Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Free Play for the Poor

According to a new study, "structured" recess helps low-income kids "transition" back to learning environments and reduces bullying,  See here.

So now we have evidence that poor kids need  surveillance when on the playground and can't be trusted to control themselves.  I wonder if using the descriptor "low income" correlates with minority students?

And if it does, is this study really saying that minority students need even more monitoring.  So what about middle-class white kids?  I guess we have to assume that "free play" is still acceptable.

"Playworks is used in 23 cities at more than 300 schools serving low-income students."

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Social Studies for You!

After reading this article I decided to send a note to the "journalist" responsible for the above article.  

Please follow this article up by talking to some National Council of Social Studies people (I am one).  This is the most ridiculous proposal.  Spending more time on Math instruction will have no affect on students'  learning.  It may temporarily raise test scores but this rise is not an indication of deep learning.  However, these students will never get the time back to study social studies.  This is educational malpractice.  Denying students a rich curriculum in favor of tests scores should cost the superintendent his job.  There is so much more to this story.  Please call me.


Here is his response.

"Thank you for reading and writing, Dr. Slekar. The article already includes a lot of commenst from 3 outside edu experts who pan this idea. I do not plan a follow up. If you would like to write a commentary on this issue, I invite you to contact our letters editor Bob Orenstein @ robert.orenstein@mcall.com."

So, in other words, "since we had three 'experts' offer limited resistance to this policy change the The Morning Call and I did our job.  We have no need to actually dig deeply into such a drastic and shortsighted policy change.  Our job is done!"

No. Your job is not even close to done.  You just exposed the misuse of taxpayer monies by a school superintendent and a school board.  Your readers need to know more now.  This is a violation of the public trust.  Any superintendent of schools (C. Russell Mayo) and board of directors that would allow for the removal of the social studies needs to be investigated further.  Social Studies is the only subject devoted to understanding how living in a democracy requires a deep knowledge of history geography, civics, etc.  Without a deep knowledge in these subjects students will have no ability to carry out their civic duty to protect democracy.  In fact not studying these topics will erode a student's ability to criticize their government.  Oh wait.  Maybe that's what is really going on here?  Allentown schools are actively dumbing down the public school children and thereby creating a more apathetic citizenry willing to allow pseudo-experts to make horrendous policy decisions that will favor only those that are in power.

This is the story! And as the media you owe the public a full exposure of the misuse of taxpayer monies and the plan to deny the public school students of Allentown the study of active citizenship—the social studies.

Move Along! Nothing to See here!

I am close to the edge! And from here the picture is perfectly clear.

The American public system of education is being systematically, and purposely destroyed. This is not a statement from someone who routinely sees crop circles. I am a teacher and I see it clearly--just like Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling Hammond, Nancy Flanagan, Valerie Strauss, Anthony Cody, Stephen Krashen, Susan Ohanian, Mike Klonsky, Jesse Turner, Mark Naison, Alfie Kohn, Marion Brady, Parents Across America, United Opt Out National, Save Our Schools, Children are More than Test Scores, Fair Test and a host of other individuals and groups.

However, I feel like we are in the middle of a crime scene surrounded by yellow tape and the "liberal media" is standing on the outside with a bull horn announcing, "Move along!" "Nothing to see here!" 


This is the biggest story in the last 100 years (the death of public education) and the only media attention it gets is typically dismissive of the voices screaming for help. Or it receives media attention that continues to push the corporate reform narrative. For example, big mouth Chris Christie got his arrogant butt on MSNBC (Morning Joe) last week by "straight talking" about the need for education reform and how he will not back down even if it costs him his office. And what did he say? Of course he is "fighting for the kids of New Jersey." Really? Do the kids of New Jersey have a clue what will happen to them when Christie is done pushing his corporate reform agenda?

Every policy that he supports has been thoroughly dismissed by research. Choice does not work. Charters don't help. Competition creates harsh learning climates. Pay for performance doesn't work. Teach for America does nothing. Using test scores to promote or fire teachers is a deeply flawed statistical procedure. Destroying the working conditions of teachers actually creates environments that hinder learning. In other words, Chris Christie's support for the kids of New Jersey will actually harm them and he is perfectly willing to risk his office on this platform. How is this possible? 

Because, after he made the comment, MSNBC did not dissect any of his positions on education policy. Instead, MSNBC used the clip to demonstrate that as a "straight talker," Christie is popular because he is willing to take a stand and, get this, more people would "like to have beer with him." Again WTF?

Is this all the "liberal media" is capable of doing? This guy and a bunch of others (Arne Duncan, Andrew Cuomo, Rahm Emanuel, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, Tom Corbett, Michelle Rhee and the rest of the clown car called corporate education reform) are actually advocating for the privatization of the American public school system. A system that is supposed to deliver a free and equitable education to all children regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or zip code. A system dedicated to promoting democracy and citizen participation in the government by educating the masses. Christie and all the other idiots are selling out America's public schools and all the "liberal media" can do is comment on how many people would like to have a beer with him?

Mainstream "liberal media" (Shultz, Maddow, O'Donnell, etc.) why are you letting this happen? The corporate reform agenda does not have a single, semi-solid leg to stand on when it claims to be able to help America's most vulnerable (children). The evidence is right in front of your eyes. How about changing your tune? As people walk past the yellow ribbon around the crime scene that is us, the screaming "status quo" advocates for public schools and the children that attend them. Use your bullhorn and try this... 

DO NOT MOVE ALONG! THERE IS SOMETHING TO SEE HERE! These people are trying to save the American system of public education. You might want to listen to what they have to say. 

And if you do this I'll gladly have a beer with you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

@ The Chalk Face

Education Talk Radio.

Show #1 Diane Ravitch

Show #2 Bill Ayers

Show #3 Merit pay for teachers

Show # 4 Testing Toddlers and Leadership "John Kuhn" style.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Talking to Your School Board

Presented to Bellwood Antis School Board, 2/14/12

I am concerned about the future of education in our schools.

Pennsylvania schools are about to adopt a teacher and principal evaluation system that will use the high stakes test scores of children in determining the so called “effectiveness” of our teachers and principals.  As you can read in the hand-outs that I have provided (digitally), this will do nothing positive for our children, teachers and principals.  There is not a shred of research that supports such a drastic policy decision.

This board needs to understand that teaching to pass ANY high-stakes tests does not provide children with a quality teaching and learning experience.

I am speaking to the board tonight because I fear for the amazing teachers my children have had over the years.  For example, last year and this year my daughter has had truly gifted teachers.   She comes home and talks about what they did in school without any prompting. She eagerly shares papers and projects completed during the day. She asks questions about the things she learned during the day. She is using technology (on her own) to investigate other questions. She writes her own books. In other words, she in fully engaged.

Here is my Question for the board.  What has happened over the last two years that has produced a hunger for learning in my child?

The simple answer is that her teachers care deeply about learning and have helped her develop a love for learning.

This is the heart of quality teaching and it will never be measured on a test. There is no statistical operation capable of measuring a teacher's ability to instill a love for learning.

If Bellwood and other Pennsylvania schools adopt this evaluation system, my daughters’ teachers (IN FACT ALL THE GOOD TEACHERS) will have to change their approach to teaching and learning.

If the pressure for high test scores and the insane notion that "we" should hold teachers accountable for test scores continue to drive policy discussions concerning teacher effectiveness, the most valuable experiences associated with learning will be dismissed. The drive for test scores will suck the life out of teaching and learning.

The politicians and others that are pushing this new evaluation system have decided that they know what's best for our children. This top-down, condescending view of teachers, parents and local schools is disheartening.

If we (citizens, parents, business owners, community members and you the members of this board) care about the quality of our schools, then we need to be talking about the love for learning -- not test scores.

I am asking that The Bellwood-Antis School Board to (and this is directly from the Board’s webpage), “Provide for the education of all children and Set district policies and regulations” that oppose the use of test scores as an evaluation tool for our teachers and principals.  Doing anything else would be disregarding all the evidence and research on teaching and learning and the valid use of test scores.


This past October, on Long Island New York.  1330 principals (over 73%) signed a position paper in which they refused to allow themselves and their teachers to be evaluated by high stakes test scores and refused millions of dollars in Race to the Top funds.  WHY?  Because this is what leaders do! What will all of you do?

Thank you for your time.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pennsylvania Parents Helping Public Schools

Dear Pennsylvania Parents,

We need to take back our public schools. After ten years of No Child Left Behind and PSSAs are you ready for a change?  Have you had enough with high stakes testing?  Are you tired of watching the great teachers in your districts reduced to test prep managers?  Does, “because it’s on the PSSAs” make you cringe? Do you even know what AYP means?  Did you know that comprehensive research has demonstrated that PSSA testing can actually hurt kids physically, psychologically, and academically? Did you intend for your child’s scores to be used as experimental data? Did you consent to the research methods being used on your child? Have you had enough?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then you might want to know that Pennsylvania law allows parents and children the right to “opt out” of PSSAs. Directly from the PA Code, “If upon inspection of State assessments parents or guardians find the assessment in conflict with their religious belief and wish their students to be excused from the assessment, the right of the parents or guardians will not be denied upon written request to the applicable school district superintendent, charter school chief executive officer or AVTS director.”

Specifically, you must make an appointment with the school to review the PSSA test, sign a confidentiality agreement, review the tests, and write a letter that simply states that participation in PSSAs violates your religious principles.  If you’re not sure how PSSAs violate religious principals please be aware that after 10 years of PSSAs childhood anxiety disorders have dramatically risen.  Children have been denied a fully comprehensive education.  Our children are being used to provide data that will label the child, teacher, school, administrators, and community a failure.  This data is being sold to Washington think tanks and other data management organizations. Tax money (our money) has been diverted to testing and data management companies instead of schools and children. What religion supports such a system?

So before March Madness (PSSA testing) begins please take some time to seriously consider the future of your child’s education.  Remember, our children only get one chance at a quality education.  The PSSAs and the culture of high stakes testing have denied a generation of children a quality education.  It is time to put an end to this punitive system.  It’s time to allow our teachers to get back to what they do best—teach.  It’s time to demand that our public schools be given back to us.  It’s time to make sure our children receive the education they deserve. It’s time to OPT OUT!

Sample Letter

Dear Superintendent,

Pursuant to Pennsylvania Code Title 22 Chapter 4, section 4.4 (d)(5) I am hereby exercising my right as a parent to have my child excused from any State standardized testing because of religious and philosophical beliefs.

Tim Slekar is an administrator with http://unitedoptout.com/.  This grassroots organization is committed to ending punitive high stakes testing and restoring local control of public schools. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Quitting Teaching?

The passage below was a response to Anthony Cody's blog.  Very Sad!

Ken Bernstein

9:58 AM on February 9, 2012
This morning I sat in a faculty meeting as our principal explained why we all had to be focusing on Common Core in what we do, even when our courses are not directly part of the Common Core.

I will be 66 in May. I am already on Social Security. For a number of years I have tried to stop the steamroller of education deform that is destroying American public education. I look at the students arriving at our high school who after constant testing for NCLB and narrowing of curricula to focus on raising test scores have trouble thinking clearly, do not know how to write (it is not tested) and lack basic background knowledge in American History and Civics. I talk with colleagues in our Science department who have similar concerns.

Right now I wonder why I am even trying to make a difference. There is less and less respect for what we teachers do, we are being given directions by those who do not seem to understand real learning, and what is being imposed serves to alienate further the natural learning instincts of students.

I wonder if any of the efforts I have expended outside the classroom have made a whit of difference.

I wonder why I knock myself out to serve my students both with my school commitments and my commitments to trying to educate those outside of school systems of what teaching and learning really are.

I see the unions making early endorsements of an administration whose education department has in my opinion been hostile to teachers and real education, and in bed with the corporatizers.

I feel as if I am trying to bail out a tanker that is sinking using a teaspoon.

We are losing public schools.

We are losing democracy.

At moments like this I think I am glad my wife and I decided not to have our own children.

I fear for the future of our nieces and nephews.

I fear for the future of the children I teach.

I am now very close - VERY CLOSE - to giving up on being a teacher, because it is becoming impossible to be the kind of teacher I must be to keep my sanity.

I had planned to teach at least until I was 70.

Now? Like many of my compatriots, I am inclined to take the buyout offered by my system and do something else for the money I still need that does not so much break my heart.

I am far from alone.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Opt Out Report Card

Attached below are my son's PSSA scores from last year.  He was promoted to 6th grade and was placed in the high sections of Math and Language Arts.  NS = No Score.  Blank =Blank

We are so proud of him.  We decided to hang his PSSA scores on the refrigerator for the past 6 months.  Yes you can OPT OUT and be promoted and placed in the "high" sections.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pennsylvania Public Schools Making Connections

According to the official statements from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reading and math are not the only important subjects.  From the state...
Remember to make connections!
Success in school involves more than just reading and mathematics.  Children can master these other skills by engaging in activities outside the classroom.  Practicing music, for example, can build skills that will be valuable throughout school and life.  Remember that taking trips to a museum, a show or a concert is a positive way to strengthen your child's overall education
What the the Pennsylvania Department of Education is really saying!
However, as a state PA will only provide for reading and math instruction. All the other stuff that actually matters needs to occur "outside the classroom."  We just can't afford to help all children in Pennsylvania.  If you care about your kids, you the parents or guardians will need to take over from now on.  Music, art science history and all that other stuff is now your responsibility.

What about the children that don't have the resources available to them to "make connections?"

Not a problem. There is not enough room at the top for all of Pennsylvania's children. Besides, who will work at discount department stores if all children receive a rich and powerful education that "makes connections?" 
Like making the connection that children in lower SES ranks don't really have a chance in PA!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bad Press and Bad Research

From the Associated Press

"A growing body of research demonstrates the dramatic difference effective teachers can play in student lives, from reducing teenage pregnancies to increasing a student's lifetime earnings." 


One seriously flawed study done by reformer economists does not make " growing body of research!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

10 years of NCLB means it’s time to Occupy the DOE

This year marks the tenth anniversary of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB was and is the most aggressive intrusion of federal authority into a core issue that is constitutionally the responsibility of the states. However, NCLB passed with almost unanimous support from all political parties. Why?

Because, according to the supporters, NCLB was going to close the historic achievement gap between low income and minority students and middle class white students. It would make sure all students received a superior educational experience. It was going to hold all teachers, administrators and schools “accountable” for closing this gap. It would also hold schools and teachers accountable for all student achievement. And it promised that this would be completed by 2014.

Instead, after ten years and according to the accumulated empirical evidence, NCLB has actually caused a widening of the achievement gap. It has narrowed the curriculum to mostly test prep practice with a shortsighted focus on discreet reading and math skills. It has forced teachers to stop teaching and “prep” kids for tests and has pushed administrators into the position of data managers instead of instructional leaders. It has forced the closing of some community based schools and has actually ushered in a new form of segregation—poor and minority students are the most likely to have their schools reorganized with a bare bones scripted curriculum or to have their schools closed and then forced to attend a charter school that in all likely hood is no better and maybe worse than their original community based school. Also, for the middle and upper middle class students, their 10 year experience with NCLB has literally left them behind. These students are now 50% more likely to need remedial math and writing courses upon graduation from high school. In other words, NCLB has cost the taxpayers billions of dollars, practically destroyed America’s public education system and caused our children to lose ground academically— an absolute disaster.

Therefore I need to ask the community some questions. Parents. Why do you put up with this? Have you thought about opting out? Teachers. I know you know better. Why do you spend hours prepping for invalid tests? This is not really teaching (or why you became a teacher). Principals. Where is your leadership? Your teachers need you to call the kettle black. Superintendents. Why do you continue to do black flips in a system that, in the end, will dissolve any need for your type of educational expertise? School Boards. Why the silence as your community schools are being dismantled and property values decrease each year in direct correlation to NCLB scores?

How much longer will we allow this disaster to continue? Parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school boards please step up and end the unwinnable game. Our children’s future and the future of American democracy are at stake. Join us March 30th – April 2nd as we Occupy the DOE.