.

Goldman, S., and Snow, C.E. (in press). Adolescent Literacy: Development and Instruction. In A. Pollatsek and R. Treiman (Eds.), Handbook on Reading. Oxford University Press.

Also see E.D. Hirsch’s new book “Why Knowledge Matters”. He says after decoding and fluency are learned, a steady buildup of content knowledge through reading, writing and discussion is the main element in improving reading comprehension. Teaching skills such as problem solving, and creativity are not generalizable and only work within each discipline. Teaching main idea, inferencing, and close reading don’t pay off after their introduction and teaching them should be minimized. Tests of these skills actually are testing how much knowledge is brought to task (assuming fluency). He recommends two week spurts of content subjects in literature, history, science, etc which he calls domain immersion.

Duval County makes curriculum and instruction the central drivers of improvement. http://edpolicy.education.jhu.edu/wordpress/?p=940  From the KnowledgeMatters website https://knowledgematters.com/  here are some quotes from their interview with the Duval superintendent.

“I would put my eggs more in the curriculum basket that I ever would have before.”

That’s the conclusion of Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, three years into Common Core implementation. Duval is one of the “Big Seven” districts in Florida, with more than half of its 130,000 students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. David Steiner of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy interviewed him recently to hear how it’s going.   “We were the first district in Florida to emphasize curriculum, and it’s been exciting to have districts come visit us and walk through our classrooms,” says Vitti. “Some of them will make the shift next year at the elementary level, based on our results and what they see when they visit our classrooms.” This transformation began in 2014-15, as hundreds of Duval’s teachers compared the Common Core standards with the district’s instructional materials and other resources, such as the EngageNY curriculum. The EngageNY materials were obviously superior, so implementation moved quickly.     Now, Vitti is already seeing a difference with his own children. “What my second grader could talk about at the dinner table every night because of exposure to [the new] curriculum was vastly different than each of my three older children…. [It’s] emphasis on background knowledge changed my son’s level of conversation, the way in which he saw his world, how he could make connections with what was going on throughout society, and just his level of sophistication and knowledge of history and social issues…. [In math] when he’s tackling problems that my older children are tackling, he can actually problem-solve even though he hasn’t been directly taught the strategies linked to answering questions formulaically.”   Similar growth is being seen in classrooms and at dinner tables throughout Duval County. Read the full interview with Vitti for insights into the curriculum reviews and ongoing professional development.

One hundred Seventy Five education deans nationwide released a Declaration of Principles calling on Congress and the Trump Administration to advance democratic values in America’s public schools. http://nepc.colorado.edu/newsletter/2017/01/public-education

A quote: In a Declaration of Principles released today, 175 deans sounded the alarm: “Our children suffer when we deny that educational inequities exist and when we refuse to invest sufficient time, resources, and effort toward holistic and systemic solutions. The U.S. educational system is plagued with oversimplified policies and reform initiatives that were developed and imposed without support of a compelling body of rigorous research, or even with a track record of failure.” The deans called upon federal leaders to forge a new path forward by:

  • Upholding the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy;
  • Protecting the human and civil rights of all children and youth, especially those from historically marginalized communities;
  • Developing and implementing policies, laws, and reform initiatives by building on a democratic vision for public education and on sound educational research; and
  • Supporting and partnering with colleges and schools of education to advance these goals.

Test and Punish Travails

A new study by several prestigious research organizations finds that the $3.5 billion SIG program spent on “turnaround strategies” , a key “reform” idea sponsored by previous Sec’y of Education, had no effect.  https://www.mathematica-mpr.com/our-publications-and-findings/publications/SIG-Implementation-and-Effectiveness But within that report were some silver linings. Schools using a build and support approach improved.  Two studies from California show not only that schools improved student learning outcomes as a result of participating in the SIG program, but also some of the mechanisms by which this improvement occurred. In particular, rich data on SIG schools in one of the studies shows that schools improved both by differentially retaining their most experienced teachers and by providing teachers with increased supports for instructional improvement such as opportunities to visit each other’s classrooms and to receive meaningful feedback on their teaching practice from school leaders. https://www.brookings.edu/research/continued-support-for-improving-the-lowest-performing-schools/

Texas State School Grades Just Follow Socio-economics of Students. Diane Ravitch reports findings that Texas’  A-F report cards for schools are deficient and merely reflective of the socio-economics of students.  https://dianeravitch.net/2017/01/12/john-kuhn-the-great-hoax-of-texas-a-f-grades-for-school-districts/

 

A Renewed Effort to Revitalize the Teaching of Civic Engagement in Our Schools

1/2/17 The Crucial Importance of Teaching  Civic Engagement in Our Schools

In response to the question from a woman after the Constitutional Convention asked Ben Franklin, Well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy? To which Franklin replied,  A republic, if you can keep it.

The survival of our democracy has always depended on a broad acceptance of democratic ideals and practices. That attachment is declining precipitously in Western democracies. In the United States a survey showed that 75% of those born in 1930 agreed that it was essential to live in a democracy. That number dropped to a shocking 30% for those born in 1980.   On a number of measures of democratic allegiance, Western democracies have fallen to a level similar to Venezuela and Poland before they succumbed to authoritarianism.

These findings are reported in a scary article in the New York Times by Amanda Taub entitled How Stable Are Democracies? “The Warning Signs are Flashing Red which reviews the research of Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa showing a marked decline in democratic attachments especially among millennials. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/29/world/americas/western-liberal-democracy.html?_r=0

According to Taub, Mounk and Foa use three dimensions to measure democratic attachment.

  • How important do citizens think it is for the country to remain democratic.
  • Public openness to non-democratic forms of government such as military rule:
  • Whether “antisystem parties and movements” — political parties and other major players whose core message is that the current system is illegitimate — were gaining support.

All these measures have declined substantially in our country.

Our founders were well aware that democracies were fragile and that each new generation needs to become attached to democratic ideals and behaviors. Public schools were created as one of the main methods of instilling  democratic engagement. That crucial mission has been shortchanged in the recent singular emphasis on job preparation.

Fortunately, there has been a growing effort in the country to re-establish the educational goal of teaching our children the essence of democratic ideas and practices. For example a California task force issued a report last year Re-Vitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California; a Blueprint for Action. http://www.cde.ca.gov/eo/in/documents/cltffinalreport.pdf  Other states have also raised the priority of civic learning.

California has also just adopted a History/Social Science framework which incorporates much of what the California task force recommended. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/sbedrafthssfw.asp

California’s New History/Social Science/Civics framework

The California State Board of Education recently adopted the K-12 framework for History/Social Science. This document should provide a useful tool for the revitalization of the teaching of history, civics, geography, and economics in California’s schools. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/sbedrafthssfw.asp

During the past decade especially at the elementary grades history/social science/civics has been neglected in many districts. As the country’s founders and the original advocates for public education were well aware, the survival of our democracy depends in large part on developing attachment to our democratic ideals and practices as well as a historical perspective in each new generation. Since, for several years we as country and state have fallen short of our obligations to pass on these beliefs and supporting knowledge, the framework comes at a crucial time.

The framework contains several major shifts from previous documents. The document:

  • Envisions a much more active classroom. Instruction in each grade poses engaging questions to encourage deeper learning for students.
  • Places much greater emphasis on understanding our democracy and civic engagement throughout the grade levels—the knowledge of the basic principles of our democratic ideals, the struggles to honor those beliefs, the effort to incorporate democratic habits of discussion and debate into the classroom and school, and the involvement of students in projects such as Model UN and learning opportunities for civic participation.
  • Reflects the growing diversity of California’s students and the effort in this country to broaden the social, economic, and political inclusion all Americans.
  • Follows our California History/Social Science standards and is organized chronologically to cover US and California history, world history, and incorporates civic, economic, geographic, and environmental ideas and history in each grade.
  • Stresses the analytic skills of how to examine and evaluate primary and secondary sources, distinguish fact from fiction, conduct credible discussions, write essays, or undertake projects on pertinent topics, and perceive the historical connection to current events.
  • Stresses engagement of students through stories and exciting narrative, historical literature and biography, and engaging activities.

The framework is not a curriculum but is meant as specifications for courses of study for teachers, districts, parents and publishers. Instructional materials based on the framework will be reviewed this summer and available next fall. The hope is that these initiatives will support the effort to re-emphasize the teaching of history and civics and engage our students in these vital disciplines.

Revitalizing Civics Teaching

A couple of recent articles on civic engagement.

Arthur Cummins describes the woeful state of civic education. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-camins/us-schools-dont-fail-at-test-performance_b_8570608.html

Also see the article in Education Week by Web Hutchins, Civics in the Common Core. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/08/07/37hutchins_ep.h32.html?qs=%22civics+in+the+core%22&intc=es

Heaven’s to Betsy (for those of you who remember to old-timey expression denoting shock)

1/2/17

A spate of articles criticizing Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education as hostile to public schools, a champion of ineffective and damaging market-based nostrums ,  an advocate of unlimited charter school expansion as the only hope way to improve education but a foe of charter school accountability,  and a supporter of vouchers including religious schools.

Jane Mayer author of Dark Money wrote a devastating short bio for the New Yorker, Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Big Donor Education Secretary    http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/betsy-devos-trumps-big-donor-education-secretary

The indomitable Jeff Bryant raises alarming questions stemming from DeVos’s track record in Michigan. http://educationopportunitynetwork.org/principles-to-guide-the-vetting-of-betsy-devos/

The New York Times posted an article, Free Market in Education; Economists Generally Don’t Buy It which rebuts DeVos’s strong devotion to market-based policies for public schools. http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/upshot/free-market-for-education-economists-generally-dont-buy-it.html

Graham Vyse writing in The New Republic argues that to successfully resist Betsy DeVos’’s scary anti-public school policies  Democrats have to admit that the last eight years of Obama’s high-stakes, test-driven “reforms” have not worked and have caused considerable collateral damage as www.buildingbetterschools.com has been advocating. https://newrepublic.com/article/139071/can-democrats-save-public-schools-trump-devos

An editorial in the Salt Lake City Tribune debunks the market-based philosophy that Devos espouses http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/4756009-155/op-ed-trump-nominee-would-dismantle-American

An article by the respected Arthur Camins, Individual Choice Is No Substitute for Democracy http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-camins/individual-choice-is-no-s_b_12084020.html?  To quote Camins:The problem with publicly-funded charter schools goes far beyond the lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability. Most fundamentally, they are an assault on democracy. Individual choice is no substitute for democratic governance. In addition, they drain limited resources from remaining public schools, exacerbate racial and socio-economic isolation, and undermine public investment in socially responsible solutions for all in favor of “saving” a select few.

Lindsay Wagner, an educational reporter, describes the devastation of public education in North Carolina from five years of conservative Republic rule (which many Trumpians want to replicate in the nation). She wrote three articles, Starving the Schools, Losing Its Luster: the Teaching Profession is Battered from All Sides, and Paving the Way to Privatization; Lawmakers Embrace Charters and Vouchers but Not Accountability. http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/NC-Policy-Watch-Altered-State-How-5-years-of-conservative-rule-have-redefined-north-carolina-december-2015.pdf  Betsy Devos lead the charge for similar destructive policies in Michigan.

In the same vein, Jeff Bryant blows the whistle on the damage caused to North Carolina public schools by out-of-state charter school management companies ripping off funds from public education. http://www.alternet.org/education/north-carolinas-charter-school-industry-slowly-gutting-public-education 

Mercedes Schneider reviews Truthout: The Great Unwinding of Public Education: Devos and Detroit by  Joseph Natoli which exposes the self-dealing and low-performance in Detroit’s charter schools. https://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/truthout-the-great-unwinding-of-public-education-devos-and-detroit/

An article in Politico by Emma, Wermund, and Heflig,  DeVos’s Michigan School Experiment Gets Poor Grades http://www.politico.com/story/2016/12/betsy-devos-michigan-school-experiment-232399 raises troubling questions about her educational record and philosophy.

A news report by Allie Gross, Out of Options: School Choice Gutted Detroit’s Public Schools. The Rest of the Country Is Next. https://news.vice.com/story/school-choice-detroit-betsy-devos

Mitchell Robinson penned Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize: How the DeVos Family Devoured Michigan’s Schools. http://linkis.com/www.eclectablog.com/ax03r

Julian Heilig, Five Questions You Should Ask About Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos https://cloakinginequity.com/2016/12/06/five-questions-you-should-ask-about-secretary-of-education-nominee-betsy-devos/

John Thompson, a teacher and blogger from Oklahoma warns of the dangers of Devos-like policies had on that state. Comparable efforts to those enacted in Michigan (as well as Indiana and Louisiana) caused considerable harm. https://dianeravitch.net/2016/12/11/john-thompson-we-cant-let-betsy-devos-destroy-our-public-schools/

Robert Mann writing in New-Orleans Times-Picayune warns of the damage caused by Gov. Jindal’s policies which are the same as those DeVos advocates.  His article is entitled, Thanks to Bobby Jindal, we know how disastrous Trump’s education policies could be. http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2016/12/thanks_to_bobby_jindal_we_know.html

Jennifer Berkshire in Culture Warrior Princess exposes DeVos’s long history with rabid anti-homosexual causes and fringes of the Christian right. http://edushyster.com/culture-warrior-princess/

Finally, a summary of the conservative voices opposing her nomination as a big-money lobbyist indifferent to popular sentiment. http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-conservative-argument-against-devos.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FORjvzd+%28CURMUDGUCATION%29

The Importance of a Systematic Build-Up of Discipline Knowledge in Improving Reading Comprehension

 1/2/17 The Importance of a Systematic Build-Up of Discipline Knowledge in Improving Reading Comprehension

A recent spate of research reports and a new book by E.D. Hirsch, Why Knowledge Matters underscore the key role of knowledge in reading comprehension and deeper understanding.

Hirsch says after decoding and fluency are learned, a steady buildup of content knowledge through reading, writing and discussion is the main element in improving reading comprehension. He also argues that teaching  skills such as problem solving, and creativity in the abstract are not generalizable and only work within each discipline. Teaching main idea, inferencing, and close reading don’t pay off after their introduction and Hirsch argues that teaching them should be minimized. Tests of these skills actually are testing how much knowledge is brought to the  task (assuming fluency). He recommends two week spurts of content subjects in literature, history, science, and the humanities which he calls domain immersion. The California Language Arts framework and adopted textbooks incorporated most of these ideas. http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/rl/cf/

 

Catherine Snow is one of the leading reading researchers and is leading some of this extensive research on teaching literacy through active engagement with the disciplines. She reports:

The demands of literacy tasks change appreciably after students have mastered the basics of reading words accurately and with reasonable automaticity. At about age 10 reading becomes a tool for acquiring information, understanding a variety of points of view, critiquing positions, and reasoning. The results of international and US assessments show that many students who succeed at early reading tasks struggle with these new developmental challenges, focusing attention on the instructional needs of adolescent readers.  Commonly used approaches to comprehension instruction in the post-primary grades, such as teaching reading comprehension strategies, do not adequately respond to the multiple challenges adolescents face. One such challenge is the need to acquire discipline-specific ways of reading, writing, and thinking, often from teachers who are themselves insufficiently aware of how reading literature differs from reading science or history. We argue that appropriate attention in instruction to discipline-specific literacy practices, to maintaining an authentic purpose for assigned literacy tasks, and to the role of focused discussion as a central element in teaching comprehension would improve reading outcomes and would revolutionize current theories about the nature of reading comprehension. Goldman, S., and Snow, C.E. (in press). Adolescent Literacy: Development and Instruction. In A. Pollatsek and R. Treiman (Eds.), Handbook on Reading. Oxford University Press.

Politics and Policies–Good and Bad

 1/2/17

Build and Support Measures (and Resisting Test and Punish and Market-based Solutions) Propelled Massachusetts Public Schools to World-Class Status

Marc Tucker delineates how Massachusetts became a top performer by avoiding the specious “reform” package and concentrating on funding, improving the teacher force, strong curriculum, and community support. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/top_performers/2016/12/how_massachusetts_built_a_world-class_school_system.html?r=1502902393&utm_source=feedblitz&utm_medium=FeedBlitzRss&utm_campaign=top_performers  This has been the argument throughout www.buildingbetterschools.com and specifically in http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/exemplary-models/

What Makes a Good Teacher

A study by Kraft and Blazar supports a multi-dimensional view of teacher proficiency. The best teachers in Math impart high levels of math performance, but also produce a well-behaved and happy class, and students who persevere. Unfortunately, according to the author’s research, even most of our successful teachers only excel on some of these dimensions. http://hechingerreport.org/new-study-shows-variety-in-teachers-influences-on-kids-futures-and-how-poorly-we-measure-that/

The Failure of State Takeovers

An informative graphic demonstrating the failure of state takeovers. http://www.reclaimourschools.org/sites/default/files/statetakeoversinfographic.pdf

Bad Testing Policy

Marc Tucker points out that no high-performing country or province tests all students every year. https://dianeravitch.net/2016/11/22/no-high-performing-nation-in-the-world-tests-every-student-every-year/

Bad Politics and Policies

Lindsay Wagner, an educational reporter, describes the devastation of public education in North Carolina from five years of conservative Republic rule (which many Trumpians want to replicate in the nation). She wrote three articles, Starving the Schools, Losing Its Luster: the Teaching Profession is Battered from All Sides, and Paving the Way to Privatization; Lawmakers Embrace Charters and Vouchers but Not Accountability. http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/NC-Policy-Watch-Altered-State-How-5-years-of-conservative-rule-have-redefined-north-carolina-december-2015.pdf  Betsy Devos lead the charge for similar destructive policies in Michigan.

In the same vein, Jeff Bryant blows the whistle on the damage caused to North Carolina public schools by out-of-state charter school management companies ripping off funds from public education. http://www.alternet.org/education/north-carolinas-charter-school-industry-slowly-gutting-public-education

Graham Vyse writing in The New Republic argues that to successfully resist Betsy DeVos’’s scary anti-public school policies  Democrats have to admit that the last eight years of Obama’s high-stakes, test-driven “reforms” have not worked and have caused considerable collateral damage as www.buildingbetterschools.com has been advocating. https://newrepublic.com/article/139071/can-democrats-save-public-schools-trump-devos

Latest international test results from PISA show our students made no progress after a decade of high-stakes test-driven reforms. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/12/03/14pisa.h33.html These findings support the argument made in this website that the conventional “reform” effort has not worked but has caused considerable collateral damage to our public schools and the teaching profession. http://www.buildingbetterschools.com/have-high-stakes-testing-and-privatization-been-effective-2/

Questions on the Efficacy of EdTech

According to Pasi Sahlberg, one of the driving forces behind the Finnish educational miracle, a growing body of research is starting to show detrimental effects of over-reliance on technology in schools. http://lit.blogg.gu.se/2016/12/05/big-tobacco-moment/

 

Public School Investment Outperforms Market-Based Strategies

A new report Privatization or Public Investment in Education authored by Frank Adamson and published by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policies in Education (SCOPE) found investment in public schools significantly outperformed market-based strategies such as extensive charter schools and vouchers. schools. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1456

This research supports claims made in this website. The report was offered further evidence reinforcing the SCOPE book published in April: Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes. To quote: [The book] contains a set of supporting infographics, videos, and research briefs, provides hard evidence supporting investment in public schools. Researchers thoroughly investigated the results of experiments with education in Chile, Sweden, and the U.S. and compared their educational outcomes with those of nearby countries with similar economic and social conditions: Cuba, Finland, and Canada (Ontario). At the national levels in Sweden, the U.S., and Chile, market, charter, or voucher systems are associated with greater disparities and lower student outcomes on international tests. https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/GlobalEdReform

Latest Charter School and Voucher Findings

1/2/17 Latest Charter School and Voucher Findings

Moody’s upgrades Massachusetts bond ratings after voters defeated a charter school expansion initiative. http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/11/moodys_no_vote_on_charter_scho.html

Ten Reasons Why School Choice is No Choice in the Gadflyonthewallblog. https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/top-10-reasons-school-choice-is-no-choice/

An article by the respected Arthur Camins, Individual Choice Is No Substitute for Democracy http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arthur-camins/individual-choice-is-no-s_b_12084020.html?  To quote Camins: The problem with publicly-funded charter schools goes far beyond the lack of oversight, transparency, and accountability. Most fundamentally, they are an assault on democracy. Individual choice is no substitute for democratic governance. In addition, they drain limited resources from remaining public schools, exacerbate racial and socio-economic isolation, and undermine public investment in socially responsible solutions for all in favor of “saving” a select few.

 

Ed Doerr chronicles the history of voucher advocacy The Great School Voucher Fraud. Every time voucher measures have been placed on the ballot they have been defeated.  Most recently a measure sponsored by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, in Michigan was handily defeated. https://dianeravitch.net/2016/12/03/edd-doerr-the-great-school-voucher-fraud/

Bruce Baker offers a report on the effects of charter expansion in urban districts and finds devastating fiscal effects in districts with large scale charter expansion and heavy declining enrollments. http://www.epi.org/publication/exploring-the-consequences-of-charter-school-expansion-in-u-s-cities/?mc_cid=c22114ad64&mc_eid=c2e5bac0f3

Privitization Tribulations

 1/2/17 Privatization Tribulations

Larry Cuban recounts the sad history of for-profit business ventures contracting with public schools to improve instruction. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/doing-well-by-doing-good-for-profit-schools/

Diane Ravitch reviews two new books on the dangers of privatization: Sam Abrams new book Education and the Commercial Mindset which also shows the failure of privatization efforts and Mercedes K Schneider’s book Educational Choice: the End of Public Education? which warns of the dangers of wholesale charter expansion. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2016/12/08/when-public-goes-private-as-trump-wants-what-happens/

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